Bill O’Brien’s not a psychiatrist. He doesn’t have much experience with psychology either.
That doesn’t mean the Penn State football coach is not able to gauge his team’s collective mindset or his players’ willingness and ability to put last week’s loss behind them.
“It’s a loss. It’s over,” O’Brien said of Penn State’s 44-24 loss to Indiana. “We move on and we get ready for the next opponent. That’s what we do.”
Instead of dwelling on the past, Penn State players are looking forward to a big opportunity with their next scheduled contest. An undefeated Michigan team will take the field at Beaver Stadium on Saturday at 5 p.m. The game is officially sold out.
A white-out is planned for Saturday’s showdown that will air nationally on ESPN. On Tuesday the pregame hype was in full swing as the tent city known as Nittanyville bustled with activity just a few hundred feet from where O’Brien delivered his weekly remarks at his press conference inside the Beaver Stadium media room.
“We’ve moved on from Indiana. We’re focused on Michigan,” O’Brien said. “Our guys are very, very excited about the opportunity they have Saturday night against a great Michigan team, a 5-0 team coming in here. 108,000 fans. Our guys are very focused on Michigan, learning the game plan, studying Michigan and our guys are going to show up and play hard on Saturday night.”
And more of them will be available.
The Nittany Lions, who were without linebacker Ben Kline and wide receiver Brandon Felder, will get both players back in time for the clash against the Wolverines.
Kline, who has been in and out of the lineup this season, aggravated a shoulder injury in the days leading up to the Indiana game but is a “full-go” this week and is expected to play against Michigan. Felder, who has fit in nicely as a compliment to primary receiver Allen Robinson in Penn State’s passing attack, suffered an ankle injury last week but will practice with the team and is also expected to play against Michigan this week.
Meanwhile, safety Ryan Keiser who hurt a hand in the Kent State game, is questionable for the Michigan game but O’Brien said the team would know more about his availability following Wednesday’s practice
“We’re hoping to have him,” O’Brien said of Keiser.
While Keiser played his best game against the Golden Flashes, freshman tight end Adam Breneman did not see playing time against the Hoosiers and linebacker Nyeem Wartman played sparingly as he is dealing with a sore shoulder.
O’Brien said both Breneman and Wartman will factor into the game plan this week.
“You’ll see more guys playing this week as long as they practice well,” O’Brien said.
Linebacker Mike Hull, who was on the field for his biggest workload of the season against the Hoosiers, said he expects to feel even better against the Wolverines — mentally and physically.
Hull, who suffered a knee injury against Syracuse and played sparingly — missing the Eastern Michigan and Kent State games — before getting back into the lineup against Indiana, called Monday’s practice a “sharp, crisp” session. Alongside linebacker Glenn Carson, Hull led the team in tackles with 10 against Indiana.
“I wouldn’t say I was tentative out there on it,” Hull said. “The last game definitely gave me a lot more confidence just getting out there again. But whenever I said I don’t want to do too much I don’t want to try to make too many plays and get out of position and compromise the defense. I just want to do my assignments and play football within the scheme.”
Along with the rest of the defense, Hull and Carson are hoping for a strong rebound performance against a Michigan offense led by dual-threat quarterback Devin Gardner.
“The team’s confidence isn’t shaken,” O’Brien said.
Carson believes it is a matter of execution rather than a lack of skill or focus that has led to two losses to UCF and Indiana in which the Penn State defense gave up a combined 993 yards.
“I wouldn’t point to one thing in particular,” Carson said. “I would just put it down to execution. We’re just not functiong as an entire whole. One person might miss an assignment here or there and that can hurt us. We’re just really not going out and executing sometimes and we’ve really got to fix that and play all 11 at once.”
“I see more of a focus in our team after losses so I think losing that game will definitely keep us more focused and get us to work harder in practice, in the film room in order to get a win because we’re hungry and we want to win.”