When your team is on the receiving end of a 63-14 shellacking, there’s rarely much a coach can offer by way of explanation.
To his credit, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien entertained questions for 7 minutes and 34 seconds Saturday night at Ohio Stadium after the No. 4 Buckeyes ran roughshod over the Nittany Lions.
His answers, while not entirely effusive, were nonetheless straightforward.
What was more interesting, however, was what was left unsaid.
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O’Brien was admittedly displeased with the outcome and the play that led to the final score.
“I take full responsibility for this,” he said. “We didn’t have them prepared enough as a coaching staff, me as a head coach. Therefore we didn’t play good enough.
“They’re a good football team, no question about it. They deserve all their rankings and all the things that are coming for them. They’re going to be tough to beat. They’ve got good speed, good athletes and they obviously played much better than us, and coached better than us tonight.”
That was about as much detail on which O’Brien was willing to elaborate.
Some of what he left unsaid was more interesting.
“We’ve got great kids in that locker room,” he said. “They’ll put it behind them. We’ll learn from it. We’ll remember some things. We’ll get ready to play Illinois.”
Whether O’Brien was inferring that he and the team would remember the score and Urban Meyer’s decisions or if he was referencing Illinois coach Tim Beckman trying to poach Nittany Lions last summer was unclear.
O’Brien didn’t seem bothered by the score.
“Did you get the feeling at all that they ran up the score at all in the fourth quarter?” a reporter asked.
“Uh, I don’t think so, no,” O’Brien said. “I saw them running the ball. No.”
One Meyer decision with more gray area came late in the third quarter with the Buckeyes leading 56-7.
On a fourth-and-five at the Buckeye 25, Tyler Ferguson passed to Allen Robinson for an apparent five-yard gain. Penn State seemed to have a first down at the Ohio State 20 — at least that was the initial ruling.
Meyer called a timeout and challenged the mark. The referees reviewed the play and overturned the first down call.
A reporter asked O’Brien about Meyer’s decision to call the timeout and challenge the spot, whether he understood the decision or if it irked him.
The coach paused for a full four seconds, staring straight ahead.
“Uh, the timeout to challenge the spot?” O’Brien asked.
“Yeah, on the fourth down,” the reporter confirmed.
“I mean, he didn’t think we had the first down so he called the timeout to challenge,” O’Brien said. “I have no thoughts on that.”