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Notebook: More passing, shaky defense

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State's offensive and defensive philosophies clearly have changed.

The run-first offense became a pass-first offense Saturday, and defensive coordinator Ted Roof unveiled a more aggressive defense.

Roof's defense was the lowlight, however, as it allowed 499 yards in the 24-14 loss to Ohio, including 175 yards on the ground against a front seven thought to be the team's strength. On offense, head coach Bill O'Brien passed 68.5 percent of the time -- a reversal of Penn State's past run-up-the-gut mentality.

O'Brien said in the past two weeks that he wasn't yet certain of this offense's identity, but it was clear Matt McGloin favored quick, short passes that moved the ball well in the first half.

Injuries: Cornerback Stephon Morris was carted off the field in the third quarter with ice wrapped around his ankle. Bill Belton also had an ankle injury.

Sports information director Jeff Nelson said both injuries were sprains, but he said the severity was not yet known.

Morris' injury would be especially hard on a secondary short on depth. With four starters gone from last season, true freshman Da'Quan Davis likely would step into the starting role.

Experiment gone wrong: Linebacker Gerald Hodges started the game returning kicks, but he struggled early and often. On the opening kickoff, the linebacker, who is on the Butkus Award watch list, ran the ball out of the end zone to the 12-yard line. Later he fumbled a punt return that led to an Ohio field goal.

Belton replaced Hodges after that.

Tight ends: With all the comparisons to the New England Patriots' offense, a lot of eyes were on the Penn State tight ends Saturday. Although they were more involved in the passing game than during past seasons, they definitely didn't drive the offense the way the pair of tight ends have done in New England.

Kyle Carter led all tight ends with four receptions for 51 yards, and Matt Lehman pulled in a touchdown late in the first half. Garry Gilliam started but mostly blocked, and Jesse James saw limited action.

Fourth down: O'Brien showed he's not afraid to gamble. On a fourth-and-1 play around midfield early in the game, O'Brien called a pass play that Penn State converted. In the third quarter from Ohio's 30, O'Brien called another pass play -- on fourth-and-5 -- but McGloin's pass to Robinson fell incomplete and Ohio drove downfield for a score.

Signing off: With about 20,000 fans in the student section, some memorable signs were draped over the south end zone. One of the more memorable ones read, "B.O.B. the Rebuilder," a play off the PBS children's show "Bob the Builder."

Another sign honored senior fullback Michael Zordich by comparing him to the Hulk with splotches of blue, white and green: "The Incredible Zordich." And, of course, the "[Pete] Massaro's Minions" and "Mautigras" (for Michael Mauti) made an appearance.