"He had a lot of time back there" in practice, said O'Brien, who declined to list his return men on the week's updated depth chart. "He's an excellent player. We gave him a lot of work back there. We have four or five guys that did a lot of work back there, and we chose to go with two or three guys today."
Cornerback Adrian Amos, who was back on kickoffs with Hodges and later Bill Belton, said he wasn't surprised that Hodges returned a kickoff.
"He's one of the best athletes on the field, and we know he can do it," Amos said.
Lots of hurts
Hodges, who recorded 11 tackles, left the game several times with bumps and bruises. He departed to have his right calf taped, and then his left ankle, and was sidelined at least once with cramps, but he did not suffer a significant injury.
The same couldn't be said for Belton (left ankle injury) and cornerback Stephon Morris (ankle injury), who both left the game in the third quarter and did not return. Penn State had no updates after the game on the players' injuries.
Belton, starting his first game at tailback because former starter Silas Redd opted to transfer to Southern California, picked up 14 yards on his first three carries.
However, he fumbled on his fourth carry, and Ohio recovered at its 21, stopping a promising drive. Belton wound up with 53 yards on 13 carries with a long gain of 8 yards.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson was touted as the player who could pick up the slack with the departure of Justin Brown to Oklahoma, and the sophomore didn't disappoint. He grabbed nine passes - three times his career total entering the game - for 97 yards.
Junior Alex Butterworth, the new punter with Anthony Fera's having departed for Texas, averaged 35.8 yards on five punts. Sophomore Sam Ficken, taking over Fera's kicking duties, made two extra points and did not attempt a field goal.
Barnes' big day
Redshirt freshman and former Northeast High star Deion Barnes started at defensive end in his first collegiate game and picked up Penn State's only sack.
"It was exciting definitely, because I've been waiting for this for a whole year," Barnes said. "I can't explain the words to tell how I felt out there."
Like many of his teammates, Barnes was harsh in the evaluation of his own performance.
"When they started throwing those quick passes, I should have gotten my hands up quicker," he said. "I should have been able to get to the passer quicker. So I blame that on myself. But I've got to watch the film to see what happened."
Welcome to the show
Five true freshmen - linebacker Nyeem Wartman, defensive backs Da'Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas, tight end Jesse James, and wide receiver Trevor Williams - saw action for Penn State.
Wartman blocked a punt in the second quarter to set up Matt McGloin's 14-yard touchdown pass to Matt Lehman.