O’Brien Prepared For Emotional Senior Day Game

One year ago, Bill O’Brien wasn’t sure what to expect when Senior Day came around. After spending a number of years in the NFL, he got used to seeing the same players take the field each and every year. There was no big sendoff for the team’s veterans during the last home game of each season. So when the emotional game against Wisconsin came around last season, O’Brien was taken aback seeing his seniors take the field at Beaver Stadium for the last time.

“It’s an emotional day and you have to be real aware of that,” O’Brien said. “I remember last year shaking their hands as they came out of the tunnel and looking in their eyes and seeing the emotion and it kind of strikes you. Last year, they put the 2012 out there too which added to it.”

With one year and one Senior Day under his belt, O’Brien knows what to expect heading into Saturday’s matchup with Nebraska. He said at his Tuesday press conference that the coaches will bring the seniors onto the field to be honored before going back to the locker room to get re-focused on the game. What’s most important to O’Brien though is that the stadium is packed with fans to support the seniors in their final Beaver Stadium matchup.

“I would imagine that the Penn State fan base would turn out in force to show their respects for this senior class for the last home game of the year,” he said. “You have guys in this senior class who have really embraced their role, whether it’s Pat Zerbe, or Stephen Obeng, or Alex Butterworth, or whoever it might be. They set the tone every week and show our younger guys how to practice. They come back with intensity every week whether it’s a win or a loss. They came back after the sanctions when they didn’t have to, and I think that says it all about this senior class.”

O’Brien also spoke about a few players that have decided to forego the 2014 season, including Kyle Baublitz, Garry Gilliam, Alex Kenney, Kevin Blanchard, and Bryan Davie. Those five players will join the seniors in Saturday, as will Matt Lehman, but O’Brien said that is only a “just in case” as Lehman is applying for another year of eligibility.

“They sat down with me and they decided to move on to the next stage of their lives, so they would like to be announced on Saturday,” O’Brien said. “They’ve been really good players for us and good leaders for us and we’re looking forward to seeing them play these last two games, especially the last home game.”

When asked to talk about Baublitz’s role and what he means to the team, O’Brien couldn’t hold back how big of a fan he is of the redshirt junior defensive tackle.

“He’s a great person and a really bright guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s an excellent student and comes from a great family. On the football field, he’s a really tough guy. He’s played with a bum ankle for the last three or four weeks. He’s meant a lot to us and I know the younger players look up to a guy like that and know that he’s contributed a lot to this program.”

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

On the kickoff team struggling: “We’re not going to make any personnel changes on that team unless it’s because of injury. We’re going to coach it better and get these guys to understand the film a little better.”

On senior offensive lineman Eric Shrive: “He’s brought a toughness to our practice field, he’s worked hard. The work that he’s done, especially with Lift for Life and teaching the younger players to carry that tradition on, you just really can’t say enough about what he’s done. Whatever he decides to do in life, he’ll be a big success at it.”

On Matt McGloin’s first NFL start: “I thought he played a heck of a game. That’s not an easy defense to go against. He played with poise. I can’t say enough about him. Smart guys that work hard and have talent thrive in that league and I think that he’ll thrive in that league.”

On Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah: “He’s a really good player, he’s one of the best players in this conference. He’s an explosive guy with great quickness and I think he has a pro career ahead of him. We’re going to have to be aware of where he is on the field all day Saturday.”

On Jordan Lucas post-play “selfie” celebration: “I’m glad you mentioned that to me. We’ll have a discussion with him. I’m going to take a selfie of him. But in all seriousness, when somebody makes a big play, I think there’s a good team celebration with these guys. I know Coach Paterno believed in that, no selfishness, and I do too.”

On Adrian Amos improving as a blitzer: “Blitzing is an art. You have to have great timing and anticipate when to show it. There’s a lot that goes into it. From last year, we didn’t think Gerald Hodges was a great blitzer but he got better and better and I think you’re seeing the same thing with Amos this season.”

On Nebraska’s offense: “It’s a very difficult challenge. They can spread the field and play an east-west game which challenges you to make plays in space. They can tighten you up and get behind those big offensive linemen and run the ball downfield. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com 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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