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Coach Paterno makes a point while answering a question during his weekly news conference Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pat Little)
Sept. 9, 2008
Q. With the defensive line depth, will you move anybody over there?
Well, we're looking at the possibility. We've only had the one day of practice, and Monday is a tough day and we're still making some plans. We may move somebody over there.
But we have a couple of pretty good kids that can play. So I'm not in a hurry to make a move, but we may. I'm being a little evasive, because I'm not sure what we're going to do.
Q. Have you made a decision on the status of the suspended guys for this week? And I was wondering why (Andrew) Quarless was able to dress on Saturday and the other two didn't?
I think he looked good in the uniform. Well, there are circumstances involved with this, which I can't really get into, and I don't want to get into.
There are four people with exactly the same involvement. So I'm just trying to wait until I get this thing straightened out, and then we'll see what happens. So as far as whether the other kids are going to play or not, I'm going to play it day by day for awhile.
Q. A lot of people are talking about how well your offense has performed. I wonder how pleased you are with the defense with all the things that have happened; all the players you've lost, and the suspensions and all of that?
Well, I thought the defensive people played well (vs. Oregon State). And I think the defensive coaches have done a great job when you consider the fact that they've had to play a different group almost every week because of injuries and other things. And some kids that we really were...I don't know.
Losing (Jerome) Hayes was a big loss. Hayes was a guy that I thought would be an outstanding football player, and we've been holding him back a little bit because of the knee operation he had a year ago. To see him go down was a big disappointment. More for him, obviously, as a kid who has had two knee operations in two years.
But I think they've done a good job. They were hanging in there. We had a some good drives against us, but they're a pretty good football team. Oregon State has some talented people. That number 1, I didn't realize how good a running back that kid was until I got a look at the tapes. He is a good, tough kid, quick, only a true freshman.
So I think the defense has played solid. I think we're trying to get us where we're a little bit more aggressive reacting to the ball. Maybe hit a couple more turnovers. But overall they've been solid.
I think the coaching staff, the defensive coaches have done a terrific job of holding them together, and making sure that what we did put in and what we did, these kids could handle and do a good job of working with them on the field. So, yeah, I think they've done a good job.
Q. Syracuse is having a big weekend. They're premiering the movie "The Express" Friday. I wondered what kind of memories you had of Ernie Davis?
I was just telling these guys here Ernie Davis went to junior high in Uniontown. I think he was on the same junior high team as Sandy Stephens and (same school as) the Muncie kids (Chuck Muncie). Oh, he was a great football player.
We've had some great football games with Syracuse through the years. And they've always had some great backs going back to Jimmy Brown. So he (Davis) was a class kid. I didn't know him well. But, you know certainly he was someone that college football and Syracuse can be proud of. I think it's great they made a movie of him.
Q. Have you been impressed with how this group of players has been able to stay focused on the field despite the serious injuries and the off field distractions?
Yeah, I think so. As I said after the game, in the press conference, I was pleased with two things. I think, one, you've got to give the group of kids there that just hung in there, and were determined they weren't going to let the things that have been happening take away from all the hard work they've done and their confidence that they could get the job done.
Then I think you've got to give the coaching staff credit, because they hung in there with them on both sides of the football; adapted to certain things and made adjustments, didn't try to do too much. All in all, they've done a really good job.
But as I've said time and time again, people ask me about, "What is going on with this and that?" As long as I keep my coaching staff together...I've been fortunate, the only one I lost was Brian Norwood who had an opportunity to become an defensive coordinator down at Baylor, and it was a good opportunity him.
But they've done a great job. They really have. I think the kids appreciate the fact that these guys have not quit on them, and they didn't quit on themselves. And we've got a good spirit right now.
Q. Daryll Clark was holding his forearm and Derrick Williams was holding his ribs (after the game). How are those two guys today?
No, they're both fine. He (Williams) could have played, he's got a I don't know, the doctors would know better. He had some kind of a strain in one of his stomach muscles. But, he was out there yesterday running around a little. I'm sure he'll be okay. I didn't even know Clark had any problems.
Q. Do you get a sense for what some of the struggles are with Syracuse? Why it's been so tough for them to not only get some wins, but even this year to even be in it at the very end of games?
Well, I only looked at one tape over the summer of Syracuse just to get a feel of what they were doing. I didn't look at personnel. I couldn't even tell you the game I looked at. I had a whole mess of tapes down at the shore with me.
But, I don't know. It's really tough to say. They looked good against Northwestern. They kind of let things get out of hand, and Northwestern is a pretty good football team.
And against Akron, Akron jumped on them, 14 0. They came back; they changed quarterbacks. They went with (Cameron) Dantley against Akron, so they look like they're in the process of just trying to come up with the right combination.
But they can run. They've got a couple of good running backs. They've got the kid from Philadelphia, (Curtis) Brinkley, number 22, who was a heck of a high school player, and played well against Akron. So I really couldn't tell you.
I think that they're great. But they played a good team. Akron's a pretty good football team. Akron gave Wisconsin a good football game out at Madison, and Wisconsin's a heck of a football team.
Syracuse had to play Northwestern at Northwestern, so, you know, it's early. We'll see what happens.
Q. Joe, I know you've talked about this before, but I guess playing Syracuse this week it bears repeating. It's been 18 years since the two schools have played each other. It was once considered one of the better East coast rivalries. Coach Robinson just said he got the feeling from Syracuse people that they were upset about the ending of the rivalry, and if it was up to them, they'd like to play Penn State every year. Can you take us back to how it ended and your feeling on the loss of certain East coast rivalries?
Oh, boy. I tell the story over a hundred times. I wanted us to have an Eastern conference. Syracuse and a couple other people were all wrapped up in basketball, Big East basketball. I thought I had almost pulled it off.
Then Pitt backed out and the Big East, Dave Gavitt, and John Toner who was up at Connecticut at the time. And contrary to what anybody tells you in the Big East, they tried to get us to go into it just for basketball. And I said no, we want an all sports conference, and I couldn't swing it. They wouldn't go along with me. So we had to make up our mind. I felt at that time, we're talking 20 years ago, maybe, I felt at that time since the Southeastern Conference had started to work away from the CFA and started working toward their own television contract, that we were going to be left out in the cold unless we had some kind of an arrangement with some schools.
So we took a shot at the Big Ten, the Big Ten took us, and that was the end of it. We only had X number of games that we could play outside of the conference. We had to have seven home games, got to be home at home.
I'm repeating my problem with Pitt. We'd play Pitt if we could get them to come up here a couple of times. For one, we'd do the same thing with Syracuse. But we need seven home games, and it's tough to do if you've got to play home and home with everybody.
Q. Looks like you're going to be counting on Jack Crawford a lot for the foreseeable future to provide some depth on the defensive line. I know he didn't play a lot in high school, but how far along is he as a player now?
I think Crawford's got a ways to go, obviously. He's a true freshman. He's only played football for two years.
He came over here from England and had never played. But he's an awfully competitive kid. He's got a lot of natural ability. And he played much better this week than he did the first game, and I think he'll continue to get better for a while. Before you know it, he's going to be one heck of a player.
Q. You talked about the match up with Syracuse a little bit. I'm just curious, do you have any relationship with former Orange Coach Dick MacPherson, and what do you remember about coaching against him?
Dick and I were in New York a couple years ago with Don Nehlen and Lavell Edwards, and we had lunch, couple other things together. I've always been very fond of Dick.
I always get a kick of telling the story when he called me up and he said, "what do you know about this guy (Paul) Pasqualoni?" And if you know Dick, Dick is not a guy to mince his words, because Paul had played for us and was a G.A. I said, "what do you want to know about him?" He said, "I'm thinking about hiring him as a linebacker coach."
He said, "God almighty, do you know how tough it is for me to want to hire a guy who went to Penn State?"
I said, "why in God's name did you call me, MacPherson?" I said, "I'll tell you, if you can get him, get him." Paul was an assistant coach up at one of the Connecticut schools, the smaller schools. So we played him that year (1987). Went down on the field before the game, and I said, "how's my boy Pasqualoni doing?" And he (MacPherson) said, "boy, he's something. I'm glad you didn't talk me out of him." I said, "you son of a gun..."
Dick's a great guy. He really is. We've had a great relationship with a lot of the coaches at Syracuse.
Q. With two pretty lopsided victories and that league opener looming a couple weeks down the road, are you worried at all about motivation and keeping the kids trying to get better every day and every week during this stretch here?
I'm always worried about that, regardless of who is down the stretch. Because if you don't get better, you get worse. You get careless, sloppy, and the first thing you know, you're not playing your game. Yeah, I worry about that all the time.
Q. This is a follow up of an earlier question. Can you get an accurate assessment of what you have defensively with all the injuries and suspensions?
Well, when you say, "an accurate..." I'm not quite sure how to handle the accurate part of it. I have a gut feeling. I have an intuitive feeling that we have some people that have pride. I have a great feeling about the defensive staff that they'll get the most out of these kids if we stop getting injuries. Hayes is a big loss for us right now.
On top of the other things that have happened. We lose (Devon) Still, who is a great prospect; we lose Hayes. And we've got the problems with the other four kids, all of whom would have been fine football players.
Accurate? I don't know right now. But my gut feeling is these guys will get better and better. They go out there, they practice hard. They're coachable and intelligent and they want to be good. I think, "thank goodness I've got a bunch of coaches that can help them be good."
Q. Joe, with the situation on the defensive line in practice do you do anything different? Are those guys banging as hard as they normally would, or do you have to do something to maybe guard against anybody else being injured?
Well, there's only so much you can do to prevent injuries. You've got to have some kind of intense practice sessions.
We don't practice much; we practice less than probably anybody in the country. We went out for an hour 15 minutes yesterday with just shoulder pads. We'll go out today an hour 40 minutes with pads. Then tomorrow we'll go out with just tops, and then Thursday we'll go out an hour and 30 minutes with just helmets.
So we don't do a lot. But what we do, it's intense. And there is some banging around, particularly on Tuesday. Today is our tough day.
We'll go offense against defense, instead of the offense against the foreign team or scout team which we would do on Monday and Thursday, and do a little bit on Wednesday.
But today we'll go pretty good against each other. It will be tough, but you've got to do it. Particularly when you have young players that you're trying to get ready to play on defense.
It's more important that you give them more game like situations now than if they were experienced guys on it. And if you want to make them better, you can't put some people in there that don't know what they're doing against them. So now you have to use your number one offensive line against some of those kids, so they get a feel of what kind of athlete they're going to play against on Saturday.
So, we don't change much. I don't think we can afford to change.
Q. I know you don't look back that much, but were you more disappointed that the whole Eastern league didn't come together than anything else off the field that you tried to get involved in?
I think so. You know, we tried to make the CFA kind of a division of the NCAA. And we were close to that, Father Joyce and Notre Dame, and a couple of other people. We were close until the SEC decided they had a (TV) contract.
We couldn't get the Big Ten to come in. The Big Ten and Pac-10 wouldn't come in for the CFA. That was my first disappointment.
Then I worked hard on the (all-sports) league. In fact, Lord have mercy on him, the athletic director at Maryland (James), Kehoe, they were getting iffy about having to play in the south. They were recruiting in (New) Jersey, they were recruiting in Pennsylvania, they were recruiting in northern Maryland.
He said, "well, if you can get the other guys in there, I'll talk to you." He never made any kind of a commitment or anything like that. And I think if Pitt had come in and we had kept it, we would have had seven schools plus Maryland. We would have had a nice, little eight-team... Good at basketball, would have been a lot of fine women's sports, all good. So that was a big disappointment.
Q. Do you recall in that period of time after Pitt went in, was there much discussion with you and the other football allies to try to go into the Big East to try to create an all-sports league?
Well, I tried. They said no. The problem at that time was Connecticut wasn't quite sure how they could compete in that league. And they were doing well in basketball.
It was Mike...yeah, Mike Tranghese was in the middle of the thing. He's a basketball guy. (Dave) Gavitt...Jake Crouthamel who was the athletic director at Syracuse at that time, was Dave Gavitt's roommate at Dartmouth. And he's fighting it, you know. It was an uphill battle.
But if Pitt had said yes, I would have gotten it. Bill Flynn at Boston College was fighting it. But, if I could have gotten West Virginia and Syracuse and Pitt to come in, we would have had a good deal.
But didn't work, it didn't work. Can't look back and cry. I just get sick and tired of people saying, "why didn't you do this (scheduling) with this team?" Some things are impossible at certain times.
Q. Your offensive play calling seemed to have Oregon State off balance on Saturday. Do Galen and Jay still do the majority of the game planning on game days, or how much input do you have on a regular week?
Well, Sundays and Mondays I'll say, "hey, my feeling would be this is what we should be working at." I don't get too specific with them. I do the same thing with the defense. I just say, "hey, look, there is one thing. Make sure you guys stop this, and don't get caught with this and don't do that."
Then when we get the final arrangements, and sometimes I don't like some things, I'll say, "you've got too much stuff, take that out. Take this out. What are you going to do that in this situation?" And sometimes it gets pretty vehement.
They have strong opinions, and sometimes I do, and we get into a little bit of a discussion. A very tough discussion. And that's the way it goes. I know what we're doing, but they do all the hard work.
I look at a lot of tapes just to get the feel. I don't try to say, "hey, we want to run at that guy or this guy." I might say that, maybe, if I see a corner, I don't think he backpedals well or something like that. I'll say, "let's not horse around with that guy. Let's make sure he can handle us," or something like that, but most of it is done by the assistant coaches.
Q. How much of a role does your offensive line play in the comfort that you have in their experience and success? How much of a role does that play in your confidence in whatever play call Jay or Galen did you say?
Well, you've got to be able to execute. I don't care how many plays you put up there and how fancy you think you are. You have to block, you have to execute. The backs have to know what they're doing.
So, yeah, I think the fact that we do have a more experienced offensive line than we've had the last couple of years. And these kids have played on it.
But, you know, we're not home free. Don't get too excited yet, okay? We've got a long, long way to be a good football team. A long way to go. We've got a lot of work ahead of us. But if we didn't have a good offensive line, I don't know whether we'd get there.
Q. Is there a particular game in the Syracuse series that stands out for you?
Well, we beat them up there (15-14) one year (1969) which was a big win for us. But I think probably the one that would stand out the most, -- you kind of caught me in a way with that one -- would have been, I think it was '55 when they had Jimmy Brown and we had Lenny Moore. Beat them 21 20, I think. And Lenny ran for 145 yards, and Brown ran for about 150.
And in those days they were only carrying about 12, 14 times, and still two of the best football players to have played the game. He (Lenny) may be one of the best players to ever play at Penn State.
That one, and we were undefeated when they won the national championship. That would have been 1959. We went for two and didn't make it or we would have beaten them (SU won, 20-18). They were a heck of a football team.
In 1959, we had a really good football team. That was (Richie) Lucas and Galen (Hall) was the back up quarterback on that team. The tight end, we had (Roger) Kochman who was the first guy picked in the league. But that was a big time game, big time game.
Q. You said before you wanted your defense to get a little more reactive. What do you do in practice to improve on that, create more turnovers?
You just repeat things and try to get them more comfortable. Let them anticipate some things. Teach them, "hey, we're going to get this kind of a split from the wideout. You're going to get this kind of a pass. Watch the backs."
You know, just try to make them more aware of what's going on. All they need is a step. They (could have) gotten three, four interceptions on Saturday...we were that close. We've just got to get them to where they can play faster, smarter and repeat, repeat, repeat. Expose them to things. Send them over some tapes to look at, so they can study the other guy's mannerisms, watch the quarterback. You know, "he gives you this, and throws there," that kind of stuff.
Q. Can you talk about the Penn State Syracuse relationship, and how it's sort of evolved over the years? Like you said, sort of ended on a little bit of a bitter note, can you sort of assess where it's at now, you think?
Well, I don't know. We have a home and home with them. But that's the only two games we're playing right now. I wish it were more. I came to Penn State back in 1950. It was a big rivalry for us, Syracuse and Penn State. Had some great games then.
I think we played every year until we, you know, what we talked about earlier. When we had a shot at the Big Ten because we couldn't get the other one going in it. There are some great people both at Syracuse and at Penn State.
You know, in the old days it was nice, too. Because we used to go by bus, and we used to stay downtown at the Onondaga Hotel. The Syracuse people would have a party, a social hour. The assistant coaches, we'd all go over there after we tucked the kids in bed. Hang around with some of the guys like Ted Dailey, who was a line coach. Ben Schwartzwalder was a West Virginia graduate. He coached at Muhlenberg before he went to Syracuse.
Schwartzwalder said one time, "I wish we didn't play this game. All I want to do is get that (Rip) Engle out there in the middle of the field and I'll knock the heck out of him." They supposedly hated each other.
Rip retired, Ben retired. They went to coaches convention. Reggie, that was Ben's wife, Sonny, are inseparable. They've knocked heads, but it was all over, they were great buddies. And I think I've always felt pretty good about Syracuse that way.
Q. It's been about 20 years since you've been there, but playing in the dome was never easy. How tough is it to play in that place?
Well, you know, we played in the Alamo Bowl, we played in the dome. We've played in domes before. It will be noisy.
There are some factors you don't have to worry about. Wind isn't a factor. You don't have to worry about the weather. They were kidding me today. I said, "you know, I haven't been up there in 15 years." And one of the assistant coaches said, "15? It's been 20 since you've been up there. You don't remember it, but you chewed out Shopie (Tim Shope, former equipment manager) one day for wetting the balls when we were going into the dome."
On Thursday night, when we're playing (that week), we get a bunch of balls and we have the centers and have the quarterback work with a wet ball for a while just in case it does rain on on us. And Shopie's over there getting the balls wet. And I said, "God darn it, Shopie, we're playing indoors (laughing). We don't have to do that."
Q. The linebackers showed a lot of improvement in the second week. How are they progressing? What do you think of the linebackers?
I think they got better. They've got a ways to go, though. (Tyrell) Sales and (Josh) Hull had a better game than they did the first game. The two other guys outside, (Bani) Gbadyu and (Navorro) Bowman are getting better. They should get better. They're good athletes and they're working hard at it.
But it's a long way to go. We haven't had any adversity yet. You never know what kind of a football player you've got until he's getting his ears pinned back. You don't know what kind of a football team you've got until you're behind. Everything's been easy for us. It really has been.
Q. You said you think you probably practice the least of any team in the country. What do you feel are the advantages of that?
Got to have good legs on Saturday. The kids get hurt when they get tired most of the time. They get sloppy, get careless. Don't have good technique. They start to lose their technique.
Well, that's not true 100 percent. But I hate to...you've got to get them better, and do the things I talked about. You've got to put them in some tough situations, but you don't want to leave the game on the practice field, simple as that.
Q. How do you feel about moving Tony Davis back to the cornerback spot? Is Navorro Bowman maybe ready to challenge Bani Gbadyu at the outside linebacker spot?
Yeah, they're both playing. I think Bowman probably played 30 plays. And Gbadyu played I don't know how many. I think he had it 68 or 70 times. I don't think it was exactly 50 50. But, Bowman played quite a bit. Who was the other guy?
Q. Tony Davis?
Well, that's his natural position, corner. We played him inside last year because we were short a guy inside. But that is his best place.
Q. Could you assess the play of Dan Lawlor, so far?
I'm glad you asked that. He's one of those guys nobody even knows he's doing anything, but he's played well. He really has. He's been solid. He's blocked well. Now we don't give him the ball. I think we have two plays for him. But we're going to have to give him the ball a little bit. Dan's a good, solid football player right now, and he's played very well. He's all business. He keeps his mouth shut out there. I like Danny. I think he's a good player.
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