UNIVERSITY PARK — Save for the 12-hour “mourning” period Bill O’Brien allowed his players after their loss to UCF, Jordan Lucas wasn’t about to take any more time to dwell on a shaky performance.
Rather, the young cornerback went back to work, trying to analyze his mistakes when UCF’s Blake Bortles completed 20 of 27 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday.
“I know what the mistakes I made were and (I’ve) just got to get better this week, that’s all,” Lucas said. “Just can’t take a step back.”
Lucas wasn’t singled out for his play against the Knights when the Penn State secondary was collectively leaky. Instead, defensive coordinator John Butler understands Penn State’s defensive lapses could be attributed to a collection of issues that combined to inhibit Penn State’s defensive performance.
And Penn State coach Bill O’Brien hasn’t lost any faith in Lucas or cornerback Trevor Williams.
“They learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays and they had their share of not-so-good plays,” O’Brien said. “Start with Lucas — I think he’s a really, really good player. He’s tough, strong, got good size, good ball skills. He made his share of mistakes on Saturday, but he also made some real good plays. ... He’ll get better and better and better because he works extremely hard.
“I can say the same thing for Trevor Williams. He’s just a fantastic kid. Just like all of us, made his share of mistakes on Saturday. (He (has come back to work on Monday. He worked really hard. He’ll get better and better and better.”
Williams, who played wide receiver last season, typically lines up as Penn State’s field corner, where he’s responsible for covering the wide side of the field. But UCF picked on Williams heavily, throwing short routes to wideouts who had room to run with Williams giving a big cushion.
As a result, Lucas moved from the boundary spot — or the short side — to field when the coaching staff removed Williams from the game in the second half. Safety Adrian Amos moved up to play boundary corner in Williams’ absence.
“I’ve played both those positions since I got here. Last year, I played field corner and I got a lot of reps in practice,” Lucas said. “During the spring, I played field corner as well so I know what my responsibilities are and I’m comfortable anywhere, boundary or field.”
Williams experienced growing discomfort throughout the game and was ineffective after rolling both of his ankles in the first half. He dismissed the pain in his post game comments and insisted he’d be ready to start when Penn State plays Kent State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Williams is not listed on the team’s injury report.
UCF receivers grew more comfortable as the game went on last weekend. Bortles had ample time to throw and his targets, J.J. Worton, Breshad Perriman, Josh Reese and Rannell Hall, were able to find holes in the Penn State secondary.
The biggest lesson Lucas said he and Williams took from Bortles’ performance was to play more physical against an experienced group of receivers, who have good chemistry with their quarterback. Kent State’s Colin Reardon is in his first year as the Golden Flashes’ starter.
“As each game goes, I keep getting a little more confident because you get more playing experience,” Lucas said. “Last year, I feel like I matured as a football player mentally because I do a lot of film study and I’m learning a lot more about football than I ever have before.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.