O’Brien gets first win at Penn State
Nittany Lions rout Navy 34-7
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Bill O’Brien’s first win as Penn State’s head coach ended with a bath from the Gatorade cooler. It began with some aerial fireworks.
The sharp passing of quarterback Matt McGloin, a big afternoon from wide receiver Allen Robinson, and a patient and productive performance from the Penn State defense led the Nittany Lions to a 34-7 victory, their first win under O’Brien.
“I felt very good for this football team. In many ways, it was a long time coming,” said O’Brien, who succeeded Joe Paterno in January and saw his program pummeled by NCAA sanctions in July. “But I told them it was one win. We gotta get back to work on Monday.”
Penn State (1-2) had enjoyed halftime leads in both of its first two games but fell apart late, losing to Ohio and Virginia. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions avoided the mistakes that had cost them in the first two games and played an efficient if not dominant second half.
Two 45-yard pass plays from McGloin to Robinson helped Penn State put two touchdowns on the board during its first two possessions.
The first got the ball to Navy’s 2-yard line, and McGloin found tight end Jesse James with a 2-yard scoring pass two plays later.
After Navy went three plays and out, McGloin converted a third down with a 5-yard scramble, then pump-faked and fired to Robinson, who eluded the defense for a 45-yard score that made it 14-0 with 6:40 left in the first quarter.
McGloin’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Robinson, who finished with 136 yards on five catches, made it 20-0 with 8:59 left in the second quarter before beleaguered kicker Sam Ficken missed the extra-point try.
The Nittany Lions outgained the Midshipmen 262 yards to 130 in the first half.
Robinson added his third touchdown of the day, a career best, when McGloin’s pass to Trevor Williams bounced off the freshman receiver’s hands and over the heads of several Navy defenders to Robinson, who cradled it in the end zone for a 25-yard score with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
That play was perhaps the biggest step toward the first win of Penn State’s season, and O’Brien made sure the credit went to his players.
“I feel very close to this football team as does our staff,” O’Brien said. “This is a great group of kids. When you think about all the things they’ve been through, it’s a pretty great group of kids.”
The Nittany Lions doused O’Brien in the final seconds and after the game said they were pleased to deliver his first win.
“We got the monkey off his back, or our backs, and the media can kind of let us go now and hopefully we can get on a bit of a roll here,” said McGloin, who threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
Penn State’s defense came up with four turnovers for the second week in a row and turned one of them immediately into points — a 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Mike Hull.
“Another four-turnover day, which for us is very big, because that’s what we emphasize,” linebacker Michael Mauti said. “And it’s a big part of winning games.”
Hull’s return made it 34-0 with 14:13 to play.
The Midshipmen (0-2), who ran for 245 yards but had only 126 yards passing, avoided a shutout on a 12-yard scoring run by Gee Gee Greene with 10:03 remaining.
Navy played for the first time since being beaten 50-10 by Notre Dame on Sept. 1.
“We know that playing a Notre Dame, playing a Penn State, we have to almost play perfect to have a chance,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “If we can find a way to stay close to these guys, then maybe we can do something. But with that on our hands the turnovers definitely hurt us.”
Notes: Penn State played without injured running backs Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder), starting left tackle Donovan Smith (ankle), starting defensive end Pete Massaro (shoulder) and reserve linebacker Nyeem Wartman (knee). … Fullback Mike Zordich started at tailback and had a team-best 50 yards rushing on 11 carries.