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Penn State Football: Bill O'Brien is Officially Blue and White

on April 21, 2012 6:43 PM

Penn State football is clearly Bill O'Brien's show.

The 42-year-old Massachusetts native arrived at Beaver Stadium Saturday for his coaching debut in a golf cart, much like his predecessor, Joe Paterno.

But that was the only similarity between the two coaches.

O'Brien first trotted onto the field at 1:54 p.m., following some of his players out of the tunnel and onto the field.

He was decked out in his blue and gray Penn State garb, had a whistle around his neck and quickly slipped on a headset.

Billy Ball officially kicked off at 2:05 p.m. with an Anthony Fera kickoff that was returned 24 yards by Deron Thompson.

Less than a minute later, quarterback Matt McGloin threw an incompletion on the first offensive play of the O'Brien Era.

There were plenty of incompletions –  23 in all from the top three quarterbacks –  McGloin, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones – to go along with five combined interceptions.

O'Brien even conducted a news conference after the defense sprinted away from Beaver Stadium with a 77-65 victory over the offense that more resembled a Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls game.

Asked if he enjoyed his first game as the Nittany Lions' boss, O'Brien flashed a smile as wide as the gap between his top three quarterbacks.

"Sometimes," he said, before adding: "It was fun. It was a good day."

O'Brien estimated that only 10 percent of his playbook was on display. He said his team used a chalkboard and wristband system to send in plays because the game will be shown on the Big Ten Network Saturday night O'Brien didn't want to tip off anyone to his pro-style offense.

Throughout the game, O'Brien was flanked on his right by graduate assistant Steve Williams, who would take the play O'Brien called and signal it into the huddle with a chalk board.

On O'Brien's left side was Stan Hixon, Penn State's assistant head coach and wide receivers coach.

During the first half, Williams scrawled numerous on the blackboard –  2, 30, 11, 14 and 22.

"The number corresponds with the play on the wristband," O'Brien said. "... There were some glitches. Obviously, it wasn't perfect and we can really learn from it."

When McGloin was sacked early in the second quarter by defensive end Sean Stanley with the offense leading 33-16, O'Brien went five yards out into the field and shouted at his fifth-year senior quarterback.

"Let's go!" O'Brien shouted.

O'Brien was up and ready to go early Saturday morning from his house in Boalsburg.

He met with the parents of his players around 8:30 a.m. and then headed directly for the Nittany Lion Club's Blue-White event in the Bryce Jordan Center, where 1,300 Penn State fans greeted him with a standing ovation.

A few hours later, he sprinted onto the field at Beaver Stadium for the first time.

"It really was pretty neat for me to run out there with the team," O'Brien said.

It was clear from the outset Saturday that O'Brien has taken State College by storm since January, when he replaced interim coach Tom Bradley, who replaced Paterno, who was dimissed Nov. 9 in wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Strangely, there is not much mention of Paterno in the spring football guide and few pictures. And O'Brien was not asked any Paterno-related questions afterward, although Paterno had coached in every Blue-White Game staged since 1951 as a member of the staff.

Three months after Paterno's death, it's become clear that this is O'Brien's team.

There was more than enough evidence of it on display Saturday.

Billy Ball is here to stay.

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