Tyler Tettleton threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns for Ohio University as the Penn State Nittany Lions began the Bill O'Brien coaching era on a sour note with a 24-14 setback against the Bobcats at Beaver Stadium.
Tettleton converted 31-of-41 passes and also picked up another 47 yards and a touchdown on nine rushing attempts for the Bobcats (1-0), who held a 21-0 scoring advantage in the second half. Beau Blankenship ran the ball 31 times for 109 yards and also caught seven passes for an additional 72 yards for the visitors.
Penn State (0-1) was paced by quarterback Matt McGloin who converted 27-of-48 for 260 yards and two touchdowns and an interception in the setback. Bill Belton carried the ball 13 times for a team-best 53 yards as he took over the starting role at running back after Silas Redd (1,241 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011) decided to transfer to USC.
O'Brien, a former coach with the NFL's New England Patriots, is the 15th head coach in PSU history and has the burden of replacing the legendary Joe Paterno who was dismissed from the program late last season in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.
Paterno, who joined Penn State as an assistant to Rip Engle in 1950, was named the latter's successor in 1966 and won a pair of national championships in 1982 and 1986. Passing away at the age of 85 in January due to complications from lung cancer, Paterno had been the all-time winningest coach in FBS history before the NCAA vacated 111 of his wins in July.
"We had a lot of fan support and we wanted to win it for the fans, and win just for the alumni and for ourselves and it's just upsetting," Penn State wide receiver Shawney Kersey said.
The first points of the afternoon came late in the first quarter when McGloin checked off of a couple of receivers on 1st-and-10 just inside the seven-yard line and found Belton out on the right side, the receiver slipping into the end zone to give the Nittany Lions the 7-0 advantage heading into the second frame.
PSU's defense held off the Bobcats on the next possession, but a fumbled punt by the Lions gave the ball right back to Ohio. Penn State managed to keep the visitors out of the end zone, but still allowed Bobcats kicker Matt Weller to line up and knock through a 22-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 with just over 10 minutes to play in the half.
With 1:29 remaining in the second period, McGloin found Matt Lehman out on the right side with a short pass and then Lehman turned the corner and headed for the goal line on a 14-yard TD pass play to give PSU a 14-3 lead at the break.
"We knew that we were going to have to take on a surge. That surge would come from the fans and it would come from the players," Ohio coach Frank Solich said. "We knew the atmosphere would be a difficult one to play in and so what we told them was we just have to keep pounding, fellas. It's a game that is going to be a four-quarter football game. Just take the surge early and let's just keep pounding, pounding and pounding and let's just see what happens. Try to turn it into just a football game, and we're pretty good at playing football. I think that's what we did, and we're fortunate to win this."
The opening drive of the second half saw the Bobcats move the ball 82 yards on 12 plays, the last of those being a 43-yard touchdown reception by Landon Smith. Eating up more than four minutes on the clock, Smith collected a tipped ball by the Penn State down the center of the field and easily ran into the end zone to cut the deficit to 14-10.
The Bobcats grabbed their first lead of the game at the 3:49 mark of the third quarter when Tettleton bulled his way across the goal line from a yard out, giving the visitors a 17-14 edge following the successful PAT.
Ohio added to the advantage with 2:55 left in the fourth when Donte Foster extended for a five-yard TD grab from Tettleton, making the score 24-14.
McGloin and the Penn State offense started deep in their own territory, giving them little time to waste as they needed two scores, but the quarterback was picked off on a tipped ball with just under two minutes remaining. The Bobcats then ran out the clock to pick up their first-ever win in six tries against the Nittany Lions.
The last time the Nittany Lions opened a season with a loss was back in 2001 when the squad bowed to second-ranked Miami at home, 33-7. Penn State began that campaign with four straight setbacks and finished a mere 5-6 overall.