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TRANSCRIPT: Bill O'Brien Weekly Press Conference (PDF)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien is expecting a tough, physical football game on Saturday when the Nittany Lions meet UCF under the lights.
O'Brien previewed the clash with the Knights on Tuesday afternoon inside the Beaver Stadium Media Room. Off to a 2-0 start, the Nittany Lions opened preparations for game three on the schedule with film review and practice on Monday.
"We face a big challenge," O'Brien said. "They're an excellent football team. They're very well-coached. They're sound. They're physical. They're physical at all positions. It's not like they're just physical on the offensive and defensive line. To me, they're a physical team at every position."
O'Brien wants the Nittany Lions to be ready when the ball kicks off. Starting fast has been the mantra for the team since the offseason began, and Saturday's clash with a talented opponent like UCF is a prime example of why it is important to start a game on the accelerator. The Knights have not committed a turnover in 2013.
"Our players better be ready to come and show up for a physical football game because this isn't a game - this won't be a game for the faint of heart, and that's a Coach O'Leary trademark," O'Brien said.
O'Brien spent seven seasons working under UCF head coach George O'Leary. O'Leary hired O'Brien as a graduate student in 1995 when he was the head coach at Georgia Tech. In 1998, O'Brien began a three-year stint as the running backs coach for the Yellow Jackets. He was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001 during O'Leary's final season at Georgia Tech.
"I think that probably I took two big lessons from him that I'll always have for me in coaching that I've always kept with me," said O'Brien. "One was organization. He was a very organized guy, like there wasn't a wasted moment during the day, and that had a lot to do with work ethic. We worked extremely hard; all of us did, when we worked for him. He demanded that of us. So I learned a lot about that. And then I just learned about how important the physical toughness, resiliency of your football team is."
The Penn State defense received some good news on Tuesday when O'Brien revealed that junior linebacker Mike Hull would begin practicing and is going to be ready to play on Saturday. Hull injured his right knee in the first half of the season opener. With Hull back in the rotation, along with Ben Kline, who is also expected to play on Saturday, the Lions will have a full arsenal at linebacker with Glenn Carson, Nyeem Wartman, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Hull and Kline ready to compete against a talented UCF offense led by junior quarterback Blake Bortles.
"I think, if Hull can go, it would be Hull, Carson, and Wartman, more than likely," O'Brien said. "If Hull has some issues throughout the week, we'll go with whoever we have there, whether it's Obeng or somebody else. But Obeng will play, and he'll have a role in the game just like he's had the past two weeks."
The Nittany Lion defense has been superb in the first two games. The unit has limited opponents to just 221.5 yards per game and 66 rushing yards. Penn State's defense has allowed its opponents to score points on just three offensive drives in two games, one of which was a one-yard scoring drive following a turnover in the opener. The Lions will need another strong outing from the defense against a UCF team averaging 38.0 points per game and 433.0 offensive yards.
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. on Saturday inside Beaver Stadium.
Press Conference Notes:
- Coach O'Brien's evaluation on the offensive line's play during the first two weeks:
"I think that some certain individuals up front have played really well. I don't want to get into the specifics, but I think that overall we need to play more consistent up front. I've talked to these guys about that. Mac feels the same way. And, again, I think we've played decent. I don't think we've played poorly, but I know we can play better. I think the guys understand that. We hold our offensive line to a very high standard here at Penn State, and you know those guys know they can play better, and we expect them to."
- O'Brien fielded a question about the importance of a quarterback selling a play-action fake. True freshman Christian Hackenberg has done a superb job with his play-action mechanics during the first two games of his college career.
"Right from day one, he came in - you know, it's not easy to understand how to fake the football, and great quarterbacks, whether it's Brady, Manning, Rodgers, and these young guys, Kaepernick, and last night Vick - these guys are great fakers of the football. Looks like Christian - he's not there yet. That's not what I'm saying, but I think he's got a good start in that department, and we just need to keep working with him and reminding him how important it is."
- O'Brien on playing with a fast tempo on offense:
"I think the big thing is you really - it's hard to start a drive with ultra-fast tempo right away. It's important to gain the first first down, and that kind of gets you flowing from there. So we haven't - we've been kind of inconsistent offensively with that, but when we've been able to do that, we've been able to play at a faster pace. I love to play at a fast pace. I think it's a lot of fun for the kids. It's fun in practice. They enjoy it. They have a lot of confidence in it. So we'll try to keep mixing it in there."
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Bill O'Brien Press Conference Roundup - Central Florida Week
VIDEO: Central Florida Week Player Q&As
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