STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State players rushed out of the tunnel Saturday behind new head coach Bill O’Brien with the cheers from the Beaver Stadium faithful making their ears ring. They bounced across the grass to show how ecstatic they were about the start of a new football season.
About 3 1/2 hours later, however, they trudged off and out of the muggy heat with long faces as those who remained from a crowd of 97,186 silently filed out feeling this could be a much tougher season than they were prepared to accept.
After a promising first half, the Nittany Lions were dominated by Ohio. Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton threw for two touchdowns, ran for one and led an offense that gained 301 total yards in the final two quarters, leading the Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference to a 24-14 upset.
It wasn’t the way that O’Brien, the first rookie head coach to pace a Happy Valley sideline since Joe Paterno in 1966, or his players wanted to start, given an offseason of turmoil, NCAA sanctions and player transfers. Other than two first-half touchdown passes by Matt McGloin to Bill Belton and Matt Lehman, the Lions didn’t give their fans much to holler about.
O’Brien, in his first game as a head coach at any level, pointed the finger at himself.
“I’ve just got to coach a lot better,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to practice Monday and review the film (today). We have to do better offensively. We have to get our defense off the field and the defense has to make stops. We have to coach better and it starts with me.”
Maybe the Ohio victory wasn’t all that surprising. The Bobcats won 10 games last season and are favored to win the MAC this year. But the ease with which they ran through and passed over the Nittany Lions was quite shocking since the defensive front seven is considered to be Penn State’s strongest area.
Tettleton passed for 324 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 47 yards and one score. Tailback Beau Blankenship got acquainted with the front seven on 31 carries, gaining 109 yards, and caught seven passes for 72.