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Forget wins, O’Brien’s biggest job is saving Penn State’s morale

Steven Bench, LaRoy Reynolds AP

Support Penn State, or hate Penn State, everyone can agree they wouldn’t want to be Nittany Lions kicker Sam Ficken right now. Ficken, a sophomore, missed four field goals and had an extra point attempt blocked in a 17-16 loss to Virginia Saturday afternoon.

Penn State is now 0-2 on the season.

Bill O’Brien‘s team actually outgained Virginia in total yards and rushing yards — Virginia, for what it’s worth (nothing, obviously) had just 32 on the ground — but the most startling stat of all is the fact that the Nittany Lions could not do more with four Virginia turnovers.

Penn State’s defense is doing enough to put the team in a position to win, but things still aren’t clicking on offense the way they need to if this team is even going to get to six wins this year. The problem is Penn State just doesn’t have playmakers on offense. Or on special teams, apparently.

But what O’Brien needs to be concerned about is not who takes the field right now, but rather what goes on inside the heads of those who do. Against Ohio, there was an opening-weekend adrenaline mixed with the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky/NCAA mess that bred a mentality of “us against the world.”

Well, that didn’t work out too well. Now, the Nittany Lions are down two games that they very easily could have won. Don’t scoff, but Navy and Temple aren’t guaranteed W’s either — not now, anyway. And what about the Big Ten schedule? Teams are smelling the blood in the blood in the water.

So at what point do the players begin thinking to themselves maybe they can’t be successful this year? Maybe this is a lost cause? Don’t underestimate the amount of pressure placed on these players.

Perhaps two games is too soon to be talking about giving up, but O’Brien’s biggest job now becomes about keeping his players’ heads up before it’s too late.

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23 Responses to “Forget wins, O’Brien’s biggest job is saving Penn State’s morale”
  1. rickrock6661982 says: Sep 8, 2012 4:25 PM

    If this isn’t karma, then I don’t know what is.

  2. dhlions says: Sep 8, 2012 5:05 PM

    Yes, its definitely karma.

    A bunch of college students played their hearts out for a new coaching staff, and lost, because of the actions of 5 men 10-15 years ago.

    That makes perfect sense.

  3. 32maniac says: Sep 8, 2012 5:13 PM

    While it certainly is karma… the players and coaches had nothing to do with the Sandusky matter. In that sense, I feel sorry for these guys because they are playing with their hearts and character for all to bear witness.

  4. amosalanzostagg says: Sep 8, 2012 5:25 PM

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    This wasn’t about Karma. It is about depth. Show me one football team in either pro or semi-pro football that loses talent the way PSU did, and you will have the same results. PSU lost a quality running back in Redd from the offensive side, Fera from the speciality teams and the more serious loss were the holes left in depth when the additional players left for other schools. It takes years to build a program where a squad is predominantly fourth year juniors and fifth
    year seniors.

    PSU is going to have to play “next man up.” and be mentally and physically strong or risk losing the entire football program for abetter part of a decade.

    The players actions today and this season will determine the future of PSU football as their fans and alums know it.

    The story yet to be written are the players who will
    transfer out after this year. This includes the upcoming recruiting class. Current players have until the start of the 2013 season to determine if they will stay with PSU or go else where.

    That will be karma.

  5. mungman69 says: Sep 8, 2012 5:36 PM

    PSU didn’t lose because of the actions of 5 men 10-15 years ago. They lost because they stink.

  6. philliephaninva says: Sep 8, 2012 5:36 PM

    I really don’t see PSU winning any games this season.

  7. dolphins4 says: Sep 8, 2012 5:59 PM

    All of this because of one wackjob named Jerry Sandusky.

  8. canetic says: Sep 8, 2012 6:15 PM

    I don’t think anyone’s heart is breaking for Penn St

  9. jmbates10 says: Sep 8, 2012 6:43 PM

    It does not get any tougher then this…..what an unbelievably tough loss to overcome. Karma, for sure, but the season is still young enough for them to get some wins. Unlikely it will be more then three.

  10. stoutfiles says: Sep 8, 2012 6:55 PM

    As said many times before, it’s going to be a tough stretch for PSU for many years.

  11. psunick says: Sep 8, 2012 7:21 PM

    Fair and honest insight, Ben. Good column.

  12. steelers6pack says: Sep 8, 2012 8:10 PM

    PSU 0-2 due to somrthing that happened 15 years ago..what is Auburns and Miami’s excuse???

  13. mhalt99 says: Sep 8, 2012 8:29 PM

    PSU 0-2 due to something that happened 15 years ago..what is Auburns and Miami’s excuse???

    Paul Dee was dragged back to hell and without all of the hookers it is hard for Miami to recruit – which is a surprise as they have a fine school and a good location.

  14. muhangis says: Sep 8, 2012 8:29 PM

    If you’re of the opinion that Penn State is losing their games because of “karma”, then you’re an idiot! You know nothing about football and you know more of nothing about reality. That PSU have a great lack of skill and talent is the true substance of their team – therefore expect for them to struggle to win games due to that alone.

    Yes most of their players decided to remain on the team from last year, however their very best & top players transferred out. From star RB Silas Redd to WR Justin Brown to LB Khairi Fortt, to losing their top recruits. – that’s gonna lay a big hit for any program. These Penn St. football players have so far shown they have a very big heart, but it won’t overcome the reality in their football quality, they are who they are.

    On top they lost their great football mind in Joe Paterno, plus losing a ton of seniors and very good players in the previous NFL draft. Not to mention their starting QB Matt McGloin is flat out terrible! Will never win many games with him leading the team.

    Even assuming had their top players stayed, this PSU team still weren’t seen as good enough to contend for a Big Ten title. They were not predicted to be nationally top 25 this year even before the Sandusky scandal broke.

    Nevertheless, they played well in their first two games against formidable opponents. Ohio U. fields the best team in the history of their program, returning nearly all their starters from a bowl winning team last year, including top NFL QB prospect Tyler Tettleton. Not typical Ohio U. UVA is also coming off a bowl berth, and expected to step it up and do huge things this season. At the end of the day, they were both mismatches – where State were viewed as significant underdogs not expected to win.

    It’s like equating Orlin Norris to beat Evander Holyfield… it’s just not gonna happen! Then to mention as if bad karma is why he lost. Saying Penn St. losing football games is simply “karma” only resembles that you are truly one short-sighted idiot! The skill and talent of that team is what it is… so cutout the nonsense. “Oh, what fools these mortals be!”

  15. 2ndaryinsanity says: Sep 8, 2012 8:33 PM

    I feel badly for the players, I really do. However, the University itself is getting what it deserves…they protected a pedophile in order to spare their precious football program any negative publicity. Their inaction (or half-a_ _ actions) enabled a man to continue raping children…raping children in the Penn State locker room.
    Maybe all of the players should take advantage of leaving the program for better opportunities elsewhere.

  16. lucky5936 says: Sep 8, 2012 8:49 PM

    Umm, what is Auburn’s excuse? You mean besides having a young and inexperienced QB, and being generally young across the board while breaking in two new coordinators and playing two tough oppoents the first two weeks of the season? The answer is nothing. Despite what the experts said, Auburn is two years away from being a serious threat to claim the SEC title. That is when they will have a friendly schedule again, these guys will be battle tested, and will provide time for their incoming stellar defensive crop of freshman to make their mark. Auburn has barely handled Miss. St. the last few years. The Bulldogs were due and played great today. They earned the win.

    Meanwhile, Miami has at least won a game. I would take 1-1, over 0-2 anyday.

    As far as Penn State goes…I am rooting for them to do well this season. These players had nothing to do with the terrible events that transpired in the past. Yet many of the players chose to stick it out and are playing with plent of heart to go around. In actuallity, Penn State has played three solid halves of football and could just as easily be 2-0, instead of 0-2. But missing 4 of 5 field goals (and an extra point) in a one point loss against a Bowl team a season ago is more of a relection on the kicker thqn it was the team. Penn State obviously won’t be the Penn State we’ve grown accustomed to watching over the years, but they will win a few games this year if they can cut down on their mistakes.

  17. vincentbojackson says: Sep 8, 2012 9:17 PM

    I find it odd that all of these Big 10 fans are enjoying what is happening to Penn State.

    Apparently they don’t realize that a weakened Penn State brings down the whole conference from a competitive standpoint.

    You have to beat good teams to get national respect and right now there’s only 3-4 teams in the Big 10 that the mid-majors can’t beat.

  18. onceuponatimeinsports says: Sep 8, 2012 9:35 PM

    Many Penn St. fans breathed a sigh of relief when their school avoided the dreaded “Death Penalty.” Instead they’re being forced to watch their beloved team suffer a slow, lingering death of a different sort.

    And it’s not going to get any better any time soon. Each year the team will deteriorate more and more until 0-12 is a distinct possibility. If that hasn’t already begun to occur.

    Losing to teams that just a few years ago would have been mere speed bumps is going to hurt far more than a few years of no football at all would have.

    At least had you been given the death penalty you could always have dreamed of what might have been Lions fans, now all you have is a slow, painful death march to ignominy.

  19. tr5079 says: Sep 9, 2012 12:56 AM

    They haven’t won a game since 1997.

  20. vcupats says: Sep 9, 2012 4:22 AM

    Went to this game. Penn State should have won easily. I have no idea why PSU didn’t go to their WR’s downfield because they were dwarfing the UVA DB’s.

  21. 12is3times4 says: Sep 9, 2012 10:11 AM

    mungman69: “PSU didn’t lose because of the actions of 5 men 10-15 years ago. They lost because they stink.”

    And why do they stink? Because many of their best players and recruits fled the program during the offseason, and the old coaching staff is also gone.

    And why are all those players and coaches gone? Because of the actions of 5 men 10-15 years ago.

    Yep, it’s karma, all right. A b!^$#, ain’t she?

  22. eyeh8goodell says: Sep 9, 2012 12:38 PM

    I find it odd that all of these Big 10 fans are enjoying what is happening to Penn State.


    Did you find it odd when PSU fans were reveling in OSU and Jim Tresell’s NCAA problems?

    When people say “karma” they aren’t talking about Sandusky (or at least they shouldn’t be). Karma is answering for decades of smarmy condescension from PSU and their fans, who acted like their program was somehow better and cleaner than everybody else’s…….which wasn’t true anyway with or without Sandusky. Plenty of PSU players were getting busted by the law during this decade and we have evidence that Paterno was interfering with their punishments……which means he likely took the field with players who should have been suspended. We know he railroaded the career of the lady who dared trying to discipline his players during this period.

    THAT is why this is karma. Want another reason? Go back to the thread here at CFT about PSU’s kicker transferring. Look at all the comments by PSU fans wishing injury on him. It’s KARMA that their kicker missed all those kicks yesterday. Suck on that.

  23. gmen1987 says: Sep 11, 2012 3:58 PM

    Karma is kicking Penns State behind all over the place. Karma is getting revenge on the delusional Penn State fans. Enjoy this season, Penn Staters.

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