Bill O'Brien Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 22
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Bill O'Brien has said since the day he arrived at Penn State that he and the Nittany Lions will approach every game on the schedule as one-game season.
The Lions cannot play in a bowl game, but opportunities like the one that awaits the team on Saturday are what make the 12, one-game seasons so compelling for the players and coaches.
Coming off a bye week, Penn State travels to Ohio Stadium on Saturday for a primetime clash against the border rival and fourth-ranked Buckeyes with national television on ABC. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will meet for the 29th time.
"When you're playing teams like this, you just think about - I'm not very good at articulating this, but Penn State versus Ohio State, and you think about what that means in the history of college football and these two teams playing each other and the tradition of both schools and two great coaching staffs with a lot of good players on both sides of the ball," O'Brien said.
Preparing for a hostile environment like the Lions will face on Saturday in the Horseshoe is easier said than done, but O'Brien stressed on Tuesday that it comes down to focus level and assignment football.
"I think what you have to do is be very, very focused on what your job is," O'Brien said. "So like as a coach, you're going through your calls, okay, this is what I anticipate the call on first and 10 or two‑minute or right before halftime or how are we going to use our timeouts, things like that, as a coach."
From a player's perspective, the Nittany Lions practice with loud music every day to get accustomed to communicating on the field with crowd noise. Like the coaching staff, O'Brien said preparation for the players on the field comes attention to detail and visualization of the task at hand on each play.
"As a player you're thinking about, okay, if the first play is a run this is how I'm going to take the quarterback center snap," said O'Brien. "This is how I'm going to come out from under center. I'm going to focus on every little detail of every play that I could possibly run in this game, and I think if you do that, that's what keeps you focused, and that, quote‑unquote, lets you ignore the noise and just focus on what the task at hand is."
Defensively, Ohio State has been stout against the run in 2013. The Buckeyes have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Additionally, Ohio State's defense has not yielded a running play of 20 yards or more. O'Brien noted linebacker Ryan Shazier, who leads the team in tackling with 56 stops and 8.0 tackles for loss, and cornerback Bradley Roby as two Ohio State players you have to account for on every offensive play.
"This is the most athletic defense that we've played," O'Brien said. "They have guys on that side of the ball that are well coached. I think Luke Fickell, Mike Vrabel, those guys do a real good job of getting those guys lined up in different looks, and it's a very challenging defense."
Junior Braxton Miller headlines the offensive unit. Miller is a dynamic player capable of a big play with his arm or feet on any given snap. Additionally, 240-pound senior running back Carlos Hyde, who ranks third in Big Ten rushing in conference games (126.5 yards per game), plays a key role in the Ohio State attack. But the scouting report starts with Miller.
"It's a very difficult challenge playing a guy like Braxton Miller, in my opinion one of the top five players in the country, really good football player who has improved immensely since he's been in the system," O'Brien said. "Last year was his first year in the system. Now I think he's got great grasp of this system. He's throwing the ball well. I thought they played real well offensively against Iowa. And again, like you said, if he gets outside the pocket, he's a dangerous guy."
The Nittany Lions have two on-field wins in their last three trips to Ohio Stadium. Saturday's game will be a challenging matchup against an Ohio State team that owns the longest winning streak in Division I (FBS) college football.
"We're just really looking forward to the challenge," O'Brien said. "We know it's a huge challenge. I mean, 19 games in a row, No. 4 team in the country, we realize that it's a huge, huge challenge. But we look forward to it."
Press Conference Notes:
- The injury report for the Ohio State game does not include anyone other than the players who are out for the season. The bye week was a great opportunity for Penn State to rest and get healthy before the final six games of 2013. O'Brien noted on Tuesday that Ryan Keiser is full go for the Ohio State game.
- Coach O'Brien on Anthony Zettel's play during recent games.
"You know, he's a guy that has improved a lot since we've arrived here. I talk about improved players, and he's definitely in that category. He's a very tough, tough kid. He plays hurt. He practices hard. He's an instinctive player. That interception he made in the last game was a very instinctive play off of a zone blitz. So he's a guy that ‑‑ all of the playing time, I think, as you know is determined by how you practice, so as long as he continues to practice well, he'll play for us."
- Coach O'Brien on what Mike Hull brings to the defense.
"Mike Hull is definitely one of our leaders on defense. He's a tough kid. He plays a very gritty style, instinctive style of football, so when he makes big plays like the pass he broke up against Michigan on the wheel route, that fires the team up. That's just the type of player he is. So yes, he has a lot to do with the enthusiasm that you see on defense."
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Bill O'Brien Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 22
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