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 [Sunday]. 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 their no-huddle offense 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.
"You have to just give credit to Ohio," linebacker Michael Mauti said. "They're a good football team. They've got good players. We'll have to watch the tape and figure out whether it was guys missing their gaps or guys not getting off blocks. We're going to fix that, and we're going to come back next week."
The defense never forced a turnover and couldn't get off the field. Ohio converted an astonishing 11 of 12 third downs in the second half.
But with Penn State leading by 14-3 at the half, the game changed early in the third quarter. Faced with third and 7 from the Lions' 43, Tettleton threw a wobbly pass that safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong could have intercepted at the 20, but the ball went off his hands and right to wide receiver Landon Smith, who raced in untouched for Ohio's first TD.
"That was a big play in the game," cornerback Adrian Amos said. "It gave them momentum. We needed to make that stop and make that pick. If we do that, we're probably here [in the interview room] with different looks on our faces."
After a 237-yard first half, the Lions put up only 115 in the second. McGloin completed 27 of 48 passes for 260 yards with an interception on his last drive. Two unproven receivers, sophomore wideout Allen Robinson and redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter, combined for 15 catches.
The offense, however, never got a big play. It came close in the fourth quarter when McGloin spotted Shawney Kersey deep but overthrew the former Woodbury High star at the 5.
"Yeah, I was real close," Kersey said. "I was kind of winded, and that's my bad. Matt gave me a good throw, put it out there. I should have gotten it."
The Lions were down, 17-14, at the time. They punted and pinned the Bobcats back to their own 7. The crowd implored them to get a stop so the offense could get the winning score and send them home happy.
However, Ohio held the football for 14 plays and nearly seven minutes, converting all four of its third downs. Tettleton found Donte Foster in the far left corner of the end zone with 2 minutes, 55 seconds to play for the clinching score.
It was that kind of day.
"We would like to have won, but we got beat," McGloin said. "There's a next week. We're going to prepare to play Virginia next week. We can't be upset for too long. We have to learn from it, we have to keep improving. It's a long season."
Head coach Bill O'Brien, linebacker Michael Mauti, and defensive back Malcolm Willis talk about Saturday's loss. www.philly.com/lioneyes
State College was a scene of bitterness and optimism. A1.
Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.