In the good old days, Penn State doesn’t win a game that way.

Of course, in the good old days, Penn State doesn’t need to win a game that way.

Penn State 45, Appalachian State 38 in overtime. That’s where we are. And that’s how it’s gonna be this season. At least, in a best case scenario, that’s how it’s gonna be.

This season-opening heart-stopper confirmed most of what I believed about the Lions going into it.

On the good side, the offense is going to be just fine. Trace McSorley hasn’t lost his magic, the offensive line is better and guys such as Miles Sanders, Ricky Slade and  KJ Hamler — the latter two freshmen — looked solid stepping up to fill key roles.

On the bad side, the defense validated every concern a PSU fan could possibly have. The meter has moved from “worrisome” to just short of “push the panic button.” The Lions made opposing quarterback Zac Thomas — making his first college start — look an awful lot like McSorley. They gave up 28 fourth-quarter points. After the offense rallied to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, the defense gave up a 30-yard pass play to start App’s ensuing drive. Two defenders were near the receiver, but neither was truly covering him as he hauled in an easy catch.

Penn State needed late-game heroics, a missed field goal and an overtime period to beat a Group of 5 team despite playing turnover-free football.

For you glass-half-full types, here are some mitigating points:

  • There are still three games and 26 days before Ohio State visits, and I still believe the Lions will be 4-0 going into that game.
  • The defense did hold App to a field goal through three quarters.
  • A lot of guys played, including touted true freshman linebacker Micah Parsons, who didn’t look overwhelmed and should only get better.
  • App State is probably even better than we thought they were. The Mountaineers have been at or near the top of the Sun Belt for several years running and have played tough against other Power 5 programs. They deserve all the credit James Franklin and McSorley were giving them in the postgame.

All that said, defensive coordinator Brent Pry needs to find some answers. Maybe part of that is just a matter of letting inexperienced, talented players settle in. Maybe Pry needs to gamble more. The Lions managed only 2 sacks and forced but 1 turnover, Amani Oruwariye’s game-ending interception. The Lions committed only 2 penalties for 10 yards, normally a good thing, but perhaps in this case portending of a lack of aggression.

I’m less concerned about special teams, despite allowing a 100-yard kickoff return and an on-side kick recovery. Those could be signs of trouble, but could just as easily be anomalies. Time will tell.

Anyway, unless and until the defense makes major strides, there will be more shootouts.

With McSorley on our side, they’re going to be a lot of fun to watch.

So fill your prescription for beta blockers and and stock up on the antacids. Roller coasters are fun precisely because they cause some stress. Strap in and enjoy the ride.