Penn State’s 24-14 loss to Ohio Saturday has spawned lots of comments and opinions on how this team is “fragile” and that it “ran out of gas” in the fourth quarter.
I don’t buy it.
That may be the case later in the season, but I don’t believe that was the case against the Bobcats.
Look, all we heard about all spring and summer was how much better this new strength and conditioning program is. Rarely, have Nittany Lion teams of the past been worn down in games – let alone in games against MAC teams.
Yes, the number of scholarship players is down a few, but it’s not down to FCS levels yet and there is still Top 20 recruited talent on this roster.
Being worn down is not what lost this game Saturday. The head coach put it best in his weekly press conference.
"Usually close football games, they come down to eight or nine plays on both sides of the ball, especially in college football where you have more plays,” said Bill O’Brien. “In the pros it's about five or six plays because you don't have as many plays, but in college football I'd say about eight or nine plays. “We turned it over, they didn't turn it over. They converted on third down in the second half on offense; we didn't convert on our offense on third down in the second half. We had chances to break passes up, make interceptions. We had chances to hit guys that were wide open or catch the ball being wide open, and we did not make those plays and Ohio did."
Boom. Those are the reasons the game was lost. Nothing more, nothing less.
“We had a good drive going the first drive of the game,” O’Brien said. “We fumbled the ball. I would say it came down more to that. I felt like our guys were playing hard right to the end. I didn't see anybody that was completely gassed.”
Saying this team got gassed is just a convenient and easy narrative to perpetuate. This team got beat because it didn’t make plays when it had the opportunities.
Extrapolating to the point of the team being fragile and worn out and, well soon, all the remaining players will be transferring is just ridiculous after just one game.
Look, Ohio has its best team ever. It won 10 games last year and is favored to win the MAC this year. It’s a team that was projected to be near the Top 25 this year.
The Bobcats are a good, solid football team and will be recognized as that by the national media as the season goes along.
Toledo, another MAC team, marched into Beaver Stadium and won a game once as well. I doubt that we talked about that team being emotionally fragile or that it just simply ran out of gas.
O’Brien knows his team needs to make more plays. They can’t turn the ball over. They can’t drop interceptions and they can’t miss open receivers deep down the field.
Those miscues had nothing to do with running out of gas. Those were simply plays that should’ve been made and weren’t. That’s the bad news.
The good news is the opportunities to make those plays were there.
Is this Penn State football team good enough to bounce back?
We’ll find out soon enough. The next five games are all games it can win. They are also games it can lose. It all starts Saturday at Virginia.
If it can make plays, it can win. If it doesn’t, it won’t. It’s that simple.
If the lack of play-making and losses continue over the next five weeks, then we can talk about being worn out and fragile – but right now the talk and focus should be about guys making plays.
Follow Marty Valania on Twitter @EastRecruiting.