On Monday, Akron Zips coach J.D. Brookhart held his weekly press conference where he previewed this Saturday's game against Penn State. Here are his thoughts on playing Penn State:
Its exciting to be playing somebody else. We've been beating on each other. We've got some advantages this year because we've got a lot of guys back. We're still trying to fill some holes, as you know. There are still some unanswered questions in certain positions but we had a good camp, got banged up a little here and there, but are getting closer to being healthy. We'll at least have a clue going to Happy Valley this time. Looking back at the game two years ago, we played slow and didn't know what we were doing. It was the beginning of a process. Now we're further along there's no question about it. We should play better than we did, if we don't, were in trouble. They are a dang good football team but we're ready, well on our way, just hope we get a few more guys healthy by Thursday."
When asked about his team's chances in Happy Valley, Brookhart had this to say:
Your program has to grow as you do, you have to compete at a high level. If our guys didn't think we had a chance to win, I don't think we should go. We've got to play really well. They are going to make mistakes here and there, and we have to take advantage of it. If I ever sat here and said we can't win, then they need to fire me.
How does he feel about his team?
We've got some experience and some young guys we think can help. We've got most everybody back. There's a new free safety and the linebackers shifted a bit but otherwise most everybody has played. I think we're continuing to improve our defense and get better. I think we understand our system better than we ever have. I don't think we've gotten too exotic. Maybe we did in the first year, from a confusion standpoint, which is what this defense is best at. We've improved our fundamentals.
And here are his keys to beating Penn State:
We have to eliminate crucial mental mistakes and keep the ball in front of us and not give up the big plays. We keep getting better, and better, I really believe that. We've got that experience and I think that's a factor. Now we can't play as slow as we did two years ago. We're not thinking nearly as much as were playing ball. But it's going to be a challenge. They've grown offensively the last couple years. They put points up.
One thing is for sure. Akron is coming to play on Saturday. Many Penn State fans will be rolling into Happy Valley on Sunday thinking this is going to be a laugher. Many of them may decide to stay home and watch it on television. I'm still predicting this game is going to be closer than people think. We're playing an experienced team that is projected to win their conference. The Nittany Lions would do well not to look over this opponent.