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October 12, 2013Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien took questions from reporters following his Nittany Lions' thrilling 43-40 4OT win against Michigan on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium. Check out the transcript, right here!
* Transcript provided courtesy Penn State Sports Information
How many lives did your team have tonight? O'Brien: It just says a lot about both teams. You have to give both teams a lot of credit. Brady (Hoke) and I said at the end of the game; I think he's a hell of a coach. We both said somebody had to win this thing. Both teams hung in there, both teams fought hard and thankfully Penn State came out on the winning end. It just says a lot about our kids, a very resilient bunch of kids that care about each other and really love playing for Penn State. They love this place, they know it means a lot to them and their lives and they just keep fighting hard for this place.
What can you say about how Bill Belton played tonight and the patience he showed on the fourth down play with the game on the line? O'Brien: That was a heck of a run. I thought he had some really nice runs tonight. It's one of the better games of his career. I can't say enough about him. He's a guy that's grown up a lot on the field and off the field. I think the world of that kid.
You went a lot to the run in overtime and especially on big play situations. Why did you run the ball that much? O'Brien: I felt like in overtime, I think it's a good question because that's something I thought about a lot. They're a really good red area defense. We threw it on second down and we took a sack. I think what we tried to do at the end there was run on first and second down and then have our best third down call. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't. We had the fourth down call and we went for it there with the run. I tried to go a little bit more to the run in overtime because I was confident in the runs we were calling.
Why did you go for it on the fourth down? O'Brien: I thought at that point and time, it was the fourth overtime and I felt like it was time for someone to win the game. We could sit here and keep trading field goals back and forth, but eventually it was time for someone to win the game and I had the opportunity to do it. I would probably say that if Brady was in that same situation, he would've tried to do it. I felt like it was time to go for the win.
At the end of the regulation, after the touchdown, you actually held up two fingers to go for two points? Did you think about winning the game then? O'Brien: Yeah I wanted to win the game there. I then made a decision to go for one there. I felt an urge to just go and win the game right there. I feel really good about our two point plays. At the same time, I said, you know what, let's tie it up and see how it goes in overtime. I think there were 27 seconds left and then they drove down and had a game-winning field goal to kick. I changed my mind and went with the PAT.
On the final drive of regulation, what did that contribute to the education and maturation of Christian Hackenberg? O'Brien: Those are situations that we practice every day. You guys know that. We practice two-minute situations every day. That one that we had at the end of the game, we practiced that just the other day. I think it was 50 seconds left in the game and we had the ball from our own 25 or 30 yard line. We knew there were specific plays we wanted to run there and we just needed the line to block well and they did. We were able to come up with some big plays. I think Christian is, obviously, a very mature quarterback for being 18 years old. He's a fun guy to coach. Some of that was training to and that paid off.
Can you talk about the resiliency of the defense and C.J. Olaniyan's performance? O'Brien: I don't think you can say enough about our defense. They just kept coming up big. They gave up a couple plays, but I thought overall, they played a whale of a football game. C.J. (Olaniyan), all of those guys, I was watching them closely at the end there. They were rushing hard, they were making it difficult to run the football. I thought all of those guys really contributed to the win and I can't say enough about our defense.
You've coached a lot of games in your career. How many have you been through like this one, with the back and forth? What does this win mean for your team right now? O'Brien: It's a big win for us. It means a lot. You beat a really good Michigan team, 5-0. You're 3-2, coming off a bad loss. I think it says a lot about these kids, it says a lot about this coaching staff. These coaches here came back to work on Sunday and tried to put together a good game plan and our kids did their best to go out and execute it. I've never been in a game like this. This is a first for me. I've been in overtime games in the National Football League, but I've never been in a four-overtime game.
There was a lot of talk last week about finding a number two receiver. Brandon Felder had two touchdowns. What did he do today that impressed you? What does he mean to the team moving forward? O'Brien: He means a lot. He's a veteran receiver that's played a lot of football for us and made a lot of big catches. He hurt his foot last week and couldn't play against Indiana. It was just good to have him back because he's a veteran presence. He's played a lot of football; he's a senior. He knows how to run routes. He's been in front of 100,000 people. It's good to have him in there and he did; he came up with some big plays early on for us today.
What does it say about Allen Robinson to make the two plays that he made at the end of regulation? The one on the sideline and the one down near the goal line. O'Brien: He's a great kid. He was frustrated during the game, because, you know, the ball wasn't going to him. I tried to manufacture a play to him with the reverse and that didn't work out too good. We're trying to get him the ball at certain times and at certain times, like I said last week, it's the read of the play. What it says about Allen is that he never quits. It says that about all 100 kids in that locker room. They never quit. It's not always pretty, but a guy like Allen is going to keep hanging in there, keep fighting and try to come up with big plays when the ball is thrown to him and that's what he did.
DaQuan (Jones) talked about how low the team was after last week compared to how high they were after today. He said they were just mad and angry all week long. Did you see that from the players, specifically the defense? O'Brien: These guys are resilient guys. You would have to ask DaQuan (Jones), he's in the locker room. I'm a coach. I don't really see that as much. I knew they were a really competitive bunch and I knew that they felt terrible about the way things turned out last week, so did the coaching staff. We didn't coach well last week; we didn't play well. We did a little bit better this week and the players went out and played a whole lot better. I think DaQuan is a good example of what these guys are all about, tough and resilient and a never die attitude.
You had a lot of recruits at the game tonight. How does the atmosphere and a win like tonight go a long way in getting some of those guys? O'Brien: I'm not allowed to talk too much specifically about recruiting. I'll tell you what I say. What you see is what you get with this staff. We're a bunch of hard-nosed coaches that believe in a philosophy of football - of smart, tough football. If you come to Penn State, you have a chance to play in front of 108,000 fans, you're going to be on TV every week and you're going to get a fantastic education. We have 150 different majors to choose from here, you graduate from here, playing football, with a degree from Penn State. It's really an unbeatable combination. Hopefully, things worked out tonight in that realm too.
You were able to get the tight ends a lot more involved in the offense today? Are you ever amazed at the twists and turns a season takes? O'Brien: I think when you're coaching 18, 19, 20, 21 year old guys, nothing should amaze you. There are going to be twists and turns. These guys, look, I've said it a million times. These are tough kids. They love Penn State. They love playing with each other. The locker room is just a great scene right now, because these kids really believe in each other. They felt bad for themselves and they felt bad for the fans last week. They knew they didn't play well and we knew, as coaches, we didn't coach well. They came out and practiced hard this week and that's what they'll do next week and during the bye week and that's what they'll do leading up to the Ohio State game. We'll see how we play in the games but they're a fun group to coach, that's for sure.
When you're calling fourth down plays or two-point conversion vs. point after, how long do you give yourself to make those decisions? How decisive do you want to be in those spots? O'Brien: I try to be as decisive as I can. I try to give myself under four seconds. I try to have a thought in my mind. With that game there going so long, it almost; the well runs dry on some plays. You're trying in some ways to draw plays up in the dirt at some point. I just try to go back to what I believe in and what I thought was going to be good as I prepared during the week against Michigan. I tried to stick with the plan and I thought, overall, we did that. I think when we didn't, it probably wasn't a great play call by me. I think, overall, we hung in there and tried to stick with the plan.
Can you talk about the difference between winning this game and losing this game? O'Brien: Any time you win a game like this there is a little bit of luck involved. When I'm talking about resilient, I'll give you a great example. We fumbled the reverse and then our defense goes out and holds them and then we blocked the field goal or alter the field goal. These kids are like "okay." My opinion of the kids that I'm around here say "Okay, that was a bad play." They don't say, "Oh my God, we're going to lose now." They say, "Oh, we have an opportunity to go out there and try to stop them." That is the definition of resiliency. Winning cures a lot of things. Like salt water, it cures a lot of ills. This will go a long way for us, hopefully. Our kids feel good about it and they are, they are a resilient bunch of guys.
Can you talk about what you guys did in practice helped in this four-overtime win? O'Brien: We have different types of field goal blocks. We have long field goal blocks, we have PAT blocks. We have every type of blocks. We edge blocks. We have middle blocks. We work on them all. Larry Johnson (defensive line coach) is in charge of the field goal block team. He did a great job coaching there at the end. We coach that and we watch that film as a team. I help coach it. We try not to leave any stone unturned.
Do you agree that you guys had an intensity level today that we have not quite seen yet? What does this win do for the big picture? O'Brien: I do not know how you guys see it from an outside observer, but I think this is a very intense game. I think that this is a team that works very hard. I think it is a team that is a resilient team. That was not a good one last week and we have to do better this week. Any time you beat a Michigan team like this at home, four overtimes, you have to think that that is going to help you throughout the rest of the year. You know that there are going to be some ups and downs throughout the rest of the year. We have some young guys playing and you don't know when injuries may. I think these kids will come back to work and be ready to go during the bye week.
There was a lot of versatility from your defensive line tonight. How much of that is football IQ? O'Brien: We play a lot of guys. We try to get as many guys in there as possible. We rotate guys to keep guys fresh. (Anthony) Zettel started tonight. Then (Deion) Barnes played. They rotated in and they all had key plays on the game. Dowry was in there for the field goal block. Obviously CJ (Olaniyan) had a good night. Austin Johnson too. We played a lot of guys. I think that's important in this conference to be able to play a lot of guys in the defensive line to keep guys fresh.
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