The first question at Bill O’Brien’s press conference Wednesday was about Ohio State.
O’Brien’s first answer was about Purdue.
The Nittany Lions had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Buckeyes last Saturday. But O’Brien said the team has “turned the page” and has had a few good days of practices since the defeat.
“We’ve moved on from Ohio State. We’ve moved on to Purdue,” O’Brien said. “Hopefully we’ve corrected the mistakes from that game in practice. We’ll continue to do that over the next three days here. We have a big challenge ahead of us against Purdue.”
Penn State heads to West Lafayette this weekend to face a reeling Purdue squad that has lost four straight games. O’Brien and his team are looking to get back in the win column after a letdown against the Buckeyes.
Initially after the 12-point loss, O’Brien said there were a lot of things he could do better as a head coach. He didn’t elaborate much on those issues after watching the film, but he said evaluating himself as a coach is something he does on a daily basis.
“I try to improve every day, I try to do a good a job every day of self critique and making sure I’m doing the best I can for this staff and especially these players,” O’Brien said. “Whether we win or whether we lose, I’m always trying to figure out what I could do better than the day before or the practice before or the game before.”
O’Brien noted redshirt freshman tight end Kyle Carter is “day-to-day” with a foot injury.
Carter injured his left foot when he caught a late touchdown against the Buckeyes and is listed as probable for this weekend’s contest on the team’s injury report. At practice Wednesday, Carter was not in pads, and his left foot was heavily taped. Though he stretched, he was held out of drills with the team.
“We’ll have to monitor him at the end of the week and see how he can cut and do certain things,” O’Brien said of Carter. “Obviously in the passing game, we’ll have to determine whether he can play or not. I know he really wants to play, so he’s working hard to get back on the field.”
Carter is second on the team in receiving yards (441) and receptions (35), and if he isn’t able to play against the Boilermakers, O’Brien said Jesse James, Matt Lehman and Garry Gilliam would have increased roles.
The only other injury listed for the Lions is guard Mark Arcidiacono, who is out with a foot injury. O’Brien noted kicker Sam Ficken has been dealing with a quad issue lately, but Ficken is expected to start Saturday.
O’Brien called Penn State’s kick returns against Ohio State “terrible” on the Big Ten Coaches conference call Tuesday.
Penn State averaged just 13.9 yards on six kick returns against the Buckeyes, and O’Brien said blockers, returners and schemes need work. Running back Bill Belton made the majority of the kick returns last Saturday, and O’Brien said he has yet to make a decision as to who would be back deep for the Lions for kickoffs this week.
“We really worked on it this week, and hopefully we see improvement in it this weekend,” O’Brien said. “When you’re starting drives inside the 20-yard line, inside the 15-yard line in the Big Ten, it’s hard to drive the ball consistently 90 yards, 85 yards. It’s obviously easier to do on a shorter field.”
Dancing with the assistant coaches
Strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald is an intense person, and that includes his pregame habits on the field.
Fitzgerald, who runs the Lions’ new conditioning program, usually does a version of “the worm” on the field during warmups in an effort to pump up the team. O’Brien joked it may land Fitzgerald on a reality show.
“Fitz is a very flexible guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that’s always been known for his dance moves. I’m going to recommend him for ‘Dancing With the Stars’ because since he’s been at Penn State, he’s become a rockstar.”