STATE COLLEGE -- After seven games, Bill O'Brien had run out of seniors to use.
The Penn State coach's goal was to make sure each one of his seniors got an opportunity to be a game captain this season. He got through the list last week out at Iowa, even getting injured linebacker Jamie Van Fleet out to midfield for the coin flip.
I have to figure out who will be captains for Ohio State, O'Brien said Thursday on his weekly radio show. You can probably take a guess (who they'll be).
Indeed, the most obvious choice led Penn State out to the 50-yard line before the game. Senior linebacker Michael Mauti, the team's emotional center, was right up front.
But it was the group that walked out with him that made the bigger impact.
The Nittany Lions trotted out every senior on the roster to join Mauti, with Jordan Hill, Gerald Hodges, Matt McGloin and Matt Stankiewitch flanking him.
Every other senior lined up behind them with arms linked, drawing roars from Penn State's first sellout crowd of the season.
The stadium-wide white-out created the best atmosphere for a Lions home game this season. But both teams were jumpy in the early going, committing pre-snap penalties and misfiring on big plays.
McGloin narrowly missed an open Allen Robinson on a deep ball on the Lions' first drive that would have gone for a score had the ball hit the sophomore wideout in stride.
Junior safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong then had his eyes on the end zone instead of the ball, dropping a potential pick-six on the next possession.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller responded later in the drive by missing an easy touchdown, overthrowing wide-open receiver Philly Brown on a blown coverage.
Defensive end Pete Massaro, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, made his first start of the year in place of redshirt freshman Deion Barnes.
Massaro, a fifth-year senior who has dealt with two ACL surgeries and has also been battling shoulder issues this season, came through with his first sack in nearly two years, combining with fellow end Sean Stanley to bring down Miller to end the first quarter.
Miller, who had to leave last week's game in an ambulance after suffering whiplash on a hard tackle, started and showed no ill effects running the ball early.
Penn State left tackle Donovan Smith continues to play with a broken right hand, though his cast has shrunk in size compared to the last two games.
True freshman linebacker Nyeem Wartman dressed for the game for the first time since injuring his knee against Virginia, but the Valley View grad did not see the field in the first half.
Because Wartman has only appeared in two games this year, he could be eligible for a medical redshirt if he does not play for the rest of the year.
Penn State's 2012 recruiting class took a heavy hit after scandal hit last November as several verbal commitments ended up signing with the rival Buckeyes in February.
Four highly rated prospects -- offensive lineman Joey O'Connor, defensive back Armani Reeves, defensive lineman Tommy Schutt and linebacker Camren Williams -- all made the flip to Ohio State after originally committing to Penn State. A fifth, defensive end Noah Spence, was strongly considering the Lions, but dropped them from consideration in the winter.
Spence, Schutt and Williams have all seen the field for the Buckeyes this season as true freshman, and made the trip to Happy Valley. Reeves and O'Connor are redshirting, and stayed back in Columbus.
Coming into the game, Spence lead the group with nine tackles and a sack in seven games. Schutt had four tackles in six games and Williams had three in six.
Penn State, meanwhile, was trying to use the day as a launching pad for next year's recruiting class.
Dozens of prospects were on the sideline before the game, led by the program's top two verbal commitments -- tight end Adam Breneman and quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
At the end of the day, recruiting is about the fit, O'Brien said. What's the fit? And there's differences between Ohio State and Penn State. The setting of the school, the coaching staffs. There's differences, just like there is with any school. And every school's great in my opinion. We don't go out there and do anything but talk about Penn State when we recruit.
So recruiting at the end of the day to me is more about a fit. And it's not all about just winning the game (as to) how you're going to beat them in recruiting. To me that's not really what it's all about.