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O’Brien Presser: Penn State Ready To Take On A Tough Indiana Offense

Bill O’Brien typically takes the politically correct route when answering questions about opponents during his weekly press conferences. When asked about a weaker team like Eastern Michigan he might offer some short answers, saying that they’re a tough team. But that wasn’t the case on Tuesday when O’Brien was asked about the Indiana Hoosiers.

“They do it fast on offense and they have a really good quarterback who throws the ball accurately,” he said. “They also have some really good skill players, what I call space players, players that can make plays with the ball in space.”

“That’s a tough offense to defend. We have to swarm the ball and get lined up and communicate and understand what they’re doing and what they’re lined up in,” O’Brien continued. “Their passing game is all predicated on having a really good quarterback, a really good play-caller, and a fast-tempo offense.”

O’Brien couldn’t hold back compliments for what has been a great Indiana offense that isn’t reflective of the team’s 2-2 record. Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld has racked up 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. Starting running back Tevin Coleman is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has six touchdowns this season. Indiana’s fast-paced offense has been prolific and O’Brien stressed that the defense needs to keep up with that speed.

“We need to be able to handle their tempo,” O’Brien said. “[Indiana head coach] Kevin Wilson has done a really good job of trying to run 90 to 100 plays a game. We have to communicate properly. They get you into situations where you’re going to have to make plays in space, so we’re going to have to make tackles in space and not give up a lot of X plays, you know, explosive plays.”

This is also the Nittany Lions first real road game of the season. The opener against Syracuse was technically a road game, but it was played at a neutral site in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and the crowd certainly wasn’t reflective of that as blue and white certainly outnumbered orange.

“The road is an interesting issue,” O’Brien said. “All you have there are the guys on the team, the people that travel with us. Obviously you’d rather be here at Beaver Stadium in front of 100,000 fans but when you go on the road you have that ‘all we need in this room is what we have in this room’ type of mentality. We deal with noise in practice so our team is used to the communication process with noise.”

Penn State had some extra time to prepare for the matchup against Indiana as the team was off this past Saturday with a bye. O’Brien said that the team still practiced four times last week, one more than the number of practices he held during bye weeks last season.

He was happy that the bye week came after four games because he sees that as the point in the season when you can really evaluate your team.

“Your team’s identity is pretty much formed after four weeks so you can look at things like heavy tendencies and try and correct those,” O’Brien said. “You can look at individual players and think about what we can do during the bye week to try and get these guys better. You can scrimmage younger guys at the end of every practice and see if you can improve the depth on the team, not just for this year but going forward too. Bye weeks are very important. I think we had a very good bye week but the proof’s in the pudding on Saturday against Indiana.”

Here are the rest of the highlights from O’Brien’s press conference:

  • Safety Ryan Keiser will be out for Saturday’s game with a hand injury suffered against Kent State. O’Brien said that he hopes to have him back for the Michigan game. Alex Butterworth will replace Keiser as the field goal holder for the time being.
  • Mike Hull is fully recovered from his injury and O’Brien said he is “a full-go” for the Indiana game. “He’s a tough kid, was a great wrestler in high school, and just brings a toughness to our football team,” O’Brien said. “He’s a Penn State linebacker. That’s how you describe him.”
  • O’Brien loves offensive lineman Miles Dieffenbach. “Every team needs a Miles Dieffenbach,” he said. “He’s a good player, he’s a good student, he’s a very good guy, and a very funny guy. He keeps it loose. He has good timing with it. Every good team I’ve ever been on has a guy like Miles Dieffenbach. He’s one of our most improved players from last year.”
  • He said that the reduced sanctions have had a good effect on recruiting so far. “I think its been positive,” O’Brien said. “I’ve talked to a few of them. It’s positive news for Penn State. Our guys feel really good about it here. I wouldn’t even bother asking our players about that. They won’t answer it. I promise you. Our guys are very pleased with the news but they’re focused on the Indiana game.”
  • O’Brien says that it’s possible that injured tight end Matt Lehman could get a sixth year of eligibility. If not, he thinks the NFL is a possibility for him.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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