Coach speak: O’Brien in joking mood after win
A capsule look at Bill O’Brien’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Eastern Michigan (1-0)
Kickoff: Saturday noon, Beaver Stadium
About the Eagles: Beat Howard in opener, 34-24; play in Mid-American Conference; coached by Ron English, defensive coordinator at Michigan during Lloyd Carr tenure but was not retained by Rich Rodriguez when he took over after 2007 season
Last time vs. Penn State: The Lions won at home, 34-6, in 2011, a game in which LB Michael Mauti suffered a season-ending knee injury
Line: Penn State is a 23-point favorite; over/under is 50
Joking matters: All coaches are happy after they win, and O’Brien was in good spirits Tuesday. He was on his “A” game and cracked several jokes. He not only had the “Animal House reference” (see notebook), he even knocked people on Twitter who post mundane information. “You go on there and [read], ‘I brushed my teeth today.’ Who cares? This is ridiculous,” O’Brien said.
Big week for improvement: Joe Paterno always said a team improved the most from week one to week two, and O’Brien was asked about it. “I agree with that,” he said. “I think over time that’s been proven out that you do.” He said NFL teams have preseason exhibitions to work out their issues, but in college that’s not the case. “You have two or three scrimmages where you’re going against each other and you get a good feel, but where you get a good feel is in that first game,” he said.
Whatever it takes: O’Brien was asked about whether time of possession is as important these days, and his answer was revealing about his versatile coaching philosophy. Essentially, he’s not married to doing the same thing in every game or every situation because the opponent will dictate some of that. He said that while time of possession might matter against the service academies, for instance, it’s not as big against more explosive teams. “If you’re playing Oregon, you know, or somebody that averages 50 points per game, you better be worried about scoring because chances are you’re going to have a tough time stopping them, nobody has,” he said. “So I think it depends on the opponent you’re playing. We don’t look at time of possession, we look at scoring one more point, that’s the biggest thing.”
Media matters: Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was allowed to talk to the media after Saturday’s game, something PSU has rarely allowed with freshmen, and basically never after the opener. “He’s mature, well spoken, he’s bright, humble, he loves his teammates and he loves Penn State,” O’Brien said. Then he went on to add, “Why wait? He’s going to talk to you guys eventually anyway, so it’s good to get them out there after a win and let them see what that’s about.”
1973 team to be honored: The 1973 PSU team, with Heisman winner John Cappelletti, will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game. “We can’t wait to welcome those guys back,” O’Brien said. “It will mean a lot to our fans.” He said there’s an “open invitation” for that team to come address this year’s squad. “That’s a great football team,” he said. “Any time you go 12-0, that’s a fantastic accomplishment. They’re up on the stadium wall here, and it will be great to have them back. Hopefully they can come around and watch practice.”