Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
October 5, 2013BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Bill O'Brien let it slip.
His Nittany Lions, battered by a middling Indiana team on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, had just lost their second game in three tries. With Michigan visiting University Park in a week, the future looked no brighter.
So, O'Brien betrayed himself in a moment of frustration, speaking with honesty when asked to compare the emotional fire of this year's team to that of the 2012 squad, which finished 8-4.
"Well, I don't think it's gone. I think when you look at this team, we have 61 kids on scholarship, 40 walk-ons. [We] can't go to a bowl, we can't play for championships," he said. "It's not an excuse, but we have a lot of resilient kids here. They show up to practice every day and practice hard. So I think that reserve is still there."
The cat was out of the bag.
O'Brien started in on a sentiment that, regardless of the undeniable truth behind it, is unwelcome and often unacknowledged publicly by a Penn State football program that is struggling to fight any and all negativity stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the fallout from the resulting NCAA sanctions.
For all the goodwill that O'Brien's first season produced, it didn't lower the hurdles that program faces as a result of scholarship reductions, truncated recruiting classes and the attrition that is an inevitable part of the game. Those hurdles are a direct result of the NCAA's sanctions, and on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, they manifested themselves in a variety of ways on the field.
Admitting that he produced a poor game plan and that his team executed it badly, O'Brien subtly acknowledged that Penn State's personnel is not good enough, even against a weak opponent like Indiana, to easily overcome those deficiencies.
"We lost to a team that played very well today. We didn't coach well, and our kids, because of that, didn't play very well," O'Brien said. "I don't think, in any stretch of anybody's imagination, that this is a normal Penn State team. Sixty-one kids on scholarship and 40 walk-ons. But you know what? These kids are practicing hard. We've gotta coach them better. We've gotta put them in better positions. We've got good players, and that's what we're going to try to do, starting tomorrow."
Asked later to clarify his remarks, O'Brien said he didn't want to give the impression that the sanctions' impact extends to the practice field.
Needing to instill confidence in his players - while simultaneously perturbed at his role in the afternoon's performance - O'Brien found himself in an impossible situation.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is that we practice hard, we hit - we really do," he said. "This is just a football team that's working extremely hard with some really fantastic kids on it."
He stopped, gathered his thoughts, and finally left reporters - and by extension, Penn State fans - to come to their own conclusions.
"It is what it is," he said. "I think these guys are working extremely hard to play as hard as they can, and I think that we coached very average today. I think we can't coach average in this situation. We've gotta coach better, and hopefully we'll do that next week."
After putting the burden of improvement on himself and removing it from his players, O'Brien avoided going further.
But for a moment, good or bad, O'Brien offered a glimpse into a reality that bears little resemblance to the fantasy feel-good story the 2012 season prompted for those less privy.
Penn State NEWS