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November 2, 2013Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien was proud of his Nittany Lions following their dramatic 24-17 overtime win against Illinois on Saturday.
Check out his post-game presser, right here!
How would you classify Carter's season? How has his injury early in the season affected how he's played?
O'Brien: He broke his wrist at Nebraska, so he missed all of spring practice and he wasn't really at full strength all summer. It was a pretty bad wrist injury, no excuse for it. I think he's really done some good things lately but he is coming off an injury. Then he goes into the Syracuse game and we fake the field goal and the guy lands on him and he almost breaks his arm, so he misses some time there. I don't think it's any fault of his own. I think he is a heck of a football player and made a big catch for us there at the end. I love coaching the kid, he is a smart guy, a good student, a team guy. He is a fun guy to coach.
Between Belton and Robinson today, they had the bulk of the yards in the offense. Robinson went over 1,000 yards for the season today. At this point with Robinson, is there anything that takes you by surprise?
O'Brien: Nothing really surprises me with Allen. He's got a great poise about him, he doesn't get frustrated, he plays every play. He is very competitive in practice, which I think really helps him be the player that he is. He never takes a practice off, he practices every day. He practices with a sore hamstring, he practices with bumps and bruises and I think that means a lot to our team. When he goes out on game day and plays well, that doesn't surprise me at all.
Different coaches have different approaches to a game like this, where you might have felt fortunate to win. What are you going to say to your guys this week?
O'Brien: I don't feel fortunate to win. I think it's a hell of a win. What I'm going to say to our guys this week is between me and the guys, but I will tell you this - I think that we have a chance to be a good football team and I think there is a lot of football left. I do believe that we need to cut down on certain mistakes. The one thing about this team, which I told them this morning, is that I enjoy coaching this team so much because I think that they are tough guys that love to practice, that really appreciate playing for Penn State, that stuck with us and I just really enjoy coming to practice every day with these guys. They are just a bunch of great kids and I feel very, very happy for them today that they won this football game. I don't feel fortunate; fortunate is when you win the lottery, like `I won $50 million dollars, I'm fortunate to win the lottery'. We went out there and did what we had to do to win the football game, give the kids here at Penn State a lot of credit.
After the Ohio State game and early struggles on defense against Illinois, for your defense to finish the game the way they did, with the (Anthony) Zettel sack and then (Adrian) Amos' play to tip it to Ryan (Keiser) in overtime, how important was it for your defense to make those two stops there at the end?
O'Brien: I think it was great that they battled the whole game. Again, I give these guys a lot of credit. I think these kids play hard, they practice hard. They love to play and, at the end, it was great to have that sack and then that tip ball interception. We had a guy there that made a play and I thought that was really, really good to see.
Zach (Zwinak) got in there with the gloves on today. Where is he at mentally? How did that come about? O'Brien: He and I had a long talk this week and he asked me about gloves. I think that's more about the individual guy. He wanted to try that and I thought he went in there and ran tough. Billy (Belton) was the hot back today. If Zach had gone in there and broken a bunch of runs, maybe we would have stuck with Zach, but Billy was the hot guy, he rushed for over 200 yards. Zach's ready to go and I thought he ran it in there pretty hard today.
In overtime, the play call to Kyle (Carter) - What did you see and what did you think of Christian (Hackenberg)'s throw?
O'Brien: I think it was third-and-15 and we have a play there that we like. We had a lot of options on the play, including a run option. It's one of our favorite plays and Christian, the line, Kyle Carter and the receivers in the back executed it well.
Certainly no such thing as an ugly win, but your team kind of likes to do it the hard way don't they?
O'Brien: We cherish every win; we cherish every single win here at Penn State. We have a happy locker room. Give credit to Illinois, they are a much improved football team. Our kids battled and we cherish every win. There is no ugly win.
What does Bill Belton's resiliency show you after the fumble?
O'Brien: He has really turned the corner in a lot of areas, on and off the field. He is doing better in school and he is become a better running back. He is a guy that we moved to running back when we came here. He was a receiver and it is not easy to make that move. It takes a while to learn how to play that position. I think he has done a very good job. He is a tough runner. He had that fumble at the end, we try to tell him not to reach out for the goal line but he did it, so we have got to fix that. But other than that, I think he had a hell of a football game.
In overtime you have two plays to the tight ends, one to (Adam) Breneman and, obviously, the game winner to Carter. When they get involved, how did that help your offense in overtime?
O'Brien: Yeah, it definitely helps when you get the tight ends involved. We have tried all year to get them involved whether it's poor throws, not great route running, some drops, maybe some better play calls. The tight ends will always be a big part of what we do at Penn State.
After Bill Belton fumbled, did you think you were getting the ball back and what kind of series were you planning for in the event that you did? O'Brien: We felt like they were going to try to run the clock and I agree with what coach did there. I thought they were going to try to run the clock and our defense was stout in that situation and held them. We had the ability to get the ball back, so we were talking about our plays. I don't want to make it sound like Penn State is unique; I know everybody works two-minute but we work those situations everyday so to our kids, that is not a new situation at all. They are used to that. I think if you ask them today they will tell you we work two-minute every single day. In fact, in two practices this week we worked a situation where the ball was at the 25 yard line with about 30 seconds left in the game and we needed a touchdown. So those types of things we work.
Do you feel fortunate to win today?
O'Brien: I never feel fortunate to win - I think our kids battled. I think we were a resilient team, we won a football game. I think we made too many mistakes. I told the team in the locker room right now, "Congratulations on the win, I'm really happy for you but I do believe we can be a better football team," and a lot of that is what you are pointing out. I think we flinched on the snap there, I have to watch the film but I think we flinched and whether that was the cadence or our center flinching we will fix that. A lot of penalties were called today, and I still need to see the film but the referees saw a lot of penalties.
Christian obviously took a lot of hits last week but didn't seem too gun-shy on the touchdown run he had lunging in head first, what did you see on that play? It kind of looked like he surveyed, then pulled it down?
O'Brien: Yeah, we have been working on that a lot. I think he has had opportunities to run this year and hold onto the ball. He is a passer; he's a passer first, so he's trying to drive the ball down the field with a pass. We have shown him on tape and worked with him in practice with some scramble drills. He can run, he is a good athlete and he took advantage of that on that play. I think we have to teach him to get his pads down now.
In the fourth quarter, shortly after the Belton fumble, you guys didn't have a lot of room for error. Did you tell your team anything after that and at that point, are you concerned about calling the next play, what it's going to be, are you calming your team down, what's the mindset there?
O'Brien: I think that's a situation where Billy felt bad but he had a hell of a game. I think our kids do a good job playing the next play, I really do. I don't know if that's been evident in every game certainly Ohio State it wasn't evident because that was a blowout. I think if you look at our games, our kids do a good job of, "okay that happened", you know the old saying that I can't say publicly, but we got to play the next play. Those things happen and we got to play the next play, and I think our guys do a good job with that. We give our kids a lot of credit for having that kind of mentality.
Overall, what are your thoughts on, initially, the defense and, specifically, the play of the secondary?
O'Brien: I thought those guys really battled. I think Illinois has a very improved offense with Billy Cubit running it. I think our guys battled. Certainly, Illinois made some plays and I think sometimes we need to tighten up our coverage and things like that. But I think overall, the secondary tackled pretty well. When a guy caught the ball, he was tackled and there were not a ton of yards after the catch. I have to watch the film to really confirm that. I think our pass rush put pressure on them but didn't quite get the sack until the end there. I give our defense a lot of credit, I think they came to play today and they played pretty well.
Ben Kline played most snaps for you today; can you talk about what you talked about with him at practice this week? O'Brien: He played well in practice. He is a tough kid; he is dealing with a bad shoulder. He comes to practice every day. I was just talking to the team this morning and I pointed him out as just a kid I really enjoy being around. He's a 4.0 student, he's a tough kid, he's a Penn State linebacker. He plays with a bum shoulder and he practiced well this week so he deserved to get the start. It looked like he made some plays out there today so that was good to see.
The game winning touchdown at 15 yards, from a numbers standpoint, Christian has kind of struggled in the red zone but for him to make that kind of throw in the red zone, what does that do and what is the progress you have seen from him in the red zone?
O'Brien: The red zone for young quarterbacks is difficult. There are tighter windows down there, things happen faster, you have to make faster decisions, the blitz shows up faster. So, I think he has improved. I am not sure exactly what his stats are there but I think overall he has improved. At the end there when he had a chance to make a play on that play with Kyle, he stepped up in the pocket and made a great throw. I thought that was a hell of throw. It was right on the body of Kyle. That's what I mean by small windows. If that throw is 6 inches one way or the other, it's batted down or maybe intercepted. I give Christian a lot of credit for a great throw and a great catch by Kyle.
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