Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday the Nittany Lions will have a lot to handle when they take on the potent offense of Indiana in Saturday’s Big Ten opener, not the least of which is the Hoosiers’ swift tempo.
“They’re trying to run 90 to 100 plays a game,” O’Brien said at his weekly teleconference. “So you have to get lined up, communicate properly and handle the tempo. Then they have some really good skill players … so they’ll get you in situations where you’re going to have to make plays in space.
“So handling the tempo and being able to tackle in space and not give up a ton of explosive plays is a big part of the game plan.”
Penn State (3-1) also is known for its tempo. Through four games, the Lions have averaged 74.3 plays compared to 76.5 for Indiana (2-2). O’Brien, however, said he wants to make sure that his offense measures its own tempo so as not to tire out his defense.
“You have to gauge tempo during the game, how is the game going,” he said. “You don’t want to put your defense in bad situations where they’ve just been out there and you go up-tempo, and it’s a 30-second drive, you’re three (plays) and out, and your defense is right back out there. That’s not being a very good head coach or offensive coordinator,” two jobs held by O’Brien.
The Hoosiers are averaging 44.5 points and 547 yards of total offense thus far.
Given the high-powered Indiana attack, O’Brien said he realizes that his team has to keep scoring with a mix of tempos, noting, “I don’t think we can come out of this game with a bunch of field goals.”
“I think we’ve got to get a feel for that during the game,” he said, “see how the game is going, where we’re at in the game, where the game is at halftime, in the second half make our adjustments and make sure we’re doing it the right way to play a good team complementary football game.”
Like Indiana, Penn State is coming off a bye week. O’Brien said the time gave his staff a chance to look over tendencies as an offense and defense, and examine individual players to see where they can improve.
“It was important for everybody, coaches included, to take a step back and analyze everything,” he said, “and also for your guys to be able to practice without the pressure of having a game on Saturday, and then at the end of the week to go home. So bye weeks are good, and obviously you’ve got to give guys that are banged up a chance to heal.”
O’Brien said starting linebacker Mike Hull should be back to full strength after recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in the season opener against Syracuse. But the coach also said that safety Ryan Keiser, who also holds for extra points and field goals, will miss the game with a hand injury.