The Penn State offensive line came under intense criticism following a season-opening 27-10 loss to Temple. In the game, the Nittany Lions allowed 10 sacks and managed a total of 77 rushing yards.
PSU’s O-line bounced back against an overmatched Buffalo team at home in Week No. 2, giving up zero sacks and clearing the way for 200 rushing yards. But heading into Saturday’s Big Ten opener vs. Rutgers at Beaver Stadium, there are still questions about the unit.
That’s partly because the Lions could well be without starting tackle Andrew Nelson, who injured his left knee vs. the Bulls. But also because of those lingering questions from the loss to the Owls.
In a conference call with reporters Thursday, offensive line coach Herb Hand candidly explained that his group is less concerned about outside criticism and more concerned about something it views as being much more important.
“The hardest part, probably for all of us — and not probably, I would venture to say the hardest part — is the sense that we let the organization down,” he said. “That the guys let their teammates down.”
“You know, when you walk into the locker room, all that you want as an offensive lineman is for your teammates to be able look at you and say, we can count on this guy,” he added. “And that’s what I want as a coach. I want the other guys on the staff to say I know that Herb’s got my back and he’s gonna do everything he can to help us be successful and he’s getting his guys ready.
“So that’s the hardest thing, is feeling like you let the organization down, you let the team down, you let your family down — because we’re a family here and that’s the toughest part.”
That said, Hand told reporters his troops have long since moved on from Temple.
“You can’t dwell on those things,” he said. “You’ve got to learn from them. You’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And you’ve got to move on. That’s whether you win or whether you lose; whether you have success or don’t have success. It’s gotta be play by play, down by down, and you build your reputation back, you build your resume back.
“Now you gotta build all that stuff back one step at a time,” he added. “It’s not gonna happen in one big leap. It doesn’t work that way. And life doesn’t work that way. So you just move forward and prepare and get ready for the next game. That’s what we’ve been focused on this week, is getting ready for Rutgers.”