UNIVERSITY PARK - The ball was right there for the taking for Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, a Braxton Miller out pass around the Ohio State 40 with nothing but a Nittany Lion sideline of open field between him and the end zone.
The Penn State senior safety couldn't pull it in.
It was that kind of game for the Lions, particularly in the first half. An inability to make plays and to take advantage of a huge, energetic Beaver Stadium crowd and a ton of momentum combined with some untimely - and sometimes questionable - penalties and the kind of mistakes Penn State wasn't making during its five-game winning streak allowed the Buckeyes to stay even at halftime. Things snowballed on Penn State in the second half, resulting in a 35-23 Lion defeat.
"Knowing how excited the fans were, alumni came back, family, how excited we were, how hard we prepared," Lion quarterback Matt McGloin said when asked about the most disappointing aspect of the loss, "and we just couldn't get it done.
"It was just one of those nights, I guess. We just didn't have it."
At one point, McGloin was flagged for a false start when a surprise snap hit him in the midsection before he'd repositioned himself in the shotgun while calling the play.
The list of the plays that could have tipped the scales in the Lions' favor early was numerous.
n On Penn State's first possession, Allen Robinson got behind the Buckeye secondary. Had McGloin's throw been on the mark, it would like have been a touchdown. It's wasn't, forcing Robinson to go to the turf at the Ohio State 30, but it was still catchable. Robinson, though, couldn't hang on, and Penn State punted.
n Miller wasn't accurate early, and a wild overthrow out of bounds on third down from his own 18 would have forced the Buckeyes to punt from deep in their own end in a scoreless game, had Adrian Amos not hit the leaping receiver, who had no chance to catch the ball. The personal foul allowed the Buckeyes to eventually drive into Penn State territory before stalling.
n Penn State never had an answer for the Buckeyes' well-timed blitzes, which not only resulted in three sacks of McGloin through the first three quarters, but a number of incompletions. None, though, loomed as large as did Ryan Shazier's sack of McGloin at the Lion 8 on the first drive of the second half. Facing third-and-13 on the next play, McGloin threw the ball right to Shazier, who raced untouched into the end zone.
"We're capable of picking those things up and handling them," senior guard John Urschel said.
n The Lions started that drive in the hole anyway, because Bill Belton mishandled the second-half kickoff and had to fall on it at Penn State's 11.
n Penn State committed a pair of penalties that extended Ohio State drives. Brad Bars was flagged for a rare defensive hold on the interior of the line on a punt late in the first half which enabled the Buckeyes to convert fourth-and-8 at their own 27 and eventually drive 75 yards for the tying score with 40 seconds left in the first half.
n There were penalties on the offensive side, as well. An illegal procedure on first down at the Buckeye 46 helped short-circuit a second-quarter drive and another one on Penn State's next series was instrumental in snuffing a Lion scoring threat that had pushed to the Ohio State 20 - the ball eventually was turned over on downs at the 17.
"Holding calls will happen. The thing we really need to avoid are the mental mistakes, things like false starts," Urschel said. "These are things that can easily be fixed."
n After Amos picked off Miller at the Ohio State 44 in the third quarter, Penn State gained 1 yard in three plays - another sack was mix in - before Lion coach Bill O'Brien gambled on a fake punt. The call was good, and Mike Hull was wide-open downfield. Butterworth, though, instead threw to a covered Derek Day. The pass was incomplete, and Ohio State capitalized on the short field to make it an 11-point game from which Penn State never really recovered.
"We kind of killed ourselves. This was a game where I think we could have made some big plays," Robinson said. "I think we were able to make big plays. We just couldn't finish them."
Robinson called the ball he didn't come up with in the first quarter "one I wish I had back."
"It was a little bit out in front of me, but I definitely should have caught it," Robinson said. "A little lack on concentration on my part, but, in a big game like this, that's a play I've got to make."
Of course, the play that many wanted to know about both when it happened and after the game was the unusual defensive hold on the Ohio state punt. O'Brien jawed with the officials after the call but said after the game he received no explanation.
A couple of the Penn State players, though, talked about it. Had the call not been made, Penn State would have had the ball around its own 20 with momentum, a seven-point lead and more than four minutes to add to it.
"It was a tough deal for our defense to be out there, get a stop, come off and have to go right back on," Urschel said. "They did the best that they could under the circumstances."
"I think one series they drove the whole way down the field on penalties," Amos said. "Penalties hurt us a lot today."
Aside from the holding-aided Buckeye drive, Penn State outgained 149-80 in the first half, while Ohio State spent the first two quarters trying to dig itself out of bad field position that had the Buckeyes starting off at their own 3, 11, 6 and 17, yet it was tied at halftime. The Lions had the ball for all but the first one minute and eight seconds of the third quarter but were down 14-10 by the time of the failed fake punt.
It had some of the feel of the opener against Ohio, when Penn State had control of the game before coming down with a thud from an emotional high and losing the game.
"We can't focus on the loss now, especially for us seniors," McGloins said. "We have four games left."
"This was certainly a sign of growing pains," Urschel said. "It was a step back."