O’Brien gives Hackenberg a B grade

A capsule look at Bill O’Brien’s weekly news conference

Opponent: Kent State (1-2)

Kickoff: Saturday 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium


About the Golden Flashes: They beat Liberty (17-10) and lost to Bowling Green (41-22) and LSU (45-13); senior DT Roosevelt Nix ranks second in nation in career tackles for loss (56), fifth in forced fumbles (10) and 14th in sacks (21 ); went 11-2 last year under coach Darrell Hazell, who’s now at Purdue; new coach Paul Haynes is in first season as head coach; notable alums include former Steelers Jack Lambert and James Harrison, plus coaches Nick Saban and Lou Holtz

Last time vs. Penn State: The Lions won at home, 24-0, in 2010

Line: Penn State is a 20 1/2-point favorite; over/under is 54

Passing grade: O’Brien would be tough as a teacher when it comes to giving out grades. He said through three games he would give quarterback Christian Hackenberg a B. Hackenberg has been honored as the Big Ten’s top freshman two of the first three weeks, threw for a team freshman record 311 yards in week two and is completing 71.7 percent of his passes. The coach didn’t offer great praise about the completion percentage, saying he expects every pass to be completed when the play is called. “It’s a high standard,” O’Brien said. “He’s done a good job. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing. Day to day, try to keep getting better every day. I told him [Monday] if he could eliminate six or seven mistakes from his game that he’ll keep improving.”

Evaluating the CBs: Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams had a tough time Saturday against Central Florida’s impressive passing game. “They learned a lot last week,” O’Brien said. “They had their share of good plays, and they had their share of not-so-good plays.” He called Lucas a “really, really good player” who will “get better and better and better.” The coach said similar words about Williams and reminded everyone that he was a receiver last year.

Offensive evaluation: The Lions are 4-for-34 on third down this season, and O’Brien once again said, “We’ll fix it.” He then pointed out the offense is averaging more than 30 points per game and that it has gone 10-for-10 in the red zone. “I believe we’re a decent offense,” he said. “I don’t believe we’re where we want to be.”

Reading the coverage: Most coaches say – true or not – that they don’t read the newspapers or follow what the media says about their team. O’Brien is different. The big story line after Saturday’s loss was whether PSU’s thud work in practice led to the team’s tackling problems. O’Brien was so in tune with what was being written and said that he made a preemptive strike and addressed the thud issue before even being asked about it Tuesday. He later admitted that he does keep up with the newspaper coverage and also referenced listening to comments by PSU alum Derrick Williams on the postgame radio show. “I probably try to read about five or six articles a day,” O’Brien said. “That’s what I try to do so I’m as prepared as I can possibly be for [press conferences]. Again, that takes me like 15 minutes. Nothing against your writing. It’s fantastic writing. But it doesn’t take me long. I think that’s important. That’s part of my job as the head football coach here, is to make sure I know what’s going on.”

Mimicking the media: On his way out the door afterward, O’Brien was asked about being a comedian, as receivers coach Stan Hixon said last week. He then was asked to give an example of his impressive skills mimicking his assistants. The coach laughed and said to the media, “I can already do some of you guys.”

– Compiled by Cory Giger