UNIVERSITY PARK — Chasing a cunning quarterback and shifty running backs and receivers exerted a physical toll on Penn States defensive players. Just ask Jordan Hill.
The veteran defensive tackle who started every game last season said he slept fine last Saturday night despite a 24-14 loss to Ohio University.
I was probably knocked out by 10 p.m., Hill said Tuesday.
Rest and recovery are themes for the defense as it prepares for Saturdays game at Virginia (1-0).
Ohio ran 88 plays, 18 more than the Nittany Lions (0-1). The Bobcats held the ball for 18:42, ran 49 plays and went 11 of 12 on third-down attempts in the second half.
Ohio snapped the ball at rapid rates, further draining a defense adjusting to new coordinators Ted Roof aggressive schemes, which force linebackers to blitz frequently and cover wide receivers.
It was basically no-huddle, Hill said. When you go up against no-huddle, you use more energy than a basic traditional huddle team.
After a day to reflect on the programs first season-opening loss since 2001, practice resumed Monday.
Coaches werent the only ones trying to rally the team.
Linebacker Michael Mauti and fullback Michael Zordich addressed their teammates, a move designed to ensure the wilting doesnt extend beyond last weeks second half. Mauti and Zordich also acted as vocal leaders after the NCAA levied sanctions against the program last month, so underclassmen are accustomed to following their lead.
Were tough-minded, safety Malcolm Willis said. We stick together no matter what. They told us to step up.
Zordich said dispersing blame will hinder the recovery process. The offense also encountered second-half problems. Penn State failed to move inside Ohios 30 in the half, thus limiting the amount of rest the defense received.
The most important thing is sticking together and staying close and not pointing fingers and turning the page, Zordich said. After everything we have been through, I dont see much tearing us apart as a team. The next big thing is just short-term memory, not forgetting what happened but learning from it.
Both units learned change isnt always easy even when holding a 14-3 halftime lead.
Coach Bill OBrien said eight or nine plays make the difference in a game such as Saturdays. True freshman Nyeem Wartman made Penn States only five-star play, bursting through Ohios line to block a second-quarter punt. The offense parlayed Wartmans effort into its second and final touchdown.
The defense didnt force a turnover, a point emphasized in the early stages of this weeks preparations.
We have to stay excited, Hill said. When somebody makes a play, we really have to go after the ball, pulling the ball out, making the ball carrier fumble, just jarring the ball loose will help a lot.
Hill said Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettletons three-step drops made it difficult to apply pressure. The Nittany Lions used nine defensive linemen last week. The group combined for one sack and one pass breakup.
Of all the challenges last weekend, curtailing emotions might have been the most difficult. The game marked Penn States first since the NCAA sanctions and former coach Joe Paternos death.
Few traces of second-half emotion existed besides Mautis sideline speech to the defense before the start of the fourth quarter.
We have to stay pumped and not lose energy, Hill said. I think that was part of the reason we lost the game. We lost some energy in the second half. We have to keep that up the whole game.
Seeing a team, which lauded its revamped strength and conditioning program throughout the offseason, sag during a second half in its own stadium isnt an encouraging sight. But OBrien strayed from analyzing his teams emotional and physical condition in Tuesdays weekly news conference.
At the end of the day, we've got to go out there and execute better, coach better, OBrien said. "Weve got to put our players in better position, and then our players need to go out there and make plays.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy