Penn State focused on Michigan

Loss to Indiana in team’s rear-view mirror

Penn State head coach Bill O' Brien, left, thanks fans in the student section of Beaver Stadium.
Penn State head coach Bill O' Brien, left, thanks fans in the student section of Beaver Stadium.

Kevin Wilson looked at his Indiana football team’s win against Penn State not so much as a marquee win but as one that will set a foundation for the future of the program.

Meanwhile, a few days after the loss at Indiana, Wilson’s counterpart in Happy Valley looked at his team’s loss to the Hoosiers from a much different perspective — a short-term perspective.

“I’ve moved on to Michigan,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “Indiana is over. It’s in the rear-view mirror. That game is over. We’re focused on Michigan. We’re putting together a game plan.”

At first glance, Michigan’s next two opponents may be heading in opposite directions. But the Nittany Lions, like many major college football teams in pursuit of a rebound performance, insist they won’t dwell on a loss to one of the Big Ten Conference’s perenial cellar-dwellers.

“The team’s confidence is not shaken,” O’Brien declared.

The Nittany Lions (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) host the No. 18 Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium, and they have to regroup quickly, even if they remain a confident group.

They’ll face one of the nation’s remaining undefeated FBS teams, and one that appears to have bounced back from a shaky second half of its nonconference slate with a resounding win in its first conference game against Minnesota. Michigan knows it won’t face a team that’s simply attempting to emerge from a fetal position. Instead, it’s aware that Penn State isn’t just playing for its first conference win.

“They’re going to bounce back after that,” Michigan strong safety Thomas Gordon said. “When they play Michigan, or when anybody plays Michigan, they’re going to get up for it.

“Even coming off a loss, this game’s going to hype them up even more. I’m sure they’re going to come ready to play in front of their home crowd.”

Indiana’s 44-24 win against Penn State last weekend sets the table for the next two weeks for Michigan, which hosts an upstart Indiana on Oct. 19.

The Wolverines, in typical fashion, likely aren’t looking past Saturday’s game. The Nittany Lions aren’t looking back. O’Brien relishes the idea of his team playing in, and preparing for, what could be one of the highest-profile Big Ten games so far this season.

“We tell them, ‘Look, this is an exciting opportunity,’ ” the second-year coach said. “I mean, Penn State, Michigan, 5 o’clock, 108,000 [in attendance]. We’ve got Nittanyville going crazy over here. I think it would be crazy to think that this is just another game. I think this is a great opportunity for our team.

“This is a Big Ten game. It’s a big game, and our kids are very excited about it.”

RYAN’S STATUS: Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said linebacker Jake Ryan practiced Tuesday and planned to practice Wednesday, yet his status for Saturday’s game at Penn State will come later this week. The team’s Wednesday practice was closed to the media.

“He’s traveled every game,” Hoke said before practice. “I could make [a decision] Saturday. Possibly. I could make it [Wednesday night].”

Ryan, who wore an orange non-contact jersey during this week’s practice, has missed the first five games and is recovering from spring surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.

“We’ve got another big day [Wednesday],” Hoke said. “We’ll see where he's at.”

FUNCHESS HONORED: Tight end Devin Funchess was named the John Mackey Award tight end of the week. The sophomore had seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s win over Minnesota.

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