O’Brien’s honor well deserved
Penn State’s football season ended on an up note, with the overtime win over Wisconsin and now Bill O’Brien’s being named Big Ten Coach of the Year. He earned it.
O’Brien only knew part of what he was getting into when he took the job. He knew there were some Penn Staters who would dislike him only because he replace Joe Paterno, under the circumstances of Paterno’s firing, even though O’Brien had absolutely nothing to do with any of that. Even some former players, such as LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short, said they wouldn’t accept him because he wasn’t from the Penn State family.
O’Brien also knew there would be Penn State haters out there, blaming anything and everything blue and white for the actions of one man, and the inactions and/or cover up of a few more. He also knew there would be some form of sanctions from the NCAA.
But, O’Brien did not know how severe those sanctions would be, or that he would start the year without the team’s best running back, receiver, and the guy who was an all-conference kicker and punter.
Through it all, with the support of great team leaders, most of the team stuck together and bought into O’Brien’s plans. For his part, the coach did and said all the right things. He rarely looked back, and then only to praise the program run by Paterno, such as recently noting that all the players showed up on time for the first early morning workout in frigid temperatures last winter. He said that spoke to the quality of players Paterno recruited.
He made no excuses, put together a solid team, breathed unexpected new life into a rather listless offense, and himself took the blame for all the losses. The only loss that cost Penn State anything was the transfer of kicker Anthony Fera, when Sam Ficken couldn’t make a field goal in the Virginia game, which PSU should have won. Even there, O’Brien took the heat, saying he needed to coach better, and correctly pointing out the offense had the ball inside the Cavalier 20 five times, only to end up having to attempt four field goals.
O’Brien got this program and this university on the road to recovery. Penn State is fortunate he is staying, and his winning Big Ten Coach of the Year over Urban Meyer, whose team went 12-0 and beat Penn State, shows the rest of the conference recognizes the great job O’Brien did this year.