UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will bring a five-game winning
streak into their primetime showdown with border rival Ohio State on Saturday
night in Beaver Stadium.
Head coach Bill O'Brien met with the media on Tuesday to preview the clash with the Buckeyes. Take a look through some of his key remarks.
Big Game Mindset
All 12 games on the schedule are equal when it comes to wins or losses. As Coach O'Brien says time and time again, Penn State approaches the season as 12 one-game seasons. But this week's matchup against No. 9 and unbeaten Ohio State is a notch above most weeks. Anticipation is always high for night games in Beaver Stadium, and with this season's lone home night game against an undefeated border rival, it certainly adds to the atmosphere leading up to kickoff.
"Well, I think you're right, like you said, it's 12 one-game seasons," said O'Brien. "And this is a big game. For me to sit up here and say it's not a big game, that's crazy. This is Ohio State, a great tradition, great players, great head coach, great coaching staff."
"But as far as playing football goes, this is a great college football game in what will be a great college football atmosphere against a team that has the same type of tradition and history as Penn State. So to me that's what college football is all about, the game itself."
Students Out in Full Force Already
The Nittany Lions are still four days away from taking the field for Saturday's primetime kick, but you wouldn't know it when you drive past Gate A of Beaver Stadium. A record number of 140 tents and 1,200 student season ticket holders began camping on Monday at 11 p.m.
"People were right when I first came here, they told me you haven't seen anything until you run out for a game or you witness the support of the student body," said O'Brien. "And they're exactly right. This is a special place. And one of the reasons why it's a special place is because of the support of the student body."
Coach O'Brien's advice to the Penn State students this week?
"On Saturday we just want them here early," O'Brien said. "We want them to wear white. And we want them to be respectful but very, very loud throughout the whole game."
Slowing Down Miller
Penn State has played its fair share of athletic, dual-threat quarterbacks in 2012, but Saturday will be the Lions' biggest challenge on defense. Ohio State signal-caller Braxton Miller is a quarterback with a running back's mentality. The sophomore has rushed for 959 yards and 10 touchdowns (119.9 ypg). Miller has also thrown for 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns. Miller's athleticism will be a big challenge for the Nittany Lion defensive ends and linebackers on Saturday night.
"In many ways your defensive ends -- defensive tackles, they have to be very disciplined in how they rush the passer, whether it's four-man rush or five-man rush or twist or whatever it is, they have to be very, very disciplined in how they rush the passer," O'Brien said. "And if they can do that, they have a chance. But, again, at the end of the day this guy's going to make plays. And we're not going to shut this guy down totally. This is an excellent football player, and we just have to make sure that we show up and do the best we can on Saturday night."
Playing Hard Every Snap
Penn State's defense is playing elite level football right now. The Lions limited Iowa 209 total yards on its home field last week. The Nittany Lions rank 13th nationally in scoring defense (15.71 ppg) and 22nd in total defense (322.71 ypg) heading into this week's game against Ohio State. Coach O'Brien said on Tuesday that what he loves most about the Nittany Lion defense is the effort put forth on every play.
"You can see that when each guy, just like all those guys on defense, what I love about our defense is that they play extremely hard," said O'Brien. "It's not always pretty. But they compete. They play extremely hard, which is the number one thing in defensive football."
Senior quarterback Matt McGloin's season statistics speak volumes about the type of growth he has made since Coach O'Brien arrived on campus in January. McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing (255.4 ypg) and is second in touchdown passes (14). The West Scranton product made huge strides in decision-making and command of the offense during the offseason, but Coach O'Brien talked on Tuesday about McGloin's growth in one specific mechanical area.
"What we've tried to do with Matt is teach him about pocket awareness. And Matt's done a good job of that," O'Brien said. "He's climbed the pocket when he's supposed to. He's moved ever so slightly when he's supposed to. And the number one thing for a quarterback is to be able to do that and keep your eyes downfield and complete the ball and not see the rush. You've got to feel the rush, not see it, move with your feet, redirect your eyes with your feet is the phrase we use and get the ball down the field. And I think Matt's done a decent job of that, and hopefully he can continue to do that."
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