By Mark Wogenrich and Jeff Schuler, Tribune Newspapers
5:37 PM EDT, September 1, 2012
STATE COLLEGE, PA. —
Penn State began what it calls a "new era" of football Saturday by allowing 21 unanswered second-half points in a 24-14 loss to Ohio University.
Penn State played its first game under Coach Bill O'Brien and fourth since former coach Joe Paterno was fired last November. An announced crowd of 97,186, about 9,000 below Beaver Stadium capacity, returned to pledge support for O'Brien and his football team, which went through a tumultuous offseason.
On the field, however, second-half lapses led Penn State to its first opening-day loss 2001. Officially, though, the NCAA vacated all of Penn State's wins from 1998-2011 as part of sanctions handed down in July.
Though fans embraced the spirit of the new era, memories of Paterno, as well as anger at the NCAA, university administration and the Board of Trustees, flooded Beaver Stadium. Members of the Paterno family, including the late coach's wife Sue, watched the game from a suite.
Prior to the game, fans congregated at the space outside the stadium where a statue of Paterno was located. The statue was removed in July, one day before the NCAA imposed a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and a $60 million fine on Penn State. People took photos of a Paterno bobblehead in the area, now lined with trees, and one tailgate featured a stand-up version of the Paterno statue.
A plane flew over the stadium reading "OUST ERICKSON/TRUSTEES." Many fans remain angry that University President Rodney Erickson's signed the NCAA's consent decree to the sanctions and that the Board of Trustees fired Paterno last November.
In a stadium suite, one of the famous stand-up versions of Paterno, appearing to watch over the field. In the second half, the Paterno cutout held a sign that read, "Due Process For PSU JVP." Former Penn State running back Franco Harris, a vocal supporter of Paterno, watched the game from the suite.
Before the game, Penn State held a "moment of reflection" which it said was for "all victims of child sexual abuse and those who have endured suffering and loss."
Ohio, which trailed 14-3 at halftime, clinched the victory by scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the second half. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton, son of former Oriole Mickey, capped the rally with a 5-yard touchdown scoring pass to Donte Foster with 2:55 left in the game.
Tettleton threw for a touchdown and ran for another to cap long Ohio drives in the third quarter and give the Bobcats a 17-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Ohio went 84 yards with the second-half kickoff, and sophomore Landon Smith capped the march by grabbing a Tettleton pass deflected by Penn State defensive back Stephen Obeng-Agyapong for a 43-yard scoring play.
After a Penn State drive ended on an incomplete fourth-down pass at the Ohio 30, Tettleton drove the team 70 yards, finishing the series with a 1-yard dive over the top that gave the Bobcats their first lead, 17-14.
Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, one of the team's four game captains, completed 16 of 26 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Nittany Lions to a 14-3 halftime lead.
McGloin was 5-for-6 for 54 yards on a 10-play, 80-yard first-quarter scoring drive, capping the march 6-yard scoring pass to running back Bill Belton that produced the first touchdown of the Obrien era with three seconds left in the first quarter.
Both teams took advantage of special teams plays to get on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
Ohio's Alphonso Lewis recovered a muffed punt by Gerald Hodges at the Penn State 13 early in the quarter. The Bobcats settled for Weller's 22-yard field goal after the Lions held on third-and-2 at the 5 yard line.
Penn State took an 11-point lead into the locker room, scoring after Nyeem Wartman blocked an Ohio punt and Jesse Della Valle recovered at the Bobcats' 18-yard line. Three plays later, McGloin threw underneath to tight end Matt Lehman, who followed the sideline and dived over the pylon to complete a 14-yard touchdown.
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