UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
The Nittany Lions kick off a two-game homestand to close out the 2012 season
with a matchup against Indiana on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Coach O'Brien previewed the Indiana game on Tuesday afternoon at his weekly preview press conference. Take a look through some of his key remarks.
Great Start to Indiana Week
The Nittany Lions had a great team meeting at 2:45 p.m. on Monday, followed by a superb opening practice. That's no surprise with this group of Nittany Lions. They love to practice, and regardless of the result on Saturday, the team has approached every Monday the same this fall. The group realizes that it only has two more opportunities to put on the uniform this season, adding to the sense of urgency to play with energy and passion every time it steps on the field.
"We came out yesterday and had a really good practice; we had a crisp practice," O'Brien said. "We need to keep it going today, but as a matter of fact I told them after, that's what I appreciate about this football team, that they came back to work hard like that on a Monday. Like I said, it was good, and hopefully that can translate to today and we can win a Tuesday."
A Look at Indiana
The Hoosiers enter Saturday's game with a 4-6 overall record and a 2-4 mark in the Big Ten. Indiana's string of scoring 24 or more points in 10-straight games ended last week against Wisconsin (62-14). Indiana, which won two-straight games leading into the Wisconsin setback, has made very good strides in the second year under head coach Kevin Wilson. The tempo of the Hoosier offense will likely be the quickest among any team Penn State has played in 2012.
"I think Kevin (Wilson) has done a really good job there, defensively they are sound, they have a good blitz scheme," O'Brien said. "Their two inside tackles are two of the better players we have played this year at those positions. Offensively they run a very, very fast tempo, I mean ultra fast, and they try and run between 90 and 100 plays in a game, so that's a huge challenge for our defense this week and special teams.
"We feel like we have to play well on special teams because they're going to come to play on special teams and we're going to do the best we can to get an edge there. Kevin Wilson has done an excellent job with that program from when he got there to where it is now, so it's going to be a tough game for us on Saturday."
Message to the Fans
Penn State's special senior class has eight more quarters of football in Beaver Stadium. For what the group has done for the football program, it deserves a proper send off with two loud, enthusiastic crowds to end the season. It is important for the fans to show their support to a collection of players that stuck with Penn State when they could have left without any consequence.
"I'm not going to beg anybody to come to the game but I'm going to tell them this: This is a team that has been through unprecedented situations," O'Brien said. "This is a football team led by a senior class that has had the choice, had the choice, had a choice whether to stay at Penn State or to leave Penn State, and they chose to stay."
"So as fans, as students, can we not choose to support them in their last two games, eight quarters of football? I don't know, to me that's what I feel. I think this is a team that's poured its heart and soul into this season. We're not an undefeated team, can't do anything about that now, we have two games left starting with a tough Indiana team."
Tight End Clinic
Penn State's four tight ends have combined for 72 receptions during the 2012 season. Part of Tuesday's press conference featured a discussion about the evolution of the tight end position in his offense. O'Brien said that his vision of the tight end position evolved tremendously when the New England Patriots drafted Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in 2010. He knew right away that those two players had the skill sets to create matchup problems for defenses.
"So what I learned there was because of their size and their speed and their catching ability and their football instincts that they could be problems for defense, especially on the inside of coverages," O'Brien said. "And then I learned when you split them out wide, they're a little bit of a problem, too, because they're going against corners that aren't as big as those guys are; Rob was 6‑7 and Aaron 6‑4. Then coming here I have learned even more.
"I think we have a great group of tight ends here. They are smart, tough, they can do both, they can block, run routes, catch. Some guys are better blockers than route runners; some are better route runners than blockers, but they all work hard, and they're all instinctive players, and I hope we can continue to grow in that position."
Coach O'Brien informed the media on Tuesday that tight end Kyle Carter will miss the final two games of the season due to a wrist injury suffered in the second half of the Nebraska game. Carter finishes a stellar redshirt freshman season with 36 receptions for 453 yards and two touchdowns. The future is very bright for a tight end that creates matchup problems every time he is on the field. In addition to Carter, Coach O'Brien said that junior safety Malcolm Willis (knee) is day-to-day. Willis will be evaluated throughout the week before a decision is made regarding his status for Saturday's game.
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