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September 7, 2013Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien offered his opinions on the Nittany Lions' performance Saturday afternoon following their 45-7 win against Eastern Michigan.
* Transcript courtesy Penn State Sports Information
Can you access the performance of the offense overall? Slow start and then picked up steam.
O'Brien: It's still a work in progress, we have to execute better, especially at the beginning of the game. It's a lot of fun to coach this group. It's a resilient football team. We try to take it one day at a time. We told them that we won the day today, we have to try to win the day tomorrow. Just try to take it one game at a time, try to get better every single day.
Can you talk about the pressure you created with your defensive front seven today?
O'Brien: Those guys; you're right. They're playing very well right now. There's some veteran guys over there that have played a lot of football for us, which is good. I haven't had the opportunity, obviously, to watch the film yet, but I'm very pleased with our defense. They shut the team out; we gave up a touchdown on offense. Very, very pleased with our defense. Again, it's early. It's early in the season, it's good to be 2-0, but we have to continue to improve one day at a time. Just take it one day at a time.
The run game this week, Bill Belton, Zack Zwinak, and Akeel Lynch, looked like there was an emphasis on that. Was it nice to see those guys get it going?
O'Brien: It took a little while to get it going, to execute it. A little bit of a slow start there. It was nice to see them get it going.
Did you get to talk to Christian (Hackenberg)? He seemed to be a little geared up at the beginning. What did you say to him to settle him down?
O'Brien: Just to go back to the basics of the offensive scheme and throwing mechanics. This is a calm kid, but he was jacked up. I was reminded by one of the assistant coaches, again, this is his first game in Beaver Stadium. You can take 5,000 recruiting trips here, but it isn't like playing here. This was his first game. He was amped up. I thought he, obviously, settled down pretty well. I think it's pretty easy to see, he's a hard working kid. He has talent. It's one day at a time. Try to get better, watch the film and see if we can improve against a very, very tough Central Florida team.
How important has DaQuan Jones been to this team the last two weeks? What makes him so effective as a defensive tackle?
O'Brien: He's a very, very good player. He's improved his strength, he's improved his conditioning. He's one great example of a guy that's taken his game to the next level. I'm sorry that he's a senior. He's a fantastic kid. As hard as he works on the field, he works even harder in the classroom. He's just a great representation of Penn State.
Was there anything physically wrong with Zack Zwinak that he didn't get too many carries? Was that just part of the game plan?
O'Brien: He rushed seven times for 43 yards, a 6.1 average. I think he's pretty healthy.
You've been looking at ways to use Bill Belton in the offense to be a weapon. Is that what you envision out of him? Using him that way?
How important have guys like Von Walker become to this team? How pleased are you to see them stepping up and taking advantage of their opportunities?
O'Brien: Again, we think our run-on program is one of the most important parts of our program. We have a lot of guys that are representative of that. Guys that came here as run-ons that were awarded scholarships. Guys that are run-ons now, like you mentioned Von. We have guys that grew up in Pennsylvania, that have dreamed of playing at Penn State their whole lives. That's what it's about. It's a pretty neat deal. You guys have to investigate a little more. There's a lot of great stories on this football team. There's a lot of great individual stories on this football team. Obviously, the run-on program is a big part of what we do.
Nyeem Wartman had his hand on the ball a couple times and seemed to be around the ball a lot today. Is he making some of the steps that you expected him to make?
O'Brien: He's an instinctive football player, a great guy to coach. He loves to play, loves to play at Penn State. Before it's all said and done here at Penn State, he'll make a lot of plays here. He's a guy that works extremely hard on the practice field. He's a tough, resilient Pennsylvania guy. I couldn't be prouder of the way he played today.
Ben Kline and Mike Hull, what's their situation going forward?
O'Brien: They're fine.
You guys rotated a lot more offensive linemen than you did against Syracuse. Was that the plan coming in? Did something in the game make that happen?
O'Brien: No, it was the plan coming in.
Do you have an update on Ryan Keiser?
O'Brien: No, I just got in the locker room.
How are you feeling with the push you are getting early in the game from the offensive line, especially on running plays?
O'Brien: We have got to do better. I think it is everyone, I do not think it is just the offensive line. I think we have to execute better. We have to keep spending time on it. We need to adjust quicker to what they are doing. I thought Eastern Michigan came out with a little bit of a different look and I give credit to them. We have to do better, but again, we will improve. We scored 45 points today and that is pretty good. We will continue to improve every single day on all aspects of the offensive side of the ball.
Did anyone from the 1973 team come and speak to any of the guys?
O'Brien: Yeah, John Cappelletti just talked to our team in the locker room and it was pretty neat. I got a chance to meet him and it was just a great experience to be able to meet John Cappelletti, the only Heisman trophy winner in the history of Penn State, and a member of the 12-0 Orange Bowl team. Coach Paterno said that after the Orange Bowl they were number one and I would have said the same thing because 12-0 is 12-0, and they deserved a national championship. That was a fantastic football team and it was just a neat experience for myself and our staff to get the chance to meet John Cappelleti.
This was the first time Penn State retired a number. What is your reaction to that?
O'Brien: I do not make those decisions but I am very supportive of it. I think it is a high bar. I think you have to win the Heisman trophy to get your number retired at Penn State.
What do you think of the way Lynch played in his first game?
O'Brien: It was good. It was good to get him in there. He is a fantastic kid and he is a guy who has worked extremely hard to improve his game. It was great for us as a staff to watch him get in there with a big smile on his face. I thought he ran hard. He has got some improvements though, and he has got to get his pads down and things like that but he has got a really good future here at Penn State.
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