UNIVERSITY PARK - As night fell over Beaver Stadium and Penn State's ugly performance cued the quietest dispersal ever of 110,033, Daryll Clark was taking responsibility for the Nittany Lions' 24-7 loss to Ohio State that thoroughly ruined a gorgeous November Saturday.
"We're better than that," he said quietly. "I could have played 10 times better."
Credit Clark for his honesty, but his teammates - and coaches - contributed just as much as he did.
The special teams were so bad that an early 41-yard Ohio State punt return had the Buckeyes at the Lions' 9 before everybody was in their seats.
And if you're looking for a statistic to include on a note with your next Nittany Lion Club contribution about why this coaching staff needs a designated special teams coordinator - instead of dividing up all the duties, as Joe Paterno stubbornly continues to do - how about Ohio State's 130-0 advantage in punt-return yardage?
"I said prior to the game, I was worried about the kicking game," Paterno said.
But placing all the blame on special teams wouldn't be fair, either.
After all, the Lion offensive line failed to give Clark much time and created no running room. Clark averaged less than 5 yards per passing attempt, and Penn State's longest running play from scrimmage, on 30 tries, was 9 yards.
So stingy was the Buckeyes' defense that the Lions' lone TD, a 1-yard, fourth-down plunge by Clark that tied the game at 7-7 and ended PSU's scoring, had to be reviewed and was debatably granted.
"We weren't very smooth out there," Paterno said. "Ohio State was more aggressive around the football."
When he did have time, Clark seemed terribly rushed and lacked the touch he's displayed most of the year.
The combination of 10 punts and three second-half first downs (one by penalty) eventually wore down a defense which didn't play its best game, either.
"I thought we were okay at 10-7," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "We can't give up the big play, and we did."
After missing a wide-open receiver deep in the second quarter, Terrelle Pryor redeemed himself with a 62-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that gave Ohio State a 17-7 lead. That pretty much put the game away because it looked like Penn State could play all night - maybe into next week - against the Buckeye defense and not score 17.
"Our defense fought hard," Clark said. "We weren't able to make enough plays to help them."
The defense contributed its share, too. It allowed Pryor to find a comfort zone that he impressively exploited with a side-to-side cool that enabled him to collect 175 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Just as the Buckeye coaching staff put Pryor in position to succeed, it confused Clark and held the Lions to less than two touchdowns for the seventh time in the last 12 meetings.
"We thought we had a very good game plan," Clark said. "They did a very good job disrupting it. We were a little bit in disarray the whole game. Their defense was coached really well, and a lot of things we expected to be open weren't."
So blame the coaches, too. They did nothing to slow down the Ohio State rush or rattle a Buckeye quarterback who arrived here still searching to find himself.
On the flip side, Clark may be 19-4 as a starter, but he fell to 1-3 against Iowa and Ohio State - and he knows Saturday's result will add a black mark to an otherwise admirable PSU resume.
"The numbers will show I wasn't able to win the big game," he said, "and that will hang over my head unless we can finish the season the right way. I'm very comfortable that myself and all the leaders of this football team, as painful as it is, we'll continue to move on. We still have a lot to play for."
Just not nearly as much as they were playing for Saturday.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.