O'Brien's debut in Penn State spring game showcases defense, '10 percent' of playbook
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Bill O'Brien stood with his players in the Beaver Stadium tunnel before kickoff, preparing to run onto the field.
He let most of the players go first, patting them on the back as they ran past, before jogging to the sideline.
"I tried to get coach O'Brien to do it. I was like, 'We're going to follow you, coach O'Brien,'" said senior cornerback Stephon Morris, who led the Nittany Lions out of the tunnel. "We're going to work on that."
Fans got their first glimpse of a new era of Penn State football Saturday, as an estimated 60,000 watched the Nittany Lions play in their annual Blue-White game.
The defense beat the offense, 77-65, in a scrimmage that featured an altered scoring system. In addition to points for touchdowns, field goals and extra points, the offense got bonus marks for plays of 15 yards or longer and consecutive first downs, and the defense was rewarded for turnovers, sacks, three-and-outs and tackles for loss.
"It was a great day," O'Brien said. "It was really pretty neat for me to run out with that team. We've got a bunch of guys that are very excited to be a part of this Penn State football family. It was a fun day for me to coach the spring game in Beaver Stadium."
Much of the attention was directed toward the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Fifth-year senior Matt McGloin, junior Rob Bolden and redshirt sophomore Paul Jones, a Sto-Rox High School graduate, split repetitions, with none emerging as a clear front-runner.
McGloin, who has the most experience of the trio, completed 6 of 13 passes for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Bolden struggled the most, throwing three interceptions on 7-of-14 passing. Jones was 6 of 15 for 113 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"I feel pretty good where we're at quarterback-wise," O'Brien said, adding he needs to watch film for a better evaluation. "All three of those guys made some plays today. All three of these guys, we've asked a lot of them. We've asked them to learn a system that's totally different than anything they've ever learned, and that takes time.
"We have to let it soak a little bit, let it soak for ourselves as a staff. We'll make a decision headed into training camp on who we're going with or who the top two are."
McGloin, who described his performance as inconsistent, said it has been a challenge learning O'Brien's New England Patriots-based playbook. Only about 10 percent of the playbook was shown Saturday, according to O'Brien.
"It's an exciting offense, and it's probably going to take the entire summer to learn it," McGloin said. "Once we get it down, it's going to be fun to watch."
For Jones, Saturday was an emotional day. After coming to Penn State more than two winters ago as a highly touted quarterback, the McKees Rocks native has yet to play in an official game. He redshirted his freshman year and was academically ineligible last season.
"The first year, when I was redshirted, I cried before every game, cried at halftime. I just wanted to play so bad. The second year was just an embarrassment on myself. I couldn't believe that I was ineligible. I never had problems with school before," said Jones, who noted he has improved his academic standing. "Just a real humbling experience."
Running back Bill Belton, a converted wide receiver, rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Wide receiver Allen Robinson had three catches for 87 yards.
Ultimately, the defense got the better of the offense, intercepting five passes and sacking the quarterbacks eight times. Middle linebacker Glenn Carson led the unit with eight tackles, and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan tallied three sacks.
NOTES -- South Allegheny's Jesse James, a freshman tight end who enrolled in January, saw time with the first-team offense and caught two passes for 24 yards. ... Chicago Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher attended the game as a guest of Penn State's new head athletic trainer Tim Bream, formerly of the Bears.
First Published April 22, 2012 11:31 am