O'Brien, in true NFL coach mode, blamed himself for the loss and talked about doing a better job.
"It comes down to me being the head football coach," he said. "I have to get this team ready to play. I told them in the locker room, it's a long season. This is one game. We have to learn from our mistakes. We can still be a good football team.
"I told them the number one priority is, I'm going to come to work tomorrow and do a better job for them."
The Nittany Lions were in control at halftime, feeling pretty good with a 14-3 lead. But Ohio changed its coverages around in the second half and didn't allow Matt McGloin to complete passes as easily as he did in the first half.
After going 16 of 26 for 178 yards (6.8 yards per attempt) in the first half, McGloin went just 11 of 22 for 82 yards (3.7 yards per attempt) in the second, when the Lions went scoreless. McGloin's longest completion went for 22 yards, and he missed three deep shots during the game, including a ball that went off Shawney Kersey's fingertips at the 5 in the fourth quarter.
"That happens," McGloin said of the second-half swoon. "We couldn't capitalize on all the good drives that we had. We got ourselves into some third and longs, and as an offense that's never a good thing. But that didn't make or break the game. We had a lot of opportunities that we missed."
McGloin said a positive came from the way he and his teammates handled the new offense.
"We were all on the same page offensively in terms of pass protection, routes, formations," he said. "We did a good job, and it was a positive day."
The same, however, cannot be said for the defense, which was shredded in the second half for 301 yards. The Bobcats had drives of 82, 70, 50, and 93 yards, with three touchdowns and a missed field-goal attempt, and converted a seemingly impossible 11 of 12 third-down plays.
Defensive coordinator Ted Roof was absent from the postgame interview room. O'Brien had no specifics to explain how the strength of the team - the Lions' front seven - could get outplayed so decisively.
"We have to get our defense off the field, and the defense has to make stops," he said early in his postgame news conference. Asked later if the defense wore out in the muggy heat, he replied: "I think offensively we need to do a better job of sustaining drives so that the defense can [stay] off the field."
The Nittany Lions now face a week in which improvement must be made before they head into Virginia for Saturday's game against the Cavaliers, who beat Richmond, 43-19, in their season opener.
The Lions ran the football just 22 times, with new tailback Bill Belton contributing 13 carries for 53 yards. However, after his fumble at the Ohio 21 killed the first drive of the game, Belton did not see the football for the next 10 plays. He later caught a 6-yard TD pass from McGloin but had to leave with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
Special teams contributed a turnover on a muffed fair catch by Gerald Hodges, a linebacker and surprise return man. O'Brien defended his selection of Hodges, a Paulsboro product, for return duty, and though he didn't utilize Hodges in that role in the second half, the move may have been attributable to the bumps and bruises Hodges suffered during the game.
Humbled After Halftime
Some first half-second half comparisons from Saturday's Penn State loss to Ohio:
Penn State Ohio
1st Half 2d Half 1st Half 2d Half
First downs 13 8 10 15
Rushing yards 59 33 81 94
Passing yards 178 82 117 207
Total yards 237 115 198 301
Plays 39 31 39 49
Third down conv. 4-8 4-8 2-9 11-12
Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq. Read his blog, "Lion Eyes," at www.philly.com/sports/lioneyes.