UNIVERSITY PARK - Maybe ABC knew something when it was deciding over the summer whether to play Penn State-Alabama at night or the 3:30 kickoff it ultimately determined.
Because on the heels of a 7-6 season and judging very preliminarily from their uneven 41-7 victory over Indiana State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, the Nittany Lions are not yet ready for prime time.
At least they know it.
"I wouldn't go overboard," Joe Paterno said. "Obviously, there's a lot of places we could improve."
After an encouraging start in the first quarter - "I thought overall, it was a solid effort," JoePa said - the Lions played down to the opposition and only carried the second half, 13-7.
"I just don't think we were a well-oiled machine that we'd like to be," offensive coordinator Galen Hall said. "For the first game, you're going to have some hiccups."
They did, but unlike last year's Division I-AA opener in which the Lions actually trailed early against Youngstown State - a team Indiana State beat - this game was never in doubt.
Still, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said, "it's hard to access when you're so dominant up front."
There were positives to build on.
The defense allowed just two first downs through three quarters, Chaz Powell returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the ground game, led by the flashy Silas Redd, did its part.
On the flip side, the quarterback situation didn't appear to change much.
Neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin were overly impressive or overly bad, although it's undeniable that the Lions seem to move the ball better when led by McGloin.
Bolden got a couple of bad breaks early when Derek Moye and Justin Brown both dropped catchable deep balls, potential touchdowns.
McGloin nearly threw another disastrous interception but also has proven he can come off the bench - as he did again Saturday - and energize the offense when called upon.
As the game went on, Indiana State adjusted well and had success stopping the Lions' run and bothering both quarterbacks with blitzes.
"We definitely have to iron out our pass protection," offensive tackle Chima Okoli said. "They came at us with things we weren't too familiar with. We'll correct it."
While they're figuring out how to cope with Alabama's defense, which held the Nits to a field goal in a 24-3 win last year, they'll also have to patch up the special teams.
Aside from Powell's return, the Lions missed two field goals and an extra point and then sat starter Evan Lewis in favor of true freshman Sam Ficken.
"I thought the placekicking wasn't good," Paterno said before adding Ficken and Lewis "have been close," and suggesting punter-kickoff man Anthony Fera could return this week.
Penn State also nearly had a punt blocked, was hit with an illegal participation penalty, giving Indiana State a first down, and averaged just 5.2 yards in six punt returns.
Postgame, talk quickly shifted to Alabama. Paterno called the Tide "one of the three-four best teams in the country," and praised their "organization."
He and the rest of the PSU camp are anxious to see how much the Lions have closed the gap from last year, when most figured Nick Saban took it easy and could have rolled up a more lopsided score.
"I don't think you get overly optimistic that we've reached our full potential," Hall said. "They [Indiana State] were not Alabama on defense. Hopefully, you'll really improve between the first and second game. We're going to have to."
That much is for sure.