PSU's O'Brien feisty in news conference

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
4:00
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien scowled and glared during Tuesday's news conference.

Responses were short, questions about Indiana were deflected with a hint of malice, and the Penn State coach seemed none too pleased with the course his weekly meeting with reporters had taken.

The Nittany Lions are 3-2 now after losing their Big Ten opener, and question marks have inundated Happy Valley, especially surrounding the defense after another poor performance against the Hoosiers.

Maybe the lack of depth and scholarships had something to do with the letdown?

"I'm not talking about scholarships, sanctions, anything. I'm talking about Michigan," O'Brien said. "Our team's focused on Michigan. We feel like we got off to a good start on Monday. I'm not here to talk about scholarships, sanctions, not last week's game. I'm here to talk about Michigan only."

O'Brien didn't raise his voice. He handled most questions like a politician and remained patient -- but feisty -- throughout the 20-minute talk. He clearly wasn't happy, but wasn't outright angry either.

He occasionally glanced down at a stack of papers, one of which held a schedule of his players' conflicting exams this week, and clutched a pen. He expounded on questions surrounding the Wolverines but, when the focus strayed from Saturday's narrative, O'Brien grew agitated.

"Indiana's over," O'Brien said. "The game's over. We're putting together a gameplan. It'll be finalized probably tomorrow night."

And how would he gauge his linebackers, a group that hasn't performed close to last year's standard?

"What do you mean gauge them? What does that mean? They'll be ready to go," O'Brien said, before rattling off a list of the PSU 'backers.

So, is the team's confidence shaken after the 44-24 loss?

"Team's confidence isn't shaken," he said abruptly.

The 2012 Big Ten coach of the year has fielded his share of questions that he hasn't cared to answer in the last year and a half, and he's deflected a lot that touch on past performances. But he has never received so many questions on a Tuesday about a loss on a Saturday.

In losses last season, fans chalked struggles up to growing pains through the sanctions. After Week 2, PSU never lost when it wasn't supposed to, so questions weren't so pointed. But Penn State had never before lost to Indiana, not once in school history, and the defense hasn't seemed so out of place in a while.

So when those questions came Tuesday afternoon, O'Brien batted them down like a shutdown cornerback.

"I don't know," O'Brien said when asked about resiliency. "I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist or anything. I just think we have a fantastic group of kids who are focused on the Michigan game."

Penn State's coach, speaking in the bowels of Beaver Stadium, crossed his arms and at one point and leaned his face into his left palm. He seemed tired of the Indiana questions so, when he was asked about the importance of the Michigan game, he didn't mince words and spoke sincerely.

Maybe it was as a result of the Indiana contest. But O'Brien said Saturday wasn't just another game.

"We tell them, 'Look, this is an exciting opportunity. Penn State-Michigan. ESPN. 5 o'clock. 108,000 [fans],' " he said. "You got Nittanyville going crazy over there. It'd be crazy to think this is just another game."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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