It feels like a long time coming for the Nittany Lions to get their first win under Bill O'Brien. Penn State introduced O'Brien as their head coach on January 7th, 2012 and since then it's been quite a ride for O'Brien, his staff, the players, and most importantly the supporters of PSU.
So it might seem like it's been awhile, but in reality it's only been about three weeks. Technically, according to the NCAA, Penn State's last official win before their 34-7 victory over Navy on Saturday was on Nov. 22, 1997.
Whatever the case may be the Nittany Lions have a "W" in the win column and it came in front of a home crowd of about 98,000. A perfect place for Bill O'Brien and company to get their first win together as the new era of Penn State football is officially underway.
"I felt very good for this football team," said O'Brien. "I felt in many ways that it was a long time coming. I told them that it was one win and all of the hard work they put in this week and past weeks paid off. But it's just one win, now we have to soak it in tonight. We have to get back to work on Monday and get ready for a very, very good Temple team."
Penn State got things rolling in the first quarter much like they have all season long, getting out to a 14-point lead. Matt McGloin finished off a 72-yard drive to make the game 7-0 with a two yard strike to freshman tight end Jesse James. The touchdown came at the 11:25 mark in the first. On PSU's following possession, McGloin found wideout Allen Robinson, who made a nice move after the catch taking the ball 45 yards for the score. Penn State has out-scored their opponents 28-0 in the first quarter this season.
Allen Robinson made his presence known early against the Midshipmen and so far this season as one of the premier receivers in the Big 10. Robinson had five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson leads the Big Ten in receptions (24, 8.0 rpg) and receiving yardage (107.3 ypg) and is ranked 10th nationally in both categories. His four touchdown catches on the year are tied for the Big Ten lead.
"He's just a really good, young receiver," said O'Brien. "He works extremely hard at the game, studies the game. He's a fantastic kid, he's always got a smile on his face. Really, really enjoys playing here. He's just a fun guy to coach, like a lot of these guys."
The Nittany Lions defense kept up their solid 2012 season forcing four turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 int.) for the second straight week. Penn State leads the Big 10 in turnover margin, plus five in that department. The Nittany Lion defense also kept the pressure on the Navy quarterbacks throughout the day getting a season high four sacks, three by different players, and two by redshirt freshman Anthony Zettel.
The defense also set the Nittany Lion offense up with opportunities to score. PSU scored 13 points off of Navy turnovers, and linebacker Mike Hull added a score for the defense, scooping up a fumble and returning it 74 yards for a touchdown.
"We know Navy is a very, very tough, well coached football team," said O'Brien. "You have to try to change it up. You can't stay in one front or one coverage the whole game and expect yourselves to stop them. We felt that was a really good game plan. I thought Ted (Roof) called a heck of a game."
Penn State's performance against Navy was the first time this season where the offense and the defense both played well simultaneously. A nice moment during the game came in the third quarter when a McGloin pass to true freshman Trevor Williams glanced off of Williams' hands and into Allen Robinson's grasp, who was waiting in the end zone. After the play was over, the PSU crowd chanted "Bill O'Brien." It was a good day for Penn State football on Saturday afternoon, and hopefully for PSU faithful it was a sign of things to come as the season moves forward.