OHIO: Game Breakdown

The good (Carter), the bad (Hodges returning kicks) and the ugly (the final score) from Penn State's first game under new coach Bill O'Brien.

OK, so we might as well cut straight to the chase. The second-guessing of Bill O'Brien began on the very first play of his Penn State coaching career.

And it sure seemed to be warranted.

Saturday at Beaver Stadium, visiting Ohio won the toss and deferred. That meant the Nittany Lions received the ball first.

So O'Brien sent safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Gerald Hodges deep for the kickoff.

That's right, we said Gerald Hodges -- all 237 pounds of him.

Of course, Ohio kicked it straight at him, and Hodges returned it 12 yards, to his own 12-yard line. In the second quarter, the Bobcats were forced to punt, and Penn State dropped … you guessed it … Hodges deep.

He fumbled an attempted fair catch and Ohio recovered, and cashed in on a 22-yard field goal four plays later.

If someone had a legitimate explanation for Hodges returning kicks, we'd love to hear it. We certainly didn't get anything that made sense from O'Brien or Hodges' teammates.

He is, after all, a linebacker. And while fast and agile for that position, there are any number of athletes on the team better equipped to return kicks and punts. And on a very hot day, it was forcing him to play snaps that could have been better handled by others. Indeed, Hodges was forced to leave the game due to cramps at one point (though he eventually returned).

And did we mention that he is a linebacker?

Anyway, it was hardly a turning point in a game the Nittany Lions would go on to lose, 24-14 (we'll have more on THE turning point later). But after a nine-month stretch where O'Brien could seemingly do little wrong, it was a clear indication that he could make baffling decisions just like any other head coach.

Here is our take on the game that was.

MAN OF THE HOUR: Kyle Carter had what may have been the most impressive debut of any tight end in school history. He had six catches for 74 yards. Last season, Andrew Szczerba and Kevin Haplea combined for 15 catches for 122 yards … in 13 games. Good to see the tight end back in vogue at PSU.

CLOSE SECOND: Sophomore wideout Allen Robinson hauled in nine balls for 97 yards. But only three catches came after the first quarter.

CLOSE THIRD: Senior linebacker Michael Mauti had a dozen tackles and appears to be all the way back from his second ACL injury.

TURNING POINT: Early in the third quarter, Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton floated a duck over the middle. PSU safety Malcom Willis had it lined. But so did teammate and fellow safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. They canceled out one another and the tipped ball dropped into the hands of WR Landon Smith, who turned it into a 43-yard score. Penn State still lead 14-10 at the time but came unraveled after giving up the fluke TD.

SOLID STRATEGY: Ohio coach Frank Solich wisely relied heavily on Tettleton (31 of 42 for 324 yards and two scores) and running back Beau Blankenship (31 carries for 109 yards and seven catches for 72 yards). They accounted for 433 of the Bobcats' 499 total yards.

NUMBERS GAME: Penn State held a 10:19-4:41 edge in time of possession in the first quarter. The Bobcats won the overall battle for TOP, 33:10-25:05.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Rookie LB Nyeem Wartman's second-quarter punt block set up a Penn State touchdown.


• Using Hodges to return kicks. It made no sense on about 10 different levels.

• Penn State's complete lack of a pass rush. We get that Ohio runs quick-hitters. So did Houston in the Ticketcity.com Bowl. It obviously does not matter who the defensive coordinator is, the Lions just can't handle this sort of offense.

• Penn State's inability to create turnovers. They had none in this game. That is troubling.

• Penn State's inability to break anything long. The Lions' longest play of the day was a 22-yard pass from QB Matt McGloin to Carter. The longest run was a 14-yarder by backup tailback Derek Day.

• Penn State's reluctance to run the ball. The Lions threw 48 times and ran 22. Only three backs -- Belton, Day and FB Michael Zordich -- had carries.

• Penn State's inability to hang on to the ball. Tailback Bill Belton lost a fumble and so did Hodges on the punt return. McGloin threw a late pick that Shawney Kersey should have caught.

• So many Penn State players cramping up. It has only been sweltering in these parts for the last several months. Ohio did not have nearly the cramping issues PSU did.

HIDDEN HERO: Walk-on tight end Matt Lehman had only one catch but he made the most of it. He made the grab, beat a defender on the sideline and scored from 14 yards out. It was his first career catch.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Amos had 10 tackles. Safety Jacob Fagnano had nine stops. They did a good job wrapping up. But it usually spells trouble for a defense when DBs are making that many tackles.


• Five true freshmen played: Wartman, corner Da'Quan Davis, safety Jordan Lucas, receiver Trevor Williams and tight end Jesse James. Lucas is not listed on the participation chart but was spotted on special teams.

• Davis replaced starting corner Stephon Morris when Morris left the game with an unspecified injury.

• Wartman got second-team reps at middle linebacker.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: Was Penn State really as bad as it looked in the second half Saturday? If so, it is going to be a very long season.

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