The third time was the charm for Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
In his third game, the coach finally got his first win at the helm of the Nittany Lions as Matt McGloin threw four touchdowns, including three to receiver Allen Robinson, in the Lions’ 34-7 win over Navy.
While O’Brien had to wait three weeks for his first win following heartbreaks to Ohio and Virginia, his third attempt featured a high-flying passing game that certainly reminded Penn State fans of his offense run by Tom Brady and Co. in New England. Simply put, this was the breakout performance that fans expected to see from O’Brien and his touted offense when he took the job in February.
Penn State jumped all over the Midshipmen right from kickoff by engineering a seven play, 72 yard opening drive that McGloin capped with a two-yard touchdown to tight end Jesse James. Then it was the Allen Robinson and Matt McGloin show. McGloin found the sophomore Robinson on a 45-yard touchdown with 6:40 left in the opening quarter to give the Nittany Lions a commanding 14-0 lead over the Mids. The same connection would re-appear in the second quarter when McGloin hit Robinson on a two-yard touchdown to push the Lions’ advantage to 21-0. But the dynamic duo wasn’t done yet. In the third quarter, McGloin had a crossing pattern bounce off the hands to Trevor Williams and into the waiting arms of, you guessed it, Allen Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown. It was a bizarre reversal of a key tipped pass that led to Ohio’s upset of the Lions two weeks ago.
Not to be outdone by the Nittany Lion offense, the Penn State defense stifled Navy’s triple-option for more than three quarters before allowing a Gee Gee Greene touchdown with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Mike Hull put the Penn State defense on the scoreboard with a scoop and score 74-yard fumble recovery. It was one of three turnovers forced by the Nittany Lion defense on the day.
Senior linebacker Michael Mauti yet again led the Penn State defense with 10 tackles after posting 21 total in the first two games of the season. Fellow senior linebacker Gerald Hodges also had a notably strong game, intercepting Navy quarterback Trey Miller in the first quarter. Defensive end Deion Barnes tallied a sack and forced fumble for the second-straight week, and now has three sacks on the season.
Maligned kicker Sam Ficken, who was 1-5 on field goals last week at Virginia, booted four of five extra points for the Nittany Lions. After he missed an extra point, O’Brien chose to go for it on a fourth and eight from Navy territory. The coach told a reporter at half that he was simply confident in the play call and wanted to go for it.
It was another rough day for Miller, who struggled through an ankle injury in totaling just 21 rushing yards on 18 carries. He added 17 yards and one interception through the air in his second sub-par outing of 2012. Backup Keenan Reynolds came on in relief of Miller and led the Mids to their only points in the fourth quarter. Reynolds was 4-5 for 44 yards in addition to 45 yards on the ground. Tailback Gee Gee Greene racked up 71 yards on eight carries and the lone Navy touchdown out of the triple-option.
Not having a rough day -more like a career day- was Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. The senior enjoyed his first four touchdown performance since 11/6/10 against Northwestern. He finished the day 13-20 for 231 yards while completing 65 percent of his passes. It was easily his best performance in coach O’Brien’s new offensive system. The Nittany Lions offensive line paved the way for ball carriers all day to the tune of 106 yards on 26 carries.
But this was O’Brien’s day all the way. The coach flashed a big smile during a postgame interview, said he was proud of his guys but admitted that he probably won’t dwell on this one too long, as he’ll be busy getting ready for Temple next week.
The Nittany Lions host Temple next Saturday at Beaver Stadium.