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PSU Insider Report: O'Brien, Lions room to improve for EMU

Updated: Sunday, April 13 2014, 01:11 PM EDT

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Before Penn State could look ahead to its Week 2 home opener with Eastern Michigan, Bill O'Brien spent a lot of time at his weekly Tuesday press conference reflecting on the Nittany Lions 23-17 win last Saturday over Syracuse.

"We went into MetLife Stadium with a true freshman quarterback. We didn't have our best wide receiver in the first half of the game because of what I decided to do there," O'Brien said.

"We did this with 65 scholarship players.  We've got a tough, resilient football team.  Personally I'm going to try to do the best I can to improve this week as a head coach and do a better job offensively, defensively and special teams."

While O'Brien had no problem praising his team, he also admitted there's plenty of room to improve. The Nittany Lions went 1-for-16 on 3rd down conversions against Syracuse. They also committed four turnovers, the program's most in a winning effort since a 31-20 win over Indiana in 2009.

"We’ve got to call the plays better, design the plays better and we’ve got to get the players to execute better," O'Brien said. "Nobody in this program makes more mistakes than me, and I tell the guys that.  That's important. "

When the Lions begin preparations for Eastern Michigan this week, they will do so without tight end Matt Lehman. The fifth-year senior has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering an apparent knee injury against Syracuse. Linebacker Mike Hull and tight end Kyle Carter are also listed as day-to-day.

"It falls into the category of 'next man up'," O'Brien said. "The next guy has to be able to fill it and do it, whether it's another tight end or somebody else."

O'Brien said fullback Pat Zerbe might help with tight end depth.

Lehman's path to the Nittany Lions may make his injury all the more difficult. Starting his college career at Shippensburg, Lehman transfered to Penn State, tried out and earned a walk-on spot. This past offseason, he was rewarded with a scholarship.

O'Brien referenced Michael Mauti, who was named to the Minnesota Vikings 53-man roster, as someone who has successfully overcome knee injuries.

"He's really, really worked hard to improve his game this off-season, came back in the training camp and had a fantastic training camp. If he's willing to work at it, he's got a future in football ahead of him."

PSU Insider Report: O'Brien, Lions room to improve for EMU

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