After one of the toughest losses it has experienced in many years, the Penn State football team turns its attention to Navy with some significant challenges to face.
The Nittany Lions (0-2) host Navy (0-1) 3:30 Saturday and need a win as badly as any team, school or fan base ever needed one.
The good thing is that Navy doesn’t appear to be as good as either Ohio or Virginia. The Midshipmen were soundly thumped 50-10 by Notre Dame two weeks ago in their opener in Ireland but have had a week off to prepare for Penn State.
Despite the lopsided loss in the opener, Navy presents unique challenges for the Nittany Lions.
“Navy is so good at what they do,” said Bill O’Brien at his weekly press conference. “They're attacking your discipline, and they're attacking your toughness. Now, we've got a tough defense. In my opinion we have a tough football team. We have a tough defense. But what we've gotta do defensively is we've gotta play responsibility football. And these guys, what was good about the Virginia game is you saw guys playing responsibility football against Virginia. They've gotta do that and up that another notch against the Naval Academy.”
As it has the last few years, Navy still runs the option and will give the Penn State defense a heavy dose of the triple option out of its wishbone. It’s difficult to prepare for because it’s the only time all season the defense will see it.
“It's very difficult to practice it because you're talking about cut blocks and triple option and triple option play action,” O’Brien said. “What we do is we get our "dirty show" offense team out there a little earlier and they run through the plays they're going to run with our defense. So hopefully it's executed when they come out for practice and they can see a picture of what they're doing. It's a difficult team to play against.”
O’Brien also addressed the fact that Navy had a week off to prepare for this game.
“Of course it's difficult,” he said. “They played Notre Dame and had a week off. They could watch our Ohio game and get some rest and get some guys healed up and ready to go. And then they had this week and watched us play Virginia. So they have two weeks on us. We have to have a sense of urgency on our team making sure we understand that and make sure we have a real good practice week and are ready to go.
Can't do anything about it. That's the schedule. That's the way it goes. So we just gotta make sure we have a good practice this week and we're ready to go.”
In addition to the obvious challenges of preparing for the triple option, playing a team that had a week off and another team desperately looking for its first win, O’Brien has to make sure his team isn’t discouraged after a gut-wrenching loss to Virginia.
“You know, again, I see the morale as really at a good level,” O’Brien said. “You know, again, the morale is really set by your seniors. You know, the coaches, we have a lot to do with it, but at the end of the day it's the Mautis, the Zordiches, Hodges, the Jordan Hills, the Gilliams. The Stankiewitches. It's these guys that come to practice on Monday ready to go and put the work in.
“You know, football is the ultimate team sport and it's also a brutal sport. It teaches you a lot about getting knocked down and being able to get back up and go back to work on a Monday, after not being successful on a Saturday. So these kids are tough kids. They've been through a lot, and they're really, really looking forward to practicing and playing the game on Saturday.”