Penn State Football: O'Brien Looking For Extra Effort As Ohio State Approaches
In one of those, not-so-serious dramas, fans were reportedly told not to ask head coach Bill O'Brien questions about the Indiana game during his radio show two weeks ago.
But this was news to O'Brien who found out about the saga after the fact. So the second year head coach opened his radio show at Damon's on Thursday night jokingly.
"Anybody got any Indiana questions?" O'Brien quipped.
"I do want to make sure that everybody knows that I enjoy doing this show here. You can ask me whatever you want, and I'll give you the answer to the best of my ability."
With Penn State's 43-40 victory over Michigan and loss to Indiana behind it, all O'Brien can do now is focus on the future. But unlike the Indiana loss, O'Brien didn't mind touching on the positives from this past Saturday night. Overall though it's all about the next week, the next opponent, and the next day on the calendar.
"The head coach has to be the one who sets the tone from week to week. We look at it as 12 one-game seasons. Every game's different. The players did a phenomenal job in the Michigan game. Now it's time to move on, but it's hard to do that, because many people are patting you on the back. … Football you play once a week so you've got to put everything you have into that one game, that's a three-and-half hour block of time you've got to put your best foot forward. And the kids have done well to focus. We had two crisp practices and we met one day and gave them off practice."
O'Brien looked towards the future while answering a few interesting questions about Penn State's win over Michigan as well. Check out the full Q&A session below.
In overtime it looked like Hack was going to sneak it on the fourth down and you called a timeout:
"I wanted to uptempo them and try to get them at that time and I thought better of it. I sprinted down the sideline and I was lucky there."
Without having any timeouts in the final drive, how advantageous was it to have two catches reviewed?
"Any time you're in a situation and you have a stoppage of time controlled by referees, it always gives you an extra minute to think about what you want to do. That's definitely a good thing to have."
The benefits of having bye week before Ohio State?
"The benefits are to get healthy, a lot of these guys have bumps and bruises. It's a fairly grueling schedule for these guys. Obviously we've practiced hard … it's important for them to take the weekend off and heal up and come back ready to go."
Your opinion on the rule that a player has to come out of the game once his helmet comes off:
"I'll be honest -- I don't totally understand that rule. When Devin (Gardner) came off the field, he was really upset. I don't necessarily agree with that rule, but I'm not the rule-maker."
What has been the productive component so far. What do you need to improve?
"We've got a lot of improvement to make in certain areas. Run the football better and be better on third down. Defensively we've got to do a better job of playing against spread teams. I think we're throwing the ball OK. Our guys are making plays in the passing game, Christian's done a nice job in the passing game. We protected well. We've got to do a better job in our blitz game. Overall it's not been the prettiest of seasons to this point but it's a lot of fun to coach these kids."
How do you move the team's focus forward:
"I think every game's different. You go from that game and now you're getting ready for a whole different opponent. Every game is its own entity. We've got to do a good job of being focused on Ohio State."
On differences between pro and college overtime models:
"I'm more in favor of the NFL model. I think the college overtime takes a lot of players out of the equation -- there's no return. In college, it ended up being more about the field goal kickers. I guess overall I'm more in favor of the NFL rules."
On conditioning and how that comes into play during overtime:
"Our kids were in tremendous condition and I think Michigan was too. Yesterday we practiced in Holuba and we ran suicides. These guys were smokin' it. I turned to one of our staff and said, 'These guys are in pretty good shape.'"
On fumble by Robinson on reverse and chance of more misdirection plays:
"There's a chance. … Ohio State is a very fast defense. Ohio State has a number of guys on defense that will play in the NFL, and they're well-coached. They play with reckless abandon. We're going to have to try to put that defense in conflict at times."
On the three running backs and going with the hot hand:
"We have three good running backs. A lot of people have asked me about all three. Obviously Zach fumbled the ball and we went with Billy there and Billy was playing well for us, so we went with him. Akeel is only a freshman. He has three and a half years left for us, a lot of football left here at Penn State. He'll always be in the mix while he's here at Penn State."
The defense did a good job containing Touissaint but what adjustments have you made defending a running QB?
"It's very difficult with Gardner and Guiton and Braxton Miller. These guys have good schemes and you're never going to stop those guys. They're always going to get some yards. You have to find ways to get them on the ground and not run 60 yards for a touchdown, that's the biggest thing. … You have to do a great job of playing your assignment. Set the edge. Sometimes safeties get caught with their eyes in the backfield. You have to be in the right place. When you're not in the right place against a good football team they're going to burn you."
What do you say to players to motivate them?
"You don't have to say much to these kids. They're unique kids. They have a never-say-die attitude. We haven't always played great, haven't always coached great. One thing this team has is the trait of never giving up. You don't have to say much during the game, you're just banking on what you talked to them about during the week. … You have a lot of kids in that game that are winners. A winner to me is somebody who never quits, who never says the game is over until it's actually over."
Initially you looked like you were going to go for two but settled for one:
"I felt like the play wasn't going to be communicated properly, so I said let's kick it. At that time it was smart not to do that."
Do you grade the referees on their game performance?
"No, I don't grade the referees. … I thought the referees and the side judges on our sideline did a great job communicating with me what was going on during the game. I don't always agree with the referees. I'll try to fight for our kids for what I think is right, but I don't grade them. I would always give them an A."
On Pat Zerbe's performance:
"He came up big for us on two plays there. The fourth and one play and then the touchdown run at the end with Billy did a good job of sealing the edge. He's a fun guy to be around, a leader in the locker room, great kid."
On Belton's patience running the ball:
"You can teach it. You show them on film and have drills. He's a much improved runner and more patient runner than he was last year -- staying with the blocking scheme and pressing the line of scrimmage."
What do you need in terms of study from them from the weekend so everyone's ready for Monday?
"If you're going to have any chance to win this type of game, everybody has to put in a little bit extra. I say 'Why don't we each put in a half hour extra?' What can you do a little bit extra this week, that at the end of the week adds up to a lot?"
Watching game film from different angles in film study:
"I get a lot out of both views. From a wide shot, you get the position of the safeties. When you look at the end zone shot, it's the line's shot but it's also the quarterback's shot."
The first cutup you watched of Ohio State?
"I try to watch full games first to try to get a feel for them and what they do. They have a lot of great players who are very well coached. I have a lot of respect for Urban Meyer -- to win 18 games in a row … it's difficult to win one game."