Penn State coach Bill O’Brien says he hopes his team will learn from last week’s loss to Central Florida, but admits that suffering a defeat is the most painful way to learn.
“Losing’s brutal,” O’Brien said Tuesday during his weekly teleconference. “You do not want to lose. Losing is just not a good feeling. But what you have to do as a coach and as a player in this sport, you immediately have to pick yourself right back up. I allow them maybe 12 hours or mourning, then they have to pick themselves back up because you have an opponent on the horizon that is a good opponent.”
The Nittany Lions (2-1) suffered their first loss of the season, 34-31, to the Knights. They will wrap up their non-conference schedule on Saturday at Beaver Stadium against Kent State (1-2).
UCF gained 507 yards of total offense on the Lions, and O’Brien said he found fault with the tackling and coverage in the secondary in watching tape of the game.
But he insisted that his team’s tackling woes had nothing to do with the fact that Penn State uses the “thud” method in its practices – hitting the ballcarrier but not bringing him to the ground.
“There are 120 teams in the country all basically practicing with thud,” he said. “It’s very rare that teams go live any more. If you look at pro football, you’re only allowed 17 live practices a year and that’s trickled down to college. What it has to do is, being in better football position, being aligned correctly – I felt we were aligned improperly sometimes. So those are things we can correct.
“Coverage-wise, we have to stay in coverage. We have to stay on top of our man. We can’t let people get behind us and we’re going to work real hard to improve that.”
O’Brien said his young sophomore cornerbacks – Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams – “learned a lot last week. They had their share of good plays, and they had their share of not-so-good plays.”
Offensively, O’Brien spoke once again of improving the Nittany Lions’ third-down execution – the Lions are 4-of-34 on third downs this season – and of getting off to a better start. He said he felt the offensive line played its best game thus far.
O’Brien said his team returned to practice ready to go, and he thinks his players will bounce back.
“What you can learn from a loss is we lost to a good team,” he said. “We didn’t play our best; they played very well. In order for us to beat that team last week, we had to play a lot better. We understand both from a coaching standpoint and a playing standpoint that we need to do better.
“You can really see where you need to improve. Hopefully that’s what we do. Hopefully we can learn from it and we move on and we do the best we can to get a win this week.”