Football is a game of assignments. If each player carries his assignment out on any given play, the chances for success on that play are good.
Pennsylvania fell to Ohio despite a strong effort from linebacker Nyeem Wartman.
The team that takes care of the most assignments isn't guaranteed victory, though. Three future Penn State players discovered that Saturday night in the Big 33 Football Classic in Hersheypark Stadium.
Linebacker Nyeem Wartman and defensive end Evan Schwan took care of their assignments, leading a dominant performance by the Pennsylvania front seven. Wide receiver Eugene Lewis picked up big chunks of yardage on the few occasions his number was called.
But the hosts didn't get enough help from the rest of the offense nor from the special teams as Ohio scored the game's final 17 points to win a 24-21 stunner in overtime.
"There were a couple unfortunate plays that they made that we didn't," Schwan said.
Actually, it was the plays that Pennsylvania didn't make that led to the squad's fourth straight Big 33 defeat. Quarterbacks Skyler Mornhinweg and Blake Rankin combined for five interceptions -- including one on the game's final play -- and Desmon Peoples fumbled a kickoff return inside his own 5-yard line, leading to the tying score with 6:10 left.
It was a handful of those disastrous plays that nullified some excellent work from the Pennsylvania defense, which had shut Ohio out for the first two and a half quarters and had allowed only seven points until a turnover set up a Tyler O'Connor touchdown run with 6:27 left in the fourth. Peoples' misadventures on the kickoff return followed.
"It's kind of frustrating, the fact that you give the offense so many opportunities and we just threw the game away," Wartman said. "It's frustrating when you're coming on defense and you have no effect on the offensive side."
Wartman had plenty of an effect on the Ohio offense, making big hits all over the field. He saved some of his best work for powerful running back Warren Ball and the other Ohio State-bound players on the Ohio roster.
"I had my target on all those guys," Wartman said.
Schwan might have had good reason to be more hesitant on defense after the shoulder injury that had sidelined him during his junior year was aggravated ("it slipped out once") earlier in the week at practice.
"Mainly Coach (Larry) Johnson and Coach (Bill) O'Brien were worried, but I told them that I'd be alright," Schwan said.
But the 6-foot-6 end played with a shoulder wrap and joined tackles Treyvon Hester and Tyrique Jarrett in making much of the evening miserable for Ball and quarterbacks O'Connor and Derik Swinderman.
Lewis officially finished with 54 yards on two receptions (a 15-yarder was called back because of a penalty), displaying both his leaping ability and ball skills in his official return to his natural position.
"It was great. It's the first time since my sophomore year that I had a quarterback to throw me the ball and I could run some routes, so it was exciting," said the Wyoming Valley West high school quarterback. "I was glad to finally get back out in my comfort zone."
Count up the positive big plays, and Pennsylvania won going away. The soon-to-be Nittany Lions had their fingerprints on most of them, which provided some solace after a frustrating finish.
"That's what it's all about -- that's what the crowd comes here to see," Lewis said. "The big plays change the momentum of the game and I wish I could have made a couple more to help my team win. Unfortunately it didn't end that way."
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