Penn State players maintain even keel despite loss

Take a stroll down College Avenue, the main stretch of shops and restaurants that borders Penn State's campus, and you would never know the Penn State football team lost its season-opener to Ohio of the Mid-American Conference.

Small navy signs that read, "Proud to Support Penn State Football," appear in dozens of windows. At the Student Bookstore, there are racks and racks of paraphenelia. No jerseys are on sale. No reason for panic.

A 24-14 loss to Ohio, which marks Penn State's second loss to a non-BCS conference school in more than a decade, hasn't seemed to affect the morale of this town. It hasn't affected the morale of Penn State players, either.

"I don't know if you've noticed, but with us, the whole adversity thing brings us together," senior Michael Zordich said Tuesday.

Indeed, Penn State players have been through a lot in the past 10 months. The team had the day off on Sunday, and when they returned to practice Monday Bill O'Brien stressed to the squad that it was only one game.

"I think it's football," O'Brien said Tuesday in his weekly press conference. He was clearly in a better mood than he was after the game on Saturday, where he was brief and a bit dejected, speaking for only about eight minutes.

"It was an emotional day, but it came down to turnovers, third down conversions, and that's what it usually comes down to in close games," O'Brien added. "Hopefully we'll improve on that this week."

Penn State was outscored 21-0 in the second half. The defense, which allowed 11 of 12 third down conversions in the second half, will be a specific point of emphasis. The Nittany Lions' next opponent, Virginia, threw for 361 yards in its season opener.

The Cavaliers are listed as a 10-point favorite. Zordich and his teammates are fully aware of that. They don't seem fazed. 

"Underdog pretty much means nothing to us anymore," he said. "I think we've been there for a while."

Zordich has a two step plan for success. First, Penn State players must stick together as a team. They can't point fingers at eachother. Second, they must have a short-term memory.

Zordich said he and some of the other veterans on the team reached out to some of the younger players in the off-day -- not to lecture, but just to check the mood.

"Not much needed to be said," Zordich said. "Everyone understands where we're at. We're going to be fine. We're going to be alright. It's cool, just shake it off."

-Emily Kaplan