Bill O’Brien chose his words carefully. He was also vague when asked about officiating at his weekly news conference, so as not to incur the wrath of the Big Ten.
But O’Brien made it clear that he will be seeking answers about some of the calls that have been made in his first season as head coach. He also plans to inquire about the conference’s process following the de facto appeals that are made in regard to disputed calls.
“I want defined what is this, what is that, what are we looking for here?” O’Brien said Wednesday. “If we have questions on certain calls that were made we do send it in, but that will be one of my question: OK, what happens when we send them in? We get a response, but what’s done after that?
“I have a lot of respect for the Big Ten officials, they’re good at communicating and I’m sure they haven’t had a lot of fun with me, certain crews haven’t had a lot of fun with me (but) I’m going to fight for my players, my staff, for Penn State and that’s the way I’m always going to be.”
O’Brien is already dealing with the same frustration that Joe Paterno experienced with Big Ten officiating, and it is easy to see why.
The holding call that gave Ohio State a first down when Penn State had a 7-0 lead and truckload of momentum was a crummy one, and it changed the complexion of the game. There also appeared to be a hold on Michael Mauti when the Penn State had Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller trapped in the backfield at a critical juncture in the third quarter.
Miller made like Houdini in evading several Penn State defenders, including Gerald Hodges, and diving into the end zone for the kind of touchdown that sucks the soul of out of a defense.
You won’t see a better 1-yard run, and the larger point when it comes to that play is this: Ohio State simply made more plays than Penn State last Saturday, and the Buckeyes were the better team at Beaver Stadium.
That reality is probably the other reason why O’Brien didn’t tee off on the officiating.
I liked the tone he struck, not making it so big of an issue that it looked like he was blaming the loss on officiating while also making it clear that he will stand up for his players and program.
At least someone at Penn State is still willing to do that.
– Scott Brown