Penn State football notebook: O'Brien focused on Wisconsin, not on NFL
Bill O'Brien chided the media for giving “legs” to a story that didn't exist.
Then the first-year coach declined to offer a definitive answer when asked if he will be Penn State's coach next season.
“I'm head football coach at Penn State,” O'Brien said Saturday after leading the Nittany Lions to a 45-22 win over visiting Indiana. “I love coaching here, and I can't wait to get back to work on Monday and get ready for Wisconsin.”
Penn State will record an eight-win season if it beats Wisconsin in the 3:30 p.m. game at Beaver Stadium. Such a prospect would have been unthinkable in late July after the NCAA levied severe sanctions against the football program and a handful of key players subsequently transferred.
The job O'Brien has done at Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten) and his NFL background — he coached in New England from 2007-11 — has fueled speculation that NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies this offseason with pursue him even though his buyout is a little more than $9 million.
O'Brien declined to address such speculation Tuesday when asked about it twice at his weekly news conference. He didn't offer a direct answer Saturday when asked if he will be at Penn State beyond this season.
“You guys gave legs to a story last week that there's no story there,” O'Brien said after Penn State piled up 546 yards of total offense and assured itself of a winning season by overwhelming Indiana. “For me, it's (about) Wisconsin and this football team and this senior class. That's where I think the question should be directed.”
It was harder to tell on which Matt McGloin and Allen Robinson left more of an imprint Saturday: Penn State's record books or Indiana's defense.
McGloin threw for 395 and four touchdowns, and Robinson caught 10 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns as Penn State scored more than 40 points for the first time this season.
McGloin's 45 career touchdown passes are a Penn State record. The former walk-on has also established a record for passing yards in a season (3,071) and 200-yard passing games in a career (17).
Robinson set the single-season record for catches (73) during his career day. The sophomore also became just the third player in Penn State history to catch at least 10 touchdown passes in a season, joining Joe Jurevicius (1997) and Bobby Engram (1993 and ‘95).
Robinson needs 107 receiving yards against Wisconsin to break Engram's record for most receiving yards in a season (1,084 in 1995).
Zach Zwinak rushed for a game-high 135 yards and scored two touchdowns, but the redshirt sophomore's fumbling problems continued Saturday.
Zwinak lost a fumble in the third quarter, drawing the wrath of O'Brien and a temporary benching.
Zwinak has lost four fumbles since the Iowa game Nov. 3.
“He has to get better at that,” O'Brien said of Zwinak, who is the 18th player in Penn State history to record at least five 100-yard rushing games in a season. “We do strip drills, we put him through the blaster and we do a lot of different things to try to drills. But at the end of the day, the player has to do it. He is a great kid, and I think he'll improve on that.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.