Penn State coach Bill O’Brien admits that Saturday night’s blowout loss to Ohio State “was not the defense’s best night.”
But O’Brien took issue with detractors of first-year defensive coordinator John Butler, the Montgomery County native who has been the brunt of criticism since the Nittany Lions allowed school records (since 1900) of 686 yards and 63 points to the Buckeyes.
“That’s a bunch of crap that he’s taking heat,” O’Brien said Tuesday at his weekly teleconference.
“John Butler is a helluva football coach. John Butler works his tail off. The kids respect him. He’s doing a helluva job. I don’t care what the scoreboard says or what the yardage says. This guy is our defensive coordinator. He’s my defensive coordinator. I’m proud to coach with him.
“Look, at the end of the day, it wasn’t a great team effort. We didn’t do anything on offense to help the defense. We scored 14 points. We got down 21-0 and we couldn’t even score a touchdown. So it’s a team effort. If anybody should take heat, it’s Bill O’Brien, not John Butler.”
O’Brien said he felt there were some communication issues with the coaches and the players on defense, and said the “No. 1 deal is we’ve got to coach better.
“We’ve got to make sure we simplify things so these guys can go out and play,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good players on both sides of the ball. I think we just need to let them go play. That’s what I talked to the staff about on Sunday, just let them go play.
“We were a little soft in (pass) coverage. We need to be more aggressive in coverage. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Go take your shot.”
O’Brien said freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who had to leave the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury, participated fully at Monday’s practice and should be fine for Saturday’s game against Illinois at Beaver Stadium.
As for the first-quarter hit that injured Hackenberg, which came after the whistle after officials had detected a false-start penalty against Penn State, O’Brien said it was “not a dirty play at all” and that he had no intention of filing any report to the Big Ten about it.
“I don’t cry over spilt milk,” he said.
O’Brien also said he was pleased with the way his team bounced back on Monday after the defeat.
“Saturday night was not a great night, but it’s one game and it’s important to learn from the experience,” he said. “I talked to the kids yesterday about a couple of things. I talked to them about experiences. You go through life and you have some good experiences.
“They’ve experienced the high of the highs – Michigan and the four-overtime win – and they experienced the low moment with getting blown out by Ohio State. That’s kind of what life’s about. If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life, I think your life will be OK.”