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Penn State football team aiming to put historic loss to OSU in past

| Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 10:21 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien leaves the field after losing to Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Columbus, Ohio.

For those expecting Penn State's worst loss since William McKinley was president to demoralize the Nittany Lions, cornerback Jordan Lucas insists you're barking up the wrong tree.

“One thing we say in the secondary is ‘Fido: Forget it, drive on,' ” Lucas said after Ohio State pounded Penn State, 63-14, on Saturday night. “As a team, we just need to keep that going.”

The Lions (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) don't have any choice. With five games remaining, modest goals still are attainable: a ninth consecutive winning season and a sixth straight winning record in conference play, to name two.

The most recent time Penn State allowed so many points or lost by so many, the team hadn't even yet been dubbed the Nittany Lions. The school didn't have the word “university” in its name — it more recently had been called Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania.

Only two losses in school history were more one-sided than Saturday's. A 106-0 loss at Lehigh on Nov. 11, 1889, was the second game of a three-day road trip. A 64-5 loss 10 years and two weeks later at Exposition Park in the North Side was to the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club, for whom some players were paid.

“We didn't have them prepared good enough as a coaching staff, with me as the head coach,” Bill O'Brien said, “and therefore we didn't play good enough. We just didn't.

“We've got great kids in the locker room who will put it behind them and learn from it. We'll remember some things, and we'll be ready to play Illinois.”

The Illini (3-4, 0-3) travel to Beaver Stadium for a noon Saturday kickoff having lost three consecutive games by an average of 27.7 points. Penn State has won its past five games that followed a loss under O'Brien.

“We've went through a lot of stuff. We're a resilient team,” said Bill Belton, who had the look of the Lions' featured tailback the rest of the season with 98 yards — the most Ohio State has given up this season — on 22 carries. “We don't get down. We just play the next game, and we're looking forward to that.”

While turnovers and a lack of finishing drives were issues, the offense (357 yards) wasn't abjectly poor. Christian Hackenberg threw two interceptions among his 23 attempts, and his right shoulder was injured when he was driven to the ground after a whistle on an offsides play in the first half.

Hackenberg remained in the game until the outcome was out of reach, and the lone update on his condition came by way of O'Brien's “We'll have to get that checked out (Monday).”

The Lions' defense was historically bad. The Buckeyes' 686 yards were a record for an opponent. Three consecutive opponents have scored at least 40 points, and Penn State is allowing an average of 49 points and 520.3 yards in conference play.

Perhaps a reprieve is on the way. Illinois managed just 128 yards in a 42-3 home loss this past Saturday, albeit to the nation's No. 1 defense in Michigan State.

“We didn't get the job done, not even close,” Lions linebacker Mike Hull said. “We've got a lot to look at on film this week.”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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