As Penn State prepared for a historic season opener under new coach Bill O'Brien following a nightmarish offseason, colleague Ivan Maisel was granted full access to the program.
Maisel chronicled everything about game week at Penn State, from coaches' meetings to practices to the locker-room scene on game day. You might have read his daily updates leading up to the opener against Ohio, but there's much more.
Here's one scene from a pre-practice meeting as O'Brien addressed Penn State's offensive players:
"I see a lot of good f------ players," he said, "and we have been through a lot in the last two months. Nobody begged you to stay. Nobody begged me to stay. You guys have conditioned and practiced your asses off, and you do everything we've asked you to do. Keep understanding what's important, so that when we get into that locker room after the game, we are celebrating a win. Is everybody on the same page?"
The meeting adjourned. After an hour of meetings, the Nittany Lions conducted what one coach described as the best practice of the week
The influence Belichick had on O'Brien as a tactician became evident in practice Friday. For most of the 90-minute "walk-through," the Nittany Lions performed reps in key situations. O'Brien gave the formation, the down, the yard-line, and, if germane, the time left.
"Plus-35!" he yelled, meaning the opponents' 35-yard-line. "Twenty-five seconds to go in the game. We need a field goal to win. No timeouts."
McGloin took the offense into the end zone.
O'Brien put the punt team on the Penn State 1 and had them practice taking a safety.
He put the offense on the Penn State 20, needing to go 80 yards for the winning touchdown on the last play of the game.
"In the NFL, every game is a close game," O'Brien said, "It doesn't matter who you're playing. It's going to come down to five or six plays, who does the best on third down, who does the best in the red area, who can score in two-minute ... I just thought Bill was the best at simplifying things for the team."
There's much more in Maisel's piece, so be sure and check it out. And if you haven't seen it already, here's my piece on the scene outside Beaver Stadium on Saturday and a community stuck between the past and the need to move forward.