And, of course, the Nittany Lions lost, 17-16, thanks in part to what may have been the worst performance ever turned in by a Penn State kicker, the inability of the offense to function in the red zone and a poor showing by the defense on third downs.
The Lions slipped to 0-2 following a game they clearly should have won. And afterward, they were left kicking themselves (and connecting more often than not).
Meanwhile, first-year coach Bill O'Brien was left with a delicate balancing act -- letting his players know where they must improve while not completely destroying their confidence following the team's worst start since 2001.
These kids left it all out there today, there's no question about that, and I really appreciate their effort, O'Brien said. We'll break through. We just have to do a better job in the red area offensively and stop people on third and long, and we have to keep fighting.
Here is our game breakdown.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti had nine tackles. He also forced and recovered a fumble.
CLOSE SECOND: Quarterback Matt McGloin left the game with an injured right elbow in the first half. But he returned early in the second and put PSU in position to win. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 197 yards and two scores, and led an 11-play, 48-yard drive that gave kicker Sam Ficken a chance to win the game. Ficken missed a 42-yarder.
CLOSE THIRD: Wideout Allen Robinson caught 10 passes for 89 yards and his first career touchdown -- a diving 30-yarder. He dropped a few balls, including another possible score. But after making only three catches in limited action last year, the sophomore has the look of a future star. Or maybe a now star.
TURNING POINT: Sure, there were some key moments in this game where momentum shifted. Ficken was 1 of 5 and had an extra point blocked. His longest attempt was the 42-yarder as time expired that was not even close (wide right). It was painful to watch a kid come unglued like that. Credit his coaches and teammates for sticking up for him, but the game was lost right here.
SOLID STRATEGY: After McGloin banged his right elbow on helmets twice in the first half, he was taken to the locker room. He was the last Nittany Lion back on the field for the second half and had the elbow taped up. Freshman Steven Bench opened the first series of the second half, but was replaced by McGloin after two plays. Good move by the staff. The senior was poised and confident, and rallied PSU from a 10-7 deficit to a 16-10 lead before UVA came back.
NUMBERS GAME: Virginia faced only 15 third downs in the game but connected on nine of them. Included was a third-and-20 in the third quarter and a third-and-16 that led to the game-winning score.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Linebacker Gerald Hodges had eight tackles and one fumble recovery for the Lions.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Alex Butterworth rallied from a poor opener to average 41.7 yards on three punts, including a 52-yarder. The Cavs had no return yards.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
Ficken struggling the way he did. The sophomore is on scholarship.
Penn State going 2 of 5 in the red zone, with a touchdown and field goal. That's not good enough.
The Lion defense going so soft on third and long. We heard so much about new coordinator Ted Roof's aggressive style, and it showed Saturday with the turnovers and three sacks. But a two-deep zone on third-and-forever sure seems like a recipe for disaster.
The inability of the Penn State ground game to pop anything. Penn State's longest runs Saturday were on a fake punt where linebacker Glenn Carson took a direct snap 19 yards and a 15-yard scramble by Bench.
Everyone clamoring for more of TB Curtis Dukes. At the end of the day, he carried 10 times for 30 yards with a long of seven.
Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter (four catches for 33 yards and a score Saturday) being the only receivers to show any consistency this season. WR Alex Kenney chipped in with three grabs for 50 yards Saturday and was the first receiver to pick up serious yards after the catch this year.
The disappearing act by junior tight end Garry Gilliam. Through two games the veteran has no catches.
Penn State's new policy is obviously not to give specifics on injuries. O'Brien no doubt brought that with him from the NFL. So we'll do our best to ID what appeared to be wrong with players.
TB Derek Day: left shoulder. Left game in the second half and said he will have tests done to determine seriousness.
DE Pete Massaro: right shoulder. Left game in the second half.
OT Donovan Smith: foot or leg. Left game in second half.
LB Nyeem Wartman: unclear. Left game in the first quarter.
HIT SQUAD: Mauti wiped out punt return man Khalek Shepherd on Butterworth's long kick in the fourth quarter.
HIDDEN HERO: Bench came in and completed 2 of 7 passes for 12 yards. But Robinson dropped what would have been a 35-yard score.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Anyone keeping a close eye on the sideline saw quarterback Paul Jones wearing gloves on both hands for most of the game. After the game, O'Brien said Jones is now seeing snaps at F tight end but will still help out at QB. Seems like a good way to get the 6-foot-3, 258-pounder involved in the offense.
DID YOU NOTICE?
Injured TB Bill Belton did not make the trip.
Jones changed his number from 7 back to 13.
Penn State showed nickel for the first time this season in the second half, using it for one play (by our count). In it, freshman Da'Quan Davis came in at corner and corner Stephon Morris moved to nickel.
True freshmen who made the trip included Bench, receivers Trevor Williams and Eugene Lewis, running back Akeel Lynch, tight end Jesse James, Wartman, Davis, safety Jordan Lucas and defensive tackle Austin Johnson. All played except Lewis, Lynch and Johnson. Expect Lynch to redshirt unless there is another serious injury at the position.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can the Lions build off the improvement they showed here or will Navy sink their season at Beaver Stadium next weekend?