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Bill O'Brien Press Conference: Kent State

The first loss of the season always hurts the worst, right?

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to UCF last weekend, Coach O’Brien is ready to turn things back around this week against Kent State.  The offensive line improved (just like BO’B promised), and Coach assured us that Thud is not to blame for last Saturday’s loss.  This girl wants another W, please and thank you.

Injury Update:

COACH O'BRIEN: On the injury situation, really it's just a matter of bumps and bruises with most everybody. I would say the one guy that is day to day would be Michael Hull. He's sore. Yesterday, Monday, he was sore. We're going to have to watch him in practice and see how he does. Everybody else is just basically normal for the fourth week of the season. There's no major injuries. We'll have to keep an eye on that. A couple other things I want to talk about real quick. Saturday is Blue Out day in Beaver Stadium. That's a big day, obviously. All proceeds (from Blue Out shirt sales) go to PCAR. That means a lot to our football program, to our university. We encourage everybody to wear blue on that day because, again, like I've said from day one, one of our commitments here as a football program is to help put an end to that horrible thing called child abuse. It's terrible. We're doing our part on Saturday with that. Also Saturday is what we call All-U Day. It's a great day for Penn State because all the Commonwealth campuses are invited to the game. We'll have a great halftime ceremony for all of them. We're looking forward to hosting all the students to our game on Saturday. Big day on Saturday. Biggest part of our Saturday is our challenging game against Kent State. With that I'll open it up for questions.


Q. Now that you've had a chance to watch film, how would you assess the defense's performance Saturday night?

COACH O'BRIEN: We watched it from every angle. We spent a lot of time. We watched it as a staff, both sides of the ball, and special teams. That's usually what happens when you lose. You try to get together and really observe both sides of the ball and special teams. We have a lot of good coaches on our staff. It was a good meeting on Sunday. Defensively, it comes down to tackling. We've got to tackle better. One thing I want to address right off the bat, I know somebody is going to ask me this question, obviously I respect the question, it has nothing to do with Thud. 120 teams in the country all basically practice with Thud. Very rare that teams go live anymore, especially if you look at pro football. You're allowed 17 live practices a year. That's trickled down to college. It has to be being in better football position, being aligned correctly. I thought we were aligned improperly sometimes. So those are things we can correct. We have to do better and will do better. We have a great coaching staff on that side of the ball, and really, good tough players. Coverage wise we have to stay in coverage, stay on top of our man. Can't let people get behind us. Offensively we did some decent things. Again, if you turn the ball over, if you have line of scrimmage penalties, too many three and outs, in a high scoring game, you're going to end up on the losing side. Special teams wise, some decent things on the kickoff team. I think our kick placement can be better, but we covered it pretty decently, considering the type of returner we had there. We need to punt the ball better, be more consistent with punting the ball. Again, I thought our kids gave great effort on it. Almost broke a kickoff return. Geno (Lewis) had a 40 yarder that was a good return. Have to be more consistent there. Punt return, have to stay on our blocks and be better there. There's a lot of improvement to make. Had a bunch of guys to show up to work yesterday. Fun group to coach. They're going to look to improve this week.

Hack Attack:

Q. Would you expect to see Christian Hackenberg completing at 71 percent through his first three games?

COACH O'BRIEN: I expect him to complete every pass. Obviously 70 percent is a good percentage. That is good. I think any time you complete over 70 percent of your passes, a lot of things are happening well there. He's throwing it well, the guys are making good catches, we're protecting well. It's a team effort. When I call a pass, I don't expect it to be incomplete, that's for sure. I expect it to be completed. It's a high standard. 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 yesterday if he could eliminate six or seven mistakes from his game, that he'll keep improving and he'll help our football team a lot. He's made some really good plays for us. There's six or seven plays within each game he needs to really improve on. In this offense, the quarterback truly is the field general. He runs the show. If you can eliminate those mistakes, you're going to really help your team out a lot. He understands that. He's a great kid and fun to coach.

Q. You mentioned how confident Christian Hackenberg is with the physical parts of playing quarterback. How has he grown in confidence as a leader in the huddle with guys that are older than he is?

COACH O'BRIEN: I think he's improving with that every week. He's a self confident kid. He's just got a really good demeanor. He's sure of himself. He knows he has good ability. He's a good person. He's a calm guy, which is great for me, because I'm not a calm guy. It's really good. Matt (McGloin) and I last year, sometimes obviously we had similar personalities. Christian is a calm guy and that's good. I think the team feeds off of that. The guys have a lot of confidence in him. Any time you're completing balls and running the offense the way he is right now, which is pretty decent, guys around you have confidence. That helps your whole role on the team, too. He'll continue to improve with that.

Q. Christian said on Saturday after the fumble (by Zach Zwinak), he came over and had a few words with him, tried to lift him up. Is that a result of you telling him not to be shy or is that what he does naturally?

COACH O'BRIEN: Yeah, I think he does that naturally. I think he's a guy, like I said, he's a mature kid. Nowadays when you look at recruiting, these kids are exposed to so much even before they get here. They've spoken to the media. Their picture has been on the front of magazines. Not all of them obviously, but some of these guys, like Christian, they're kind of ready for this. They're ready for the lights in some way, shape or form. I think he has the personality to deal with his teammates. He's a buddy of Zach's. Everybody felt bad for Zach. I didn't know he did that. I'm always talking about him being a leader, doing those things. At the end of the day, that's something he did on his own.


Q. It looked to us like the offensive line made some steps forward last week, got some more push. Did it look to you that way on film? What did you see in particular that sort of led to that?

COACH O'BRIEN: Yeah, you're right. Our offensive line played their best game. They played physical. I thought we pass protected really well. The sacks, again, I think somebody told me this morning we've given up eight sacks. Most of those sacks aren't on the offensive line. It's either holding the ball too long; we don't have a blitz break off. I feel like our guys played their best game. They need to continue from there. They're a great bunch of guys, tough. Fun group of guys to be around. Mac (McWhorter) does a great job with them. They'll continue to improve.

Win or Lose:

Q. A couple of the veteran guys talked about how a team can learn more from a loss than a win. That feeling, is that something you hope the team remembers off a game like that, or does it come down to the X's and O's?

COACH O'BRIEN: I mean, losing is brutal. You do not want to lose. It's just not a good feeling. But what you have to do as a coach and as a player in this sport is you have to immediately pick yourself right back up. I allow them maybe 12 hours of a mourning period, then they have to pick themselves back up because you have an opponent on the horizon that is a good opponent. What I've learned from these kids is they are resilient. They come into the office on Sunday on their own. That's their day off. They're watching film, getting treatment and are ready to go on Monday. What you can learn from a loss is we lost to a team that's a good team. We didn't play our best; they played very well. In order for us to beat that team last week we had to play a lot better. We understand both from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint what we need to do better. Those are good things. You can really see where you need to improve. Hopefully that's what we do. Hopefully we learn from it and we move on and we do the best we can to get a win this week.


Q. You mentioned all these teams do the Thud. Your players seem to think it's not that big of a deal. What do you think the public and media see it that way?

COACH O'BRIEN: It's probably my fault because I came out and talked about the way we practice. It's not unique. The way we practice is not unique. There's hundreds of teams out there that practice the same way we practice. It's not unique at all. I've been places where we never hit. I've been places where we hit every day and we couldn't tackle anybody. Know what I mean? It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with proper technique. It has to do with wanting to make the tackle. It has to do with being aligned properly. It has to do with how you take the block on. It will improve. Again, I give credit to Central Florida. They're a good football team. They have some good skill players. Sometimes we tackled them, sometimes we didn't. We watched the tape. We'll learn from it. We hit. We hit in practice. We'll have nine on seven today. We probably hit at Penn State more than a lot of teams that are out there. It has nothing whatsoever to do with that.

Third Down:

Q. You were asked post-game about third downs. Is that symptomatic of not just third down, but is it something else? First and second downs put you in situations for third down?

COACH O'BRIEN: We'll fix it. One of the things, too, there's a big picture deal that you have to look at, too. Look at the amount of points we've scored in three games. It's pretty good. It's not great. But it's over 30 points a game, which is good (33.0 ppg). The bottom line is you need to score points. I think we're 10 for 10 in the red area, which is good. Once we get the ball in the scoring zone, we're scoring. We're pretty good on fourth down. That's good. I think we've only missed maybe one or two fourth downs (5 of 6). That's pretty good. So, you look at third down. We've studied it a lot over the last few days. Part of it, we have to call better plays. I have to call better plays. Part of it, we have to execute better. Part of it's what we're doing. I believe it will improve because I believe we're a decent offense. I don't believe we're where we want to be. It's one of those things that is not where it needs to be and I think it will improve.

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