The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 23, 2013

College football: Penn State faces 'huge' challenge


Daily Item

---- — By Tim Owen

For The Daily Item

Penn State travels to Ohio Stadium for an 8 p.m. kickoff Saturday against 7-0 and fourth-ranked Ohio State, and the Buckeyes aren't just undefeated in 2013.

They haven't lost a game since Jan. 2, 2012. In fact, they've never been beaten under second-year head coach Urban Meyer.

Coming off a bye week, Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien is hoping his team is focused on the monumental task at hand.

"Penn State versus Ohio State ..." O'Brien said, "Think about what that means in the history of college football. These two teams playing each other with the tradition of both schools, and two great coaching staffs with a lot of good players on both sides of the ball. Game day, that's the best day of the week for me. We're really looking forward to the challenge. We know it's a huge one."

The Buckeyes haven't lost in 19 consecutive games, but there have been some close calls in 2013. While they beat each of their last two opponents (Northwestern and Iowa), the Buckeyes trailed at halftime during both contests. With a combined 51 second-half points, however, Ohio State was nearly unstoppable in the third and fourth quarters. Ohio State won both games by 10 points apiece.

Much of that offensive production is at least partially created by dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller, whom O'Brien called "one of the top five players in the country." In the last two games, Miller has thrown for 425 yards and added 170 more rushing, and he's been at his most dangerous during the second half.

"They have done a great job in the second half of coming out and making great adjustments," O'Brien added. "When you've never lost under your leadership -- Coach (Urban) Meyer's leadership -- you've got a very confident team. Maybe it's a close game in the first half. Then they go in at halftime, and say, 'Well, we've won 19 in a row. We've got to make these adjustments and here's what we do. We're confident that we're going to be able to win.'

"They've done it before, and I think that's a testament to their coaching staff. I think that's a testament to their players. They make the adjustments; they go out and they play better in the second half. That's something that's been a big key for them in the last two games."

'We are ... Bruno?'

O'Brien doesn't like talking about his college playing days.

At Brown University, he was moved from linebacker to defensive tackle, and the Bears went an abysmal 3-28 from 1990-93. While laughing, he says those memories are still "painful" to even talk about.

But no matter how busy he is, or which opponent is awaiting him, each Saturday before Brown plays, he sends a simple two-word text message to the current head coach: "Go Bruno."

"Bruno is a nickname for Brown, so that's usually a text that I send to Phil Estes, the head coach of Brown University," O'Brien said at his press conference Tuesday. "They're 3"'2 right now. So 'Go Bruno' is like 'We are Penn State.' That's the 'We are Brown.'"

Keiser is "full-go"

Selinsgrove graduate Ryan Keiser is "full-go" for Penn State's game against Ohio State, O'Brien said. Keiser, a junior safety, broke his hand in September. The injury caused him to miss the game against Indiana on Oct. 5, and it was originally expected to sideline him even longer.

However, Keiser was in the starting lineup for the next game, which was Penn State's 43-40 quadruple-overtime thriller over Michigan on Oct. 12. O'Brien expects him to contribute again Saturday in Columbus.

Said O'Brien, "Ryan Keiser is full-go. He's been practicing."