From turnovers to defensive letdowns, Penn State players didn’t produce a perfect game on Saturday against Ohio.
But Bill O'Brien doesn't think they deserve too much of the blame for Penn State's 24-14 loss. Despite the mistakes made on the field, O’Brien took responsibility for the team's opening day defeat.
“We didn’t win the game so it comes down to me being the head football coach and I gotta get this team ready to play…,” O’Brien said. ”I told them the number one priority is I’m gonna come to work tomorrow and do a better job for them.”
Many wondered how O'Brien would handle his first game as head coach after an offseason that included heavy NCAA sanctions for Penn State' handling of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. O’Brien responded by debuting a new offense for Penn State, one which featured 48 passes from fifth-year senior Matt McGloin compared to just 22 rush attempts, but also turned the ball over twice.
With that in mind, senior tackle Mike Farrell was quick to defend his coach.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to just single out the head coach,” Farrell said. “That may be the easiest thing to do because he’s the head coach, but this football program has a lot of working parts to it, including the assistant coaches down to the players and support staff.”
Penn State's errors extended to special teams, too. Linebacker Gerald Hodges struggled as a returner, bringing back two punts for a total of negative one yard while losing a costly fumble. The Lions’ other punt returners didn’t fare well either, averaging just two yards per return.
O’Brien went to bat for his players once again, saying the coaches need to stress more the importance of protecting the football.
“We can’t turn the ball over. We stressed that,” O’Brien said. “You know, we just gotta coach it better. We gotta make sure that we’re drilling it better.”
Senior defensive lineman Jordan Hill said he has the utmost confidence in O’Brien in the long term, despite the first-game struggles.
“Everything’s not gonna be successful on the first try,” Hill said. “You get knocked down, you gotta learn how to get up. And, you know, coach O’Brien is gonna get up from this.”
Sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson said O’Brien’s post-game attitude demonstrates his selflessness and added he and his teammates need to capitalize on the opportunities their coach presents them with. Center Matt Stankiewitch echoed it’s up to the players to take control of the team’s success.
“Coach O’Brien is gonna say that because he’s a man of honor and integrity and he’s gonna put all that weight on his shoulders,” Stankiewitz said. “But what we have to do, we’re gonna look at the film and coach O’Brien is gonna let us know what we have to do to get better. We have to take those criticisms and we have to get better at it and turn those negatives into positives.”