UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Riding a three-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions will play host to 22nd-ranked
and unbeaten Northwestern (5-0) in the Big Ten home opener on Saturday (noon on
Head coach Bill O'Brien met with the media on Tuesday to preview the clash with the Wildcats. Take a look through some of his key remarks.
Best Team Thus Far
Northwestern debuted in the national polls this week, and the Wildcats will enter Beaver Stadium with a great deal of confidence. One week ago, Northwestern tallied a school-record performance against Indiana (704 total yards). The Wildcats have averaged 255.8 rushing yards per game in 2012. That being said, it comes as no surprise that Coach O'Brien indicated on Tuesday that Northwestern's offense is going to be a big challenge on Saturday.
"You know, they do a nice job with their tempo," O'Brien said. "They play very fast. They do a great job of spreading you out and making you make plays in space. And they do a really good job of that. So you know, these are things that we have got to understand this week. We have to understand who their top players are, where they are in the formation. We have to understand which quarterback is in the game. So they are an excellent football team, well‑coached and we have got a big, big challenge this week."
Eye on Colter
Northwestern athlete Kain Colter is listed on the depth chart as the team's starting quarterback, but the Colorado native much more dangerous than a dual-threat signal-caller lining up under center. Colter does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats, and he is effective playing two positions - quarterback and receiver. Coach O'Brien said on Tuesday that the defense would need to do a great job picking up where Colter is on every play.
"Well, that's a guy that you have to understand on every single snap where he is," O'Brien said. "So here is a guy that they are doing a great job with, Northwestern, of putting him in position to make plays. Obviously a quarterback, but then when they move him to wide receiver, with his skill set, he's quick. He's got good ball skills and a very bright guy obviously. In order to play quarterback and receiver in the same game, you have to be a very smart, instinctive football player."
Message to the Team
Following its third-straight victory on Saturday, it was business as usual for the Nittany Lions when Northwestern game week began on Monday. Sunday is the team's mandatory day off, so the group congregates for the first time at 2:45 on Mondays to watch the film from the previous game. The film sessions set the tone for the week.
"When they come in at 2:45 on Monday afternoon, we show them the tape from the game and we show them all of the things that they did well," O'Brien said. "Hey, look, this is really good how you played this, how you did this, how you took this block on, how you made this tackle, how you threw this ball. Then we show them all of the things they didn't do so well and things that we need to coach better and things that they can do better execution‑wise; containing the quarterback, I would say that's going to be an issue this week. We have got to do a better job of that. We have to throw in‑cuts and crosses better. We have to do a much better job of that."
Get to the Stadium Early
Penn State's 12th man in Beaver Stadium is a huge boost for the players on the field. The Nittany Lions feed off of the energy in the crowd. Coach O'Brien is expecting nothing less on Saturday, and he had this message to the Penn State students leading up to the game:
"I'm asking the students to -- this is a noon kickoff, and it is by far the biggest game for us this year to this point this year," O'Brien said. "We are playing a 5-0 Northwestern team. We feel like we are doing some good things. We need all those students in the stands at noon for that kickoff. These guys, they feed off of that. You know, the crowd noise, the student section, these guys feed off of that...I just need them in, in the stands at noon going nuts for this football team, because you know, we have got to have a great home-field advantage, and these guys really feed off of that."
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