Penn State dropped to 0-2 on Saturday after kicker Sam Ficken missed a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Nittany Lions controlled both sides of the ball for most of the game, but a UVA touchdown with less than two minutes to play secured a 17-16 Cavaliers win.
The Virginia offense looked to be in slow motion throughout the game, but they came up with a scoring drive when it mattered most. On third and 16 inside their own territory, quarterback Michael Rocco threw a jumpball up to Jake McGee and the tight end hauled it in for a 44-yard gain. A Rocco swing pass to Darius Jennings added 24 more yards and put UVA inside the ten. It looked like PSU's defense, which was impressive all day, might rise up one more time. But on third and goal, Rocco hit McGee, who was posted up in the middle of the end zone. The drive used up nearly seven minutes and featured four third-down conversions.
It was an excruciating loss for Penn State, whose defense bottled up UVA until that final drive. The Penn State offense also consistently moved the ball on UVA, but failed to come up with points on multiple occasions. Sophomore kicker Ficken missed his first three field goal attempts of the day, until finally punching one through from 32 yards out to push the PSU lead to 16-10. Ficken also had an extra point blocked on the Nittany Lions' second touchdown, a play that would prove to be the difference in the end.
The offense was constantly in Virginia territory. Bill O'Brien started the game with some aggressive play calling, going for it on fourth down twice and calling for a flea-flicker. Just like last week against Ohio, the opening script resulted in a fairly impressive march down the field. This time, however, the Nittany Lions converted a touchdown as Matt McGloin found Kyle Carter for an eight-yard score. The drive took more than six minutes and last 17 plays.
McGloin was injured in the middle of the second quarter, taking two hits to his throwing elbow on consecutive series. Ausar Walcott rushed around end both times and hit McGloin as he stood exposed in the pocket. The second one sent him to the locker room with his right shoulder and arm sagging. It looked like his day was done but he returned during the first series of the second half. He would hit Allen Robinson for a thirty-yard score to start the fourth quarter.
With his right elbow in a sleeve, McGloin hung in throughout the second half. It looked like he might pull off the final minute game-winning drive, but Ficken's attempt from 42 yards was wide left as soon it left his foot.
Box Score Hero: The Virginia offense struggled all day, but tight end Jake McGee came up huge for his quarterback Michael Rocco when it mattered most. He finished with four catches for 99 yards, and sealed the win with his six-yard touchdown catch.
Rankings Ramifications: Virginia improves to 2-0, but they are still on the outside of the polls.
But Did They Cover?* UVA escaped with the win but did not cover the 10-point spread
For More On This Game: Visit Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries, plus Big Ten blog Off Tackle Empire, SB Nation Pittsburgh and SB Nation Philly. For more on Hoos football, visit Virginia blog Streaking The Lawn.
Next Week's Schedule: Penn State returns to Happy Valley where they will host Navy, who was idle this week after their ugly loss to Notre Dame in Ireland. Virginia will being their conference slate on the road against Georgia Tech.