O’Brien Ready To Move On From Ohio State Loss
Just three days after Penn State took a 63-14 beating from Ohio State — one of the worst losses in team history — Bill O’Brien is ready to move on.
“We had a team meeting yesterday and I knew that when I opened the door every single one of them would be ready to go,” O’Brien said. “Saturday night was not a great night, but it’s one game and it’s important to learn from it.”
In his assessment of Nittany Lions’ 63-14 loss to the Buckeyes, O’Brien identified some areas for improvement on both sides of the ball, but did mention some of the things his team did well.
“The first drive was a methodical drive,” O’Brien said. “We have to try to get the ball down the field a bit more instead of having 15 or 16-play drives. I thought Bill [Belton] and Akeel [Lynch] ran the ball real well. I saw some things we can build on. I saw that we need to pass-protect better.”
“Defensively, I think we have to make sure that we coach these guys and we simplify things,” O’Brien added. “We just have to let them go play. DaQuan Jones did some really good things in the game. Glenn Carson played his heart out. But then we were soft in coverage. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Go out and take your shot.”
When pressed about how much of the defense’s struggles can be attributed to defensive coordinator John Butler, O’Brien heatedly defended his colleague.
“John Butler is a hell of a football coach,” he said. “He’s working his tail off. Our kids respect him. He’s doing a hell of a job. I don’t care what the scoreboard says. I’m proud to coach with him. If anybody should take heat, it’s Bill O’Brien, not John Butler. That’s a bunch of crap that he’s taking heat.”
Here are some other highlights from O’Brien’s Tuesday press conference:
O’Brien on the running back situation: “I think that Bill Belton is a much-improved player and teammate,” O’Brien said. “He’s our starting running back right now.”
As for Zach Zwinak, who started the season as the team’s running back but has struggled as of late, O’Brien remains optimistic.
“I have a lot of confidence in Zach Zwinak,” O’Brien said. “It’s a very competitive deal at running back. If there’s one guy that’s making some mistakes, obviously the other guys are going to play more.”
“Right now, Zach has a little bit of a fumbling issue,” O’Brien continued.” I think it’s a bit mental. I talked to him about it yesterday. I don’t think he should be too hard on himself.”
O’Brien on the injury front: O’Brien said that Christian Hackenberg, who hurt his throwing shoulder on Saturday night against Ohio State, is fine. The quarterback practiced yesterday without any issues in his mechanics or throwing motion. Linebacker Ben Kline and safety Ryan Keiser are both expected to play Saturday as well.
According to O’Brien, both DaQuan Jones and Mike Hull have been playing through injuries. Jones is dealing with a shoulder injury and a back issue, and played with his shoulder heavily wrapped against Ohio State. As for Hull, O’Brien didn’t explicitly say what his injury is, but he does believe that Hull will be able to play against Illinois.
O’Brien on whether or not Ohio State is a rival: “You have to win to be a rival,” O’Brien said. “We’ve lost to them two years in a row now. They only have one rival. That’s Michigan.”
O’Brien on Adrian Amos playing at cornerback: Amos will stay at cornerback for the time being. After playing safety for most of the year, O’Brien switched Amos to cornerback for Ohio State. O’Brien added that he thinks the team’s secondary is at its best with Amos and Jordan Lucas at cornerback and Jesse Della Valle, Malcolm Willis, and Ryan Keiser at safety.
O’Brien on his use of the phrase “Pittsburgh guy, tough guy” to describe some players: “I don’t want to imply that Philadelphia guys aren’t tough,” O’Brien said. “I think Pennsylvania guys are tough. But in my experience, the Pittsburgh Steelers were always a tough football team. The steel town, the toughness of that town.”
“Coming here, being so close to Pittsburgh, I just really like that city and I really like to guys on our team that come from that city,” O’Brien continued. “Whether it’s Pittsburgh, Philly, or central Pennsylvania, the bulk of our roster we’d like to come from those areas.”