Dec. 31, 2009
On spending the week in Orlando
Orlando's a great place and we've had a lot of fun. I think the kids have had a lot of fun. Early in the week, before a lot of alumni and people came down, it was loosey-goosey, and then all of a sudden the hotel got pretty crowded.
There's very few places in the world that you can take a bunch of kids and have as many things to do as they've been able to do here in this town. It's great, SeaWorld, Disney World ... I think the kids have had a great time. I came down here with 17 grandkids and the oldest is 14. They've had a great time. The only trouble is they get up at 6:00 in the morning and they get started. It's been fun. Practice areas have been great. We were down in Daytona Beach for a few days, five days, and everything's been fun. We're looking forward to having a good football game tomorrow afternoon and go from there.
On the perception of the game being Big Ten power vs. SEC speed
I've never been a guy for generalizations and I think that's a media generalization. There's no question that LSU is an exceptionally talented football team and I want to be careful and I don't want to take anything away from some of their gifted athletes. You know, it's a football game: who puts the ball on the ground, who has penalties in key situations, things like that. Sometimes to overcome whether somebody's got a couple of kids quicker than a couple other kids over here, I think that makes for good press, but you know, the Big Ten has got some good football teams, and sometimes we play well, sometimes we don't play well. Hopefully we'll play well tomorrow. Am I worried about their speed? Sure. That kid who runs punts and kickoffs back for them is phenomenal. ... I have not looked at enough other teams in the SEC to make the kind of statement that I think a lot of people make. I've looked at LSU.
LSU is one talented football team. They are a really talented group of people. They are a very good football team that's well-coached. Who else is in their league? I don't know. Simple as that, I think LSU is one heck of a football team.
They're a team that, they lost three games to three very good football teams, one of which they probably could have won. They lost to a team that's playing for the national championship and they lost to a team in a very, very tight football game they could have won, Florida, they're a fine football team, so I think you could look at [LSU] and say "hey, they're big time," and they are; they're a really good football team.
On Penn State's performance this decade and the importance of the bowl game
We've won 50 games in the last five years. ... We've been a good football team, whether we've been a great football team or not, that's somebody else's opinion to make. ... We're a good football team playing against a very, very good football team, and hopefully we can play well.
On getting up for a bowl game against a team he's unfamiliar with
Anytime you come to a bowl game, you figure you're playing against a good football team and you don't want to embarrass yourself, you want to play as well as you can. I don't think we played very well last year when we went to the Rose Bowl and played Southern Cal, but most of the time, I figure we do a good job playing. Sometimes we haven't been as good as the other guy or we haven't played as well as we should have. ... I watch television just like you guys do. [When] I don't have a game, I go home and I try to watch different teams and how they play, and my kids, my squad must do it, too ...We're playing a good football team, what else can I tell you? Regardless of whether they've played them before, not played them before, those things don't come into my focus. We have to focus on playing as well as we can play and hopefully that's enough that we can be competitive.
On his memories of the last meeting between the teams, the 1974 Orange Bowl
Well the big thing in my mind, when we played them down in Miami, was what a great trip we had with (LSU coach) Charlie McClendon. ... We won that game (16-9), we had a Heisman trophy winner with us, John Cappelletti, and a kid by the name of Chuck Herd, who was not a household name, who made one of the greatest catches ever made, a one-handed catch, the only touchdown of the ballgame, from Tommy Shuman, and we won it (16-9). I didn't think anybody could hold us to one touchdown and LSU did it. Charlie McClendon and his kids did a great job that day. It was a heckuva good football game, it was a good experience. I remember that. Now, if you ask me "what happened here?" or 3rd and 2, I just can't remember that far back.
On how he's avoided coaching burnout after all these years
A lot of garlic and a lot of olive oil. I always kid our doctors and our trainers, when a kid gets a little of this or that, I say, "When I got a little of this or that, my mom used to throw me in a bathtub, run hot water and rub olive oil on my head and shove garlic down my throat and say "hey, are you okay?" If you didn't say you were okay, you got more garlic and more olive oil, so you were better off saying "yeah, I'm fine, I feel great."
On Urban Meyer and the coaching culture
I think Urban Meyer is a great guy. We've been on a couple of (Nike) trips... Both he and Bobby Bowden, we've spent a lot of time sitting around the pool, talking football, talking about what's going on. I hope Urban's going to be able to stay. I was glad to see that, after he said he was going retire. I haven't read the papers, but as I understand it, he's now thinking about maybe it's just a question of a year before he gets back into it. I hope that's true. He's a heckuva guy, a good football coach.
College football's something special. Without getting into a big speech, I'd like to keep it special. I don't want it to become something where these boosters who've given money or media have such an impact that they drive guys into asking for more money than we should be making, or as a result, drive people out of it. ... When you see our sideline tomorrow, or you see our hotel and how many former players are around, and mothers and fathers of kids who've played for us are around. ... I think a guy like Urban Meyer, I'd hate to see us lose a guy like that. I hate to see us lose a guy like Bobby Bowden unless it was on Bobby's terms. I just don't want a lot of people who don't quite understand what college football should be for kids at 18 and 19 and 20 - you guys all look at the pros and the hotshots, but for every five pros there's 50 kids who are never going to play after they get out of college, and their whole life will be influenced by their experience in college football. When you take guys who have a sense of what the game's all about out of it,that bothers me. I hope Urban comes back into it, and I'm sorry to see Bobby out of it, but hey, I'm whistling in the wind.
On his bowl philosophy
I didn't know I had one. We take a team, and we got this, this and this and what we've got to get done to be good enough to compete against this, this and this. Up our way, we've got a problem; with final exams and everything else, we can only practice five, six days at our place, even if I wanted to stay, because we've got final exams. As most of you would know, some kids are through with their final exams on a Tuesday. Some don't have them done until Friday. So what do you do? You don't want to practice on Wednesday so the kids who had their exams on Tuesday can go home. So you give up that week, so each year it's a little different. You just try to adjust. I have absolutely no pre-conceived idea of how we're going to get ready for a bowl game. I just try to look at the squad, look at the schedule, try to figure out where we're going play.
We were fortunate that we were able to go down to Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach is a nice place; it had good practice facilities at the high school down there, hotels were not crowded and the kids had a little fun. I don't have a curfew until the last couple of days. I think that you're at a bowl game because they busted their butt all year to get good enough to come to a place like Orlando. And yet, you want to be - it's no fun if you're not competitive. So I always try to say, "look, you've got X number of days to go out and horse around. Don't embarrass yourselves, don't embarrass the university. We don't have any curfew, but you behave." And then when it comes time to, you start to worry about their legs so you can be quick enough to compete with a team that's as talented as an LSU and, "okay, we're going to tighten up the ship and get you in at 11:00." Tonight, we've got a curfew at 11:00. Last night, we had a curfew at 11:00, that's the first time we had a curfew. Fortunately, as I look at it, if you've got leadership, if you've got a good bunch of kids, it's easy. My job is not a tough job, coming to a bowl game. The tough part of my job is after you go home after you've played in a bowl game, is to start to get the young guys to pay the price to get back to a bowl game. That's the hard part. Being in the bowl game is easy, except for you guys, you guys are a pain in the rear end. [laughter]
On the Citrus Bowl stadium field
I haven't been on the field yet; in fact, when we come from the luncheon today we're going to go over and get a picture taken and do some substitution practice in street clothes. We're through practicing for this game. I have confidence that the people running this thing are going to do the best they can to get that field in the best shape they can. It isn't like half the field is going be played on by LSU and half by Penn State. We're all playing on the same field and I think if you're a good football player and you've got a good team and you're disciplined, "hey, this is the field." You gotta play.
The injury problem, I don't know. ... We lost a kid in practice, he's a scout team player (Kevin Kowalishen), nobody hit him, twisted his knee and he got an ACL. You've got to expect some injuries, so if one guy got hurt in that game (the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29) - and that was a pretty tough football game. I didn't see the whole four quarters, I saw three quarters of it, it was a good tough football game. One guy got hurt, you hate to see it, I wouldn't want to get up here and say, "well, it's just one guy," because one guy is the son of [somebody]. You know, it could be my son, so I think any time you get a kid hurt, it bothers you, but it all comes with the territory.
I think the field will be fine. It may not be fine, but if it's not fine, it won't be fine for both teams. ... Coaches can only do so much and if you start worrying about things you that can't do anything about, you end up not doing the things you should be doing to help your football team play as well as they can play. I didn't even think about the field until you brought it up. Are you an agronomist? [laughter] You probably can't even spell it. [laughter]
On high expectations for the 2009 season and the importance of the bowl game to call it a success
I didn't realize we were the favorites coming into the season. I thought Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, a couple of other clubs in our league were comparable, talent-wise. Obviously, any time you lose a game, you're disappointed. I didn't think we would win them all. The thing that bothered me the most was Iowa and Ohio State, we had at home and we lost to them at home with great crowds that were very enthusiastic and really stayed right until the end when we lost it. I don't think this is a must-win for us. I don't think we have to prove anything. Our kids have got to go out and play well, go out and have some fun, walk off the field and say, "Hey, we gave it our best shot, good or bad. Whether we're good enough or not, who knows? That's why you play."
On LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson
I think he's a gifted athlete, he really is. In fact, they had a little social event at the home of one of the people interested in this bowl game, and I happened to sit down next to the offensive coordinator (Gary Crowton) and we were talking a little bit. He had been at Utah and some places and I said, "your quarterback is something, he really is a very, very gifted athlete." It's interesting that you bring up the comparison between him and Clark and we went through that with [Michael Robinson], who was a quarterback for us back in 2005, last time we were in Florida when we played Florida State down in the Orange Bowl. He's really a good athlete and he's a heckuva competitor, and as I told the coach, the hardest part about getting ready for kids like that is that you don't have anybody that can even come close to emulating him. He pulls that ball down, he's gone. He's got a heck of an arm, the motion, the whole bit. At times, he looks like a great quarterback and other times, I think it would be fair to say he's made some mistakes. But he's young. I think he's going to be a great [quarterback]. I just hope he's a year away [laughter], to be honest with you. I'm afraid he's not. As a coach, you've got like him. He makes things happen. I think that he's very much like [Penn State QB Daryll] Clark.