UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon to
preview the Nittany Lions' trip to Virginia on Saturday.
Among the many positives Coach O'Brien took from Saturday's season-opener was
the play of several young players who started or appeared in their first game
as Nittany Lions. O'Brien reviewed week
one and previewed week two. Take a look
through some of the key remarks from the Virginia week press conference.
Coach O'Brien said that the Nittany Lions have a lot to build on from Saturday's season-opener against Ohio. There were a few plays that went into Ohio's favor because the Bobcats stepped up when they needed to. However, Penn State moved the ball and can build on its mistakes and take a lot positive things from Saturday's game.
"Usually close football games, they come down to eight or nine plays on both sides of the ball, especially in college football where you play‑‑ in the pros it's about five or six plays because you don't have as many plays, but in college football I'd say about eight or nine plays," Coach O'Brien said. "We turned it over, they didn't turn it over. They converted on third down in the second half on offense; we didn't convert on our offense on third down in the second half. We had chances to break passes up, make interceptions. We had chances to hit guys that were wide open or catch the ball being wide open, and we did not make those plays and Ohio did."
Rather than call the players who walk on to the Nittany Lion program "walk-ons", Coach O'Brien wants to label the group as "run-ons" for their hard work and dedication. He said the "run-ons" do very little walking and wants to give the dedicated group a new title. Additionally, teams often refer to the players who help the first-string offense and defense prepare for the week's opponent as the "scout team" or "foreign team". Using a page out of the New England Patriots book, Coach O'Brien and the staff refer to that group as the "dirty show."
"When we practice, we divide it up in different ways, so we have certain periods that are ones on ones, twos on twos, then we have other periods that are walk‑through type periods, then we have periods where we need a look, like we need the Virginia look this week, so we have the dirty show come in and do some of that," O'Brien said.
The Nittany Lions are working this week to improve on third down on both sides of the ball. Conversion rates on offense, as well as getting off the field on third down on defense are two key areas O'Brien said the team will need to execute in this week.
"They have to have a better awareness of the sticks, meaning understanding what the down and distance is, how much they need for a first down," O'Brien said. "They've got to understand when we call a pressure, where they're supposed to rush and what that might trigger in the passing game when we do pressure, meaning what the hot is, what the sight adjust is, things like that. It's just overall awareness, and our guys are going to get better at that, and it's a new system, it's a new year. Everything is new. So again, I would expect us to definitely improve on 3rd down as the year goes on, on both sides of the ball."
Coach O'Brien provided an injury update for both senior cornerback Stephon Morris and sophomore tailback Bill Belton. Morris and Belton both suffered ankle sprains on Saturday in the season-opener against Ohio. Neither injury is serious, and both players are currently day-to-day.
"If they don't practice by Thursday or Friday then probably they'll be out of the game, but right now I would say it's day‑to‑day," Coach O'Brien said. "It's probable, but again, won't really know until Thursday."
Heading on the Road
Saturday will mark O'Brien's first road trip of his career, but he is no stranger to games in Charlottesville. O'Brien has coached at Virginia's Scott Stadium six times as a member of the Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke staffs.
"I think at the end of the day we've got to be able to deal with the crowd noise, because having gone to Charlottesville many times at Georgia Tech and Maryland and Duke, it's a very loud home crowd, it's a great home advantage for Virginia, and we've got to do a great job this week of practicing with the crowd noise because that's the biggest thing, not what they're yelling but how loud they are," O'Brien said.
Virginia QB Rocco Has Penn State Ties
Junior quarterback Michael Rocco (Lynchburg, Va.) posted a 25-for-37 effort for 311 yards and one touchdown in Virginia's season-opening win over Richmond (43-19) on Saturday. This week, he will play against a school that his family has ties with. Rocco's father, Frank Jr., is a former Penn State quarterback, who was on the 1982 National Championship team. Additionally, Rocco's grandfather, Frank Sr., was an administrative assistant at Penn State for 19 years. Frank Sr. was also the tight ends coach at Penn State in 1985.
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