For Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, the bottom line is winning.
So when it’s pointed out that the Nittany Lions committed four turnovers, rushed for only 57 yards and converted just one third-down play in 16 attempts in their season-opening game, O’Brien feels it is important to view the positives in Saturday’s 23-17 victory over Syracuse.
“We went into the game at MetLife Stadium with a true freshman at quarterback,” O’Brien said Tuesday at his weekly teleconference. “I think it was 104 degrees on the field throughout the game. We didn’t have our best wide receiver for the first half because of what I decided to do there.
“Defensively we put the defense into some tough situations. We did this with 65 scholarship players. We’ve got a very tough, resilient football team. Personally I’m going to try to do the best I can to improve this week as a head coach and do a better job offensively, defensively and special teams. But to me, I just think we should be talking about (the positives) a lot.”
Christian Hackenberg threw for 278 and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut. All-Big Ten wide receiver Allen Robinson, who caught one of those touchdown passes and had seven catches overall, was benched for the first half because of an undisclosed disciplinary issue. Sam Ficken was perfect on all three of his field-goal attempts.
O’Brien said he understands the need for improvement going into Saturday’s home opener at Beaver Stadium against Eastern Michigan. But he tries to keep everything in balance.
“We go through the whole film (Monday) and I show mistakes that they made and I certainly show mistakes that I made,” he said. “Nobody in this program makes more mistakes than me, so I tell the guys that. That’s important. I look to try to improve every single day and I look to try to improve them every single day.
“But winning, winning, winning is the most important thing, and we won the football game. Winning is like salt water, it cures everything. Winning’s the bottom line and we won the football game. I thought it was just collectively a good team effort.”
O’Brien said that tight end Matt Lehman, who suffered a left knee injury early in the second quarter against Syracuse, will be out for the season.
“Certainly any time you have a player the caliber, and the type of guy that Matt Lehman is, go down, that’s not good,” he said. “But it definitely falls into the category of, next man up.”
O’Brien also said linebacker Mike Hull and tight end Kyle Carter are day to day. He did not disclose their injuries, although Hull stood on the sideline during Saturday’s second half with a taped right knee.