Bill O'Brien Transcript - Oct. 29
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - From the moment head coach Bill O'Brien opened the door outside the squad room on the first floor of the Lasch Football Building at 2:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon for the week's first team meeting, he knew the Nittany Lions would be ready to get back to work and focus on Illinois.
"I knew when I opened those doors every one of them would sitting there ready to go," said O'Brien. "That's the type of kids we have. Like I said before, Saturday night was not a great night, but it's one game, and it's important to learn from it, learn from the experience."
O'Brien had several messages for the team on Monday afternoon. He talked to the squad about working through the highs and lows of a season. From the high of beating Michigan in quadruple overtime to the low of losing in the manner the Lions did at Ohio State on Saturday, the mindset of the team should not change.
"That's kind of what life's about. If that's the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life, I think your life will be okay," O'Brien said. "So I think that's what it's about, and these kids know that, and they understand that."
He also talked in the team meeting about the foundation of the program. Whether the team wins or loses, the foundation of how O'Brien and the coaching staff are working to build the program does not change.
"The foundation of our program is built on good kids, mentally tough kids, hard work ethic, the ability to compete and practice every single day and get better and try to improve, be a good teammate," O'Brien said. "The philosophy, the foundation of our program is to always look for best ways to coach them, do a better job of coaching them. So we wake up on Sunday, whether it's a win or a loss, and rely on the foundation of our program."
After watching the film of Saturday's game, O'Brien said that he saw some good things on the offensive side of the ball, namely the first drive of the game and Bill Belton's production. Belton is evolving into a consistently productive back when he has the ball in his hands, and the junior brings an added dimension in the passing game with his athleticism.
"He's a much-improved player. He really is. He's more patient in the running game," O'Brien said. "I think he understands how to watch film better. I think he's a better teammate. I think he's a smarter player. He's a very smart player."
Additionally, O'Brien noted Belton's improvement in pass protection. The combination of consistency in pass protection and production with the ball in his hands are the big factors that have Belton listed as the starting running back on the depth chart.
With the focus on Illinois, the Nittany Lions are looking to simplify things on the defensive side of the ball this week. Illinois senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase headlines the Fighting Illini offense. He ranks fourth in the Big Ten in passing heading into this week's noon kick at Beaver Stadium.
"Defensively, I looked at it, and I said, you know what, I think what we have to do is make sure we coach these guys and that we simplify these things so that these guys can go out and play," O'Brien said. "We have a lot of good players on both sides of the ball, but I think we just need to let them go play. That's what I talked to the staff about on Sunday, and just let them go play."
Penn State and Illinois will collide for the 21st time on Saturday. It will mark the ninth time the two teams have met in Beaver Stadium. The Lions own a 7-1 on-field record against Illinois in meetings at Happy Valley. With Ohio State in the rearview mirror, the Lions are focused solely on the first game in stretch of five-straight weeks of football.
"We talk to our guys all the time about 12 one-game seasons," said O'Brien. "So we try to separate it that way. So we go week to week, and we try to make sure that the kids understand, okay, on Monday, when they come in, let's review some of the tape from the previous Saturday game, but also, boom, that game is over as soon as we're done, and we focus on the task at hand."
Press Conference Notes:
- Injury Update - After leaving Saturday's game with a sore right shoulder, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg was a full participant during Monday's practice. O'Brien said on Monday that Hackenberg is fine to play against Illinois.
- Coach O'Brien on Adrian Amos at corner for the secondary:
"I think Adrian right now is best suited to play corner, and I think that gives us our best secondary back there, when he have Adrian and Jordan at corner. Whether it's Willis and Keiser or Willis and Della Valle, whoever the best safeties are. But our secondary lineup, as we sit here now, is probably Adrian at corner and Jordan at the other corner. Yeah, you'll see Obeng probably playing more linebacker the rest of the year than you would seeing him at safety."
- O'Brien on the importance of starting fast in a game:
"We always talk about starting fast. We think that's important to start fast. If you look at last week's game, not to say we would have won the game, that's not what I'm saying, but if we scored there, is it a little bit of a different game on that first drive? So we want to start fast, but if we don't, we can't say the game's over after the first quarter. We've got a lot of football left to play. It's a little bit of a fine line we walk, but certainly we want to start the game in a positive way, no question about it, offensively and defensively."
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