John Urschel, he of the 4.0 GPA and graduate program in mathematics, chooses every word deliberately and thoughtfully.
So when he listed the issues Penn State needs to fix headed into Saturday's game at Purdue, it stood out. According to Urschel, it all starts up front with him and the rest of the offensive line.
We have to do a better job of protecting Matt (McGloin), said Urschel, who has started all eight games at right guard, playing most every meaningful snap. As a group, we gave up too many sacks. We have to correct that, and we have to correct communication issues to make sure we're on the same page as an offensive line – the communication between the quarterback and the center, and then between the center and the O-line in general.
After having almost zero problems communicating in a hostile road environment at Iowa two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions had plenty in a 35-23 loss to Ohio State.
Protection breakdowns and pre-snap penalties prevented the offense from getting into much of a rhythm against the Buckeyes.
Saturday was probably the only place in country where (the home team) needed a silent cadence, McGloin said. We really weren't expecting that. We haven't done that in practice.
We just have to communicate better.
When McGloin wants to change a play at the line of scrimmage – especially when it comes to protections – he first signals to senior center Matt Stankiewitch, who then relays the switch to the rest of the line.
With the crowd noise at a sold-out Beaver Stadium, however, that proved tougher than usual. On a few plays, McGloin firmly waved his arms to try and quiet down the fans.
Given everything, Penn State wasn't able to get into its no-huddle set as much as in recent games. Ohio State's defense, of course, had something to do with it, too.
After allowing just eight sacks in the first seven games, the Lions gave up four against the Buckeyes, with McGloin being hurried and knocked down on several other occasions.
That's especially a concern headed into Purdue. The Boilermakers feature one of the country's top defensive tackles in Kawann Short, who will keep the Lions' interior line occupied all day long.
Urschel called Short and Bruce Gaston two of the premier defensive tackles in the Big Ten.
It's a big challenge for us, Urschel said. We're extremely excited for the opportunity to play against them.
Excitement, however, is something Urschel believes the Lions need to keep in check.
As was the case in the season-opening loss to Ohio, Urschel wondered if emotion didn't get the best of him and his teammates against the Buckeyes.
I think we got a little too excited for the game, to be perfectly honest, Urschel said. It was a very big game. Being at home, the whiteout – we just let it get to us a little bit. We have to make sure we stay calm and collected during the game.
Bill O'Brien did not go into detail about his team's injury situation on Thursday, with the status of Kyle Carter (foot) being the most prominent concern.
We have some guys banged up, the head coach said on his weekly radio show. We'll have a walkthrough (today) and a lot of guys are still day-to-day. Basically, you'll see who's playing when we take the field on Saturday.
Since the NCAA sanctions came down in July, O'Brien has made no secret of his desire to add warm-climate, non-conference games to the schedule to serve as a pseudo-bowl game atmosphere.
On Thursday he threw out another possibility.
There are many possibilities, whether it's in a warm climate or overseas, O'Brien said, with that last word raising some eyebrows. Notre Dame opened this season in Dublin, Ireland, while O'Brien's former team, the New England Patriots, just played a game in London.
But whether it's Florida, Hawaii or on another continent, that type of game may still be another two years away.
There's a lot of things being worked on by my bosses, O'Brien said. Hopefully we can do something in the near future, whether it's '14 or '15. There are possibilities. but nothing's set in stone.