Another Saturday, another game for the Penn State Nittany Lions. For many players on the team, taking a trip away from State College was just what they needed with their stress filled season. Upon arriving at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA, most players were fully prepared for their game against the University of Virginia.
On Penn State's opening drive, there were visions, and perhaps nightmares, of a relapse of the Ohio game: a dropped pass, two called timeouts and a slide after a quarterback scramble that didn't even move the chains. Yet, after McGloin's first touchdown pass of the game to Kyle Carter, the Penn State sideline breathed a sigh of relief.
Although it would not last long, as Penn State continued their poor and sloppy game play. After allowing the play clock to dwindle on numerous occasions, McGloin twice had to call timeouts after penalties were called in the first half. This is not the kind of game management you expect from your starting quarterback. Yet, even after countless miscues, two missed field goals and an injury scare involving McGloin, Penn State managed to take a 7-3 into halftime.
Virginia had possession in the 2nd half and wasted no time, as they marched 11 plays and 77 yards to score a touchdown, capped by a one yard TD pass from Michael Rocco to Jeremiah Mathis. Not to be outdone, McGloin drove Penn State down the field on their next possession, stalling yards away from the goal line. Sam Ficken, Penn State's kicker, already having a rough day, missed a simple 20 yard FG wide right.
On a day with it seemed nothing could go right for Penn State, the defense stepped up big again on Virginia's next drive. After Rocco completed a beautiful pass to Jake McGee on 3rd and 20 to convert the first down, two plays later he fumbled the snap and gave the ball back to Penn State. Penn State went three and out on their next possession to close out the third quarter.
During Virginia's opening drive in the fourth quarter, Phillip Sims marched out on the field replacing Rocco. This was highly questionable as Sims is a recent transfer from Alabama and only had limited time to learn the offense. On Sim's first drive there was miscommunication and a holding call that stalled the possession. After a three and out, Virginia punter, Alec Vozenilek could only manage a 31 yard punt, which set up Penn State with excellent field position.
Perhaps sensing their opportunities would be coming to an end, McGloin led Penn State down the field in five plays ending with a beautiful 30 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Allen Robinson, who had some drops of his own earlier. Leading 13-10, Penn State lined up for the extra point, only to have Ficken's attempt blocked.
On Virginia's next possession, it was once again Sims who lined up under center. This time, he only lasted two plays as he was sacked on 2nd down and coughed up the ball. Penn State recovered the fumble deep in Virginia territory, although they could only manage three yards on their next three plays and had to settle for another field goal attempt. This time, Ficken nailed a 32 yard kick and put Penn State up by six.
After a couple three and outs, both teams exchanged possessions. When Virginia got the ball back with less than ten minutes in the game, Rocco could feel the urgency. Virginia converted four 3rd downs on their drive that spanned 12 plays and 86 yards, the fourth conversion being a touchdown pass from Rocco to McGee.
With 1:28 left to play and being down 17-16, many on the Penn State sidelines looked dejected. Their defense played excellent, they had a +4 turnover margin and only committed 3 penalties, yet here they were again, losing to an inferior opponent. McGloin would have nothing of the sort. He saved his best football for last as he drove Penn State down the field with six completions for 48 yards, setting up Penn State for a 42 yard game winning field goal.
This time Ficken trotted out to the field just like all the other times, and just like three times earlier in the day, he walked off the field with his head low. Ficken ended up making only one of his five attempts on the day, the last miss being the most devastating. So Penn State opens the year 0-2, with a long road ahead. With all the disappointment and sadness, one has to wonder how long we can call their home Happy Valley.