He said that his team needed to be coached better, and that it started with him. And, throughout his abbreviated post-game press conference following Penn State's season-opening 24-14 loss to Ohio, Bill O'Brien repeated the same phrase, in one form or another, 10 more times.
Bill O'Brien (center) and his players stood as one both before and after Saturday's loss to Ohio.
"There was some definite good out there, on both sides of the ball and special teams," O'Brien said. "But we've got to be able to string plays together and we've got to do a better job of coaching on offense. That starts with me. We gotta get the defense off the field, and when the defense is on the field they've got to get stops, and again that starts with me doing a better job of coaching this football team and making sure they understand that."
O'Brien was not happy with the product Penn State put on the field Saturday. The Nittany Lions were sloppy with the football, inconsistent with their execution in all three phases of the game and failed to match the Bobcats' intensity, particularly late in the game. But he wasn't about to start throwing under the bus the same players he had fought for and talked up for the past eight months.
And his players made it clear that there was more than enough blame to go around.
"It's a testament to him," right guard John Urschel said. "He's obviously a great football coach that's been at some great places. I think it's very admirable for him to say that. But we need to all do better individually and need to do better as a football team. Everyone needs to look at themselves and say, 'We could have done these things better.'"
The Nittany Lions expressed confidence in O'Brien's game plan but said they didn't do enough to execute it. Frank Solich and the Bobcats, coming off a 10-win season, appeared to have made more halftime adjustments than the Nittany Lions. But nearly all of the big plays in the game were made by the visitors in white, not the home players in blue.
"I'm not going to say that it's his fault," wide receiver Allen Robinson, who led all players with nine catches for 97 yards. "I'll take a lot of blame as a player and as a team as far as us capitalizing. I think Coach O'Brien put us in a lot of good situations today. I just think sometimes we didn't capitalize. We've got to focus a little bit more and come up with plays."
O'Brien said he told the team after the game that his No. 1 priority is "I'm going to come to work tomorrow and do a better job for them," though he didn't describe to reporters exactly what that entailed. The challenge for his players as they work to improve for Saturday's visit to Virginia is to quickly put the sour taste of the Ohio game behind them.
"We need to play better as players, we need to do better. At the same time, we're trying to remind each other not to get too down on ourselves and not to dwell on this," Urschel said. "We need to learn from the mistakes we made today but at the same time we can't focus on it and dwell on it and let it carry into next week, to preparation for Virginia."