The Penn State defense has given up a total of 147 points in its last three games -- including 63 in a loss at Ohio State Saturday. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien admitted that there have been communication issues on that side of the ball.
But the message he communicated when asked about fan and media criticism of first-year defensive coordinator was crystal clear.
“I don't know where that's coming from, but hopefully that will get squelched,” O'Brien said. “That's a bunch of crap that he's taking heat.”
O'Brien doubles as Penn State's offensive coordinator. While he communicates with the defensive staff during the game, Butler calls the defensive plays. Butler coached defensive backs in 2012 under then-coordinator Ted Roof but took over the DC position when Roof moved to Georgia Tech.
The 63 points given up to Ohio State were the third-most in school history and the most in the modern era. The Lions also surrendered a school-record 686 yards.
“Any time you give up yardage like that and points like that, there are some communication issues,” O'Brien said. “And there are some things our players need to do better. They have to study film better and work harder. … But the number one deal is we've got to coach better.”
With that said, O'Brien is rankled that any member of the staff outside of the head coach is being singled out for criticism. So he rallied to Butler's … well … defense.
“John Butler is a hell of a football coach,” O'Brien said. “John Butler is our defensive coordinator, works his tail off, the kids respect him. He's doing a hell of a job. I don't care what the scoreboard says or what the yardage says. This guy is our defensive coordinator. He's my defensive coordinator. I'm proud to coach with him.
“Look, at the end of the day, it wasn't a great team effort (at OSU),” O'Brien added. “We didn't do anything on offense to help the defense, either. We scored 14 points (in the game). We got down 21-0, and we couldn't even score a touchdown. So it's a team effort.
“If anyone should take heat, it's Bill O'Brien, not John Butler.”
Safety Jesse Della Valle said the Lions are behind Butler.
“I think I speak for every player on our team when I say that everyone has a lot of respect for him and really respects the work he does for our team,” Della Valle said.