Well, this week's press conference was a lot different. Instead of gathering at our usual media room, Jeff Nelson directed us to the new 'Ralph G. Macchio Jr. Memorial Dojo', which apparently was an under-the-radar part of the weight room renovation. As you'd expect, the entrance featured a few photos of Mr. Macchio as 'Johnny' from The Outsiders, telling Pony Boy to stay golden, and as 'Billy Gambini' doing his 'I shot the clerk?!' confession from My Cousin Vinny. Most prominently featured, though, was 'Daniel LaRusso' doing the Crane technique, from the original The Karate Kid. There were no shots of Marissa Tomei or Diane Lane or Elisabeth Shue, or even the Japanese girl from Part II when he goes to Okinawa with Mr. Miyagi. So that was a real let down.
As we entered the dojo, Coach O'Brien was just finishing up a training drill with Charlie Fisher, Zach Zwinak, and Matt McGloin. All were wearing authentic Cobra Kai karate gi's.
"Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?"
"Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?"
"Punting does not exist in this dojo, does it?"
Bill O'Brien then had Zwinak and Charlie Fisher fight. Zwinak took the old man down pretty easily, paused above him, and looked to Coach O'Brien.
"Finish him!", BO'B shouted, and Zach punched Charlie square in the face before helping him back up. It was a shockingly violent blow. Charlie was noticeably wobbly.
"We do not train to be merciful here, Mr. Zwinak. Mercy is punting, and punting is for the weak. There, in Iowa City, in Kinnick Stadium: a man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no punts WHAT IS THE PROBLEM MR. McGLOIN?"
It was then that we noticed two people had walked in: Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz and QB James Vandenberg.
"Men, we have visitors.......You got a lot of guts coming to my dojo, Ferentz. But I like that. Now what do you want?" asked BO'B.
"I came to ask you to punt on a couple of 4th downs."
"Pfff, yeah, right," chimed in McGloin.
"SHUT UP, McGLOIN! Look - we are not punting, old man. So what else did you come here for?"
"Well, we only have two running backs left, and one of them is already on a bad ankle....it's this damn AIRBHG thing we've got goin' around. Anywho - well hey, how about a stick of Wrigley Spearmint first?"
"Punting and gum are for the weak. Get to your point before I lose my patience with you, old man."
"Ok. Well, anywho, like I was saying. About our running backs. How, uh, how about taking it easy on our RB's?"
"Mercy is for the weak. Get this straight: we're not punting on 4th down; we're not wasting the 2 minutes before the half; we're not playing the same defense all game; and we're NOT throwing 600 bubble screens, hoping we can waste the first 58 minutes of the game and win it with a field goal from Daniel F*%^!(@*^ Murray!! Or pull out a 6-4 puke fest that set offensive football back 35 years!!"
"And you!" said BO'B, pointing at Vandenberg. "You killed a bear?! What are you, like 12 years old? Good for you, by the way. That's pretty cool. But we won't care about that on Saturday!"
"Get him a body bag, yeah!!!!", squealed McGloin.
"SHUT UP, McGLOIN! So you can actually complete passes at home, eh, Vandy? 'Cause you sure as hell can't complete them on the road. Remember a guy by the name of Gerald Hodges?"
"Uh-huh. He tackled me hard and I fumbled. He gave me an ouch-y and made me cry. My tears tasted like Grandma."
"You're gonna get twice as many 'ouchies' and tears this year, sissy boy. The pain is comin', Ferentz! AND WE'RE NOT PUNTING!!!!"
It was intense. But then after Kirk and Vandy left, BO'B performed a series of spinning back kicks, popping some suspended balloons while strength coach Craig Fitzgerald cranked Van Halen's "1984" album. If BO'B wasn't bald, you'd have sworn it was David Lee Roth. I mean, BO'B can really elevate. And Fitzy treated us to some feats of strength, like tearing a Philadelphia phone book in half with his bare hands, and blowing up a hot water bottle until it popped. I didn't know they even sold hot water bottles anymore, but it was really cool.
And Then the Presser Started
Q. How did the players look yesterday in practice after the bye week?
BILL O'BRIEN: I thought they looked energized, and they came back with effort, good attitude, and you know, really, it's a good question because right now there's no question that Iowa has the momentum because they had a fantastic win over a very tough Michigan State team in double overtime. Our team needs to understand that, that it's one thing to have a bye week, but it's a whole 'nother thing to be playing a team like Iowa, and we've got to try to go out here and practice and be precise and practice hard with great effort every day and try to equal out that momentum.
I thought yesterday was a decent start.
Q. Could you evaluate the play of your corners and safeties since the beginning of the season? I remember you had some definite concerns there early, and teams early in the season had made some plays on you guys on 3rd down, down the middle of the field. Could you just talk about the play of the corners and safeties since then?
BILL O'BRIEN: I would say that the corners and safeties fall into the category of the whole team, meaning there's been improvement throughout the season. I believe there's been improvement in understanding of the schemes and understanding of zone coverage and pattern reads and then doing a better job with their man coverage techniques. I still think there's a lot of room for improvement, as there is with our whole football team, starting with me, with the coaching staff. We can look to do things better every single day.
But I think the corners and safeties have improved on a week‑to‑week basis, and hopefully that can continue.
Q. How close are you with Brian Ferentz, and is there anything you have to change up this week for the game because he's on the sideline?
BILL O'BRIEN: You know, I'm close with Brian. Any time you work with someone 24/7 six months out of the year for four years and you go to a Super Bowl with a guy and you have a lot of respect for his football knowledge and all those things, yeah, there's no question that that's a great friendship there. I obviously have a lot of respect for his dad and what he's done at University of Iowa.
As far as changing things up, we're just going to stick with our game plan and take what Iowa gives us defensively. It's a very, very tough defense, and just try to do the best we can.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
Q. How do you think the bye week may have helped Bill Belton physically? How did he look yesterday, and just having him at 100 percent for his versatility, what does that‑‑ how does that help you guys?
BILL O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think it helped a lot of the guys that were banged up. That's what bye weeks are for, and again, it's pretty good when the bye week comes right in the middle of the season because you've had a long training camp and then six tough games, and that's it. It's better to have it then than it is after the first game or something like that. I think the bye week helped a lot of those guys, Billy included, and yesterday Billy did some nice things in practice, as did a lot of those guys that were banged up.
You know, again, we've got to have a really good practice week. We're playing a very, very tough football team on the road, so hopefully our improvement can continue.
Q. With Nyeem Wartman, has the final decision been made on whether he can make it back this year or are we looking at a medical red shirt?
BILL O'BRIEN: Final decision hasn't been made on that. He was out there. He practiced yesterday, did some individual drills and things like that, so we're just going to continue to monitor that. He's a really good young player. It is getting later in the season, so something is going to have to be made probably pretty soon, but right now we haven't made that decision.
Other Cool Stuff
Q. Did you see any changes with special teams during the practices last week, and are you confident the kicking game can be better in the second half than it was in the first?
BILL O'BRIEN: I have seen improvement. Again, now we've got to go do it in a game. It's important to see the improvement in practice, and we've seen the improvement in practice, specifically with Sam and Alex and then with our snappers, whether it's Ty Howle or Mike Fuhrman or Emery Etter. These guys work hard. These are great kids. These are great kids, and obviously they've been the focal point a little bit because we've struggled at times. But again, I've seen improvement, and I have faith that they're going to be able to do it in the games.
Q. Curtis Dukes had some comments to his local media the other day about not getting enough carries. Do you have any comments on that and any disciplinary action coming from that?
BILL O'BRIEN: Nah, it's a free country. Curtis is working hard, and he's a member of the football team, and just continuing to work hard, and that's all I have to say about that.
Q. A couple of your guys, Kyle Carter, Allen Robinson, are on mid‑season award lists for the end of the year, while a guy like Michael Mauti is not. I was wondering, because there's no Bowl game to play for over the next couple years, do you put any extra importance on some of your guys winning these individual awards to put Penn State in the spotlight?
BILL O'BRIEN: I think that's a good question, and let me just say first off, I don't think any of these guys here really care about individual awards. I will say that about these guys. These are a bunch of competitive guys that love being a part of a team. They're team players. So I'm sure that they would tell you we just want to win because that's what they're all about.
But I do think that there's a certain amount of ridiculousness that a guy like Mike Mauti or Gerald Hodges or Jordan Hill, those three guys defensively aren't on‑‑ I don't even know the awards, guys. You'd have to sit down and explain to me the awards. But if there's a linebacker, defensive lineman award, whatever the awards are, I would imagine‑‑ I can't imagine that there's that many linebackers or defensive linemen in the country better than those guys. And I'm telling you, Glenn Carson has had a heck of a year.
Now, it's only halfway through the season, so I understand that, and we've got to see‑‑ but these award lists, they come out halfway through the season. I don't know, I'm trying to figure it all out, like shouldn't the award lists come out when the season is over and we compile the whole 12‑game season? I don't know. I don't know how the awards work. But for those guys not to be on award lists, I don't know. You guys know better than me.
Q. Stephon Morris said on Twitter last night, "we hate them, they hate us," in regards to Iowa. Do you sense any‑‑ talking to players, do you sense any type of extra‑‑
BILL O'BRIEN: Do you know what I hate? I hate Twitter. I think these guys are young guys, and I think tweet this, spacebook that, whatever. We've got to go play the game. We don't have any hatred for Iowa. We respect Iowa. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their football program and for how they play the game, for how they're coached, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for their coaching staff and their players and the longevity of Coach Ferentz at Iowa and the amount of wins‑‑ he had his 100th win last week. Just done a great job there. So there's a lot of respect there.
I think that's just young guys tweeting this, twitting that, and that's how it works, I guess.
Q. What will the schedule be like on Saturday specifically regarding the kids being around all day for a night game at a hotel? Not always the easiest thing to deal with.
BILL O'BRIEN: Yeah, well, it is new for me here at Penn State, but it's not new for me. We played all night games in New England. We played a bunch of 4:00 and we were either on Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football quite a bit. I understand that ‑‑ number one is we'll let them sleep in a little bit, get some rest, and then we'll wake them up, we'll have a nice breakfast [ED: favorite breakfast meat?], and then we'll meet, we'll walk through, we'll let them go chill out a little bit more, then we'll meet again, we'll walk through again, and we'll just continue to kind of keep them moving throughout the day and let them watch some football that's going on during the day and then continue to go over their notes for the game and all those things and just be as prepared as we can be once we start the game.
Transcript courtesy of StateCollege.com courtesy of ASAP Sports transcribers.
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