O'Brien promises some surprises for Saturday vs. Navy

Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is planning a few surprises for Saturday’s game against Navy, he said Thursday night on his weekly radio show.

O’Brien promised “a few different things” in the running game, including a running back in short-yardage situations who hasn’t been seen in the backfield. He declined to identify the player, saying only, “You’ll see for yourself on Saturday.”

O’Brien also said he has a few trick plays in the works for Saturday.

“We’re going to pull out all the stops,” he said. “We want to see if we can make some noise with them. You want to make them work.

“We’ve got to find ways to create what we call ‘chunk’ plays. We had a 17-play drive for a touchdown last week but we have to find ways to get 30- and 40-yard chunks. Sometimes you can do that with trick plays.”

O’Brien also praised the play of quarterback Matt McGloin, and said that criticism of the fifth-year senior should stop.

“I think it’s time for people to get off Matt’s back,” he said. “Get on my back, don’t get on the kid’s back. If people understood what it takes to play quarterback, it’s much more than throwing the football. He’s really made huge strides. He’s going to be much improved this week and next week. We’re going to stick with him, there’s no doubt about it.”

O’Brien said the Lions offense will see Paul Jones, the third-string quarterback, on the field a pass-catching tight end.

“You’ll see him in a lot of different spots,” he said. “You’ll see him split out, out on the wing, in the backfield. You’ll see him do a lot of different things. He catches the ball well.”

As for the running game, he said tailbacks Bill Belton (ankle) and Derek Day (shoulder) remained day to day. He said Curtis Dukes, Zach Zwinak and fullback Michael Zordich will see action at tailback during the game.

O’Brien also said kicker Sam Ficken has worked very hard in practice this week following his 1-for-5 day on field goal attempts in last weekend’s loss to Virginia.

The coach called Ficken “a fantastic kid, very calm kid, works very hard. He had a rough day personally but at the same time, it’s a team sport.

“The protection wasn’t always great, the snap wasn’t always great. He’s got to work on certain parts of his technique, particularly with his plant foot. Sam’s a very mature guy. Someday I’m probably going to be working for him.”

--Joe Juliano