The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


October 16, 2013

O'Brien, Lions riding high after win

STATE COLLEGE — The 108,000 Penn State fans that stuffed Beaver Stadium left with memories that will live on for years.

There was Bill Belton’s 3-yard dive on fourth-and-1 that kept alive the winning drive in the fourth overtime. And his 2-yard scamper that helped the Nittany Lions upset then-No. 18 Michigan, 43-40.

Or how about Christian Hackenberg’s 29-yard completion to Brandon Felder on the tying drive in regulation?

But no play stood out like Hackenberg’s toss to a leaping Allen Robinson in the corner that sent the wide receiver crashing down a yard from the goal line. Hackenberg sneaked in for the first rushing TD against Michigan this season, tying the game at 34-all.

Of all the thrillers, which one is stamped in coach Bill O’Brien’s memory bank?

“I don’t know,” he said Tuesday. “I’d have to really probably have to wait until the end of the year because really, our staff, our players, we’ve moved on.”

Like most coaches, O’Brien is always on to next game, even as fans and players are still basking in perhaps the program’s signature win of the post-Joe Paterno era.

With the Nittany Lions off this Saturday before heading to Ohio State, there’s even more time to relive the plays the Nittany Lions can only hope will spark them toward a winning streak, not going back to losing clunkers like they did against Indiana and UCF.

For a program still scarred by scandal, the postgame scene was one of pure jubilation. O’Brien sprinted down the field, arms raised, toward the sea of white in the south end zone. There, his team assembled in front of the adoring, screaming fans as the Blue Band prepared to play the alma mater so players and fans alike could sing along.   

“I enjoy scenes like Saturday night, in Beaver Stadium with a 108,000 fans, and the student section,” he said. “I enjoy the student body here at Penn State.”

The players who had mobbed each other on the field took the celebration to the locker room. As the players danced and hollered in joy, O’Brien gathered them together and wanted the Nittany Lions to savor the feeling.

“This is what a winning locker room feels like,” he said. “Every guy in this room is a winner! You never quit. Don’t ever forget that the rest of your lives. You guys in this room have the ability to never get down. That is a trait that not many people have.”

The four-OT thriller was the longest in 118 years of Big Ten football.

O’Brien shuffled the practice schedule because of the marathon game and the off week ahead. The Nittany Lions practiced Tuesday, and will again Wednesday and Thursday.

The Nittany Lions haven’t changed their devotion toward practicing the 2-minute drill in every practice. They ran that offense to perfection on the final drive of regulation against Michigan.

Only 18, Hackenberg has continued to shine, and stated his case as one of the top freshman in the nation. He threw three touchdown passes in the first half to stake Penn State to a 21-10 lead, then engineered the best drive of his brief career. Up ahead, his most challenging test yet.

“We head to Ohio State, and he’s playing a game in one of the most famous stadiums in the history of college football,” O’Brien said. “So that will be new for him. I think he’s improved every week, I think he’s a focused guy. I believe we just always have to continue to improve with his accuracy and his mechanics and his knowledge of the offense.”


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Penguins 0419 Blue Jackets outlast Pens in double-OT

    Matt Calvert banged home a rebound 1:10 into the second overtime and the Columbus Blue Jackets earned the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
    Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury stuffed the initial shot by Cam Atkinson but Calvert stood all alone at the left post and wristed a shot into the open net to even the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at one game each.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0419 Brewers rally to clip Pirates

    Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a two-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the Milwaukee Brewers over the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 Saturday night.
    Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the last 65 games of 2013 following Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis drug scandal.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Area runners gearing for Boston Marathon

    The time was 12:15 p.m. It was Monday April 19, 1897.  Tom Burke had drawn a line across the dirt road with his foot. Eighteen men gathered near Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland, Massachusetts.

    April 19, 2014

  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014