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Sept. 14, 2010
Joe, what have you learned about your team so far?
COACH PATERNO: I've been nervous about how young they are and where the leadership would come from. And it really... we played the first half down in Alabama just about the way I was afraid we'd play it. Very tentative; we weren't aggressive. I think we'll find out more about the football team this week and from here on in. There was a great crowd. (at Alabama) And it's a real tribute to the Alabama fans. I think they were great sports. They cheered like the dickens for their football team, which should be. But they were not abusive. And I think our kids kind of got caught up in some things there.
And I think they have to grow up. Now, where are we? I don't know. I think we have potential. I've felt that from day one. But we've got to start putting some things together and some kids have got to come up and make some plays. And then I'll have a little bit of a feel. We didn't make many plays Saturday.
Could you talk about Robert Bolden and Kevin Newsome and what you've seen the past two weeks, and is your starting quarterback position still open, in your mind?
COACH PATERNO: No, it's not still open. He's our quarterback. I think for a kid who wasn't even here for spring practice, to go in there and do what he's done, he's done well. He had a couple of interceptions Saturday. But two of them he was hit just as he was letting the ball go. Do a little better job of protecting them, maybe a little better job of selecting a couple of things. You've got to adapt to what people can do. We may have asked him to do too much down there in Alabama, I don't know. But I think he's done well. He had a good practice yesterday, and I think overall there's no need for us to start; to think about changing.
What is the extent of Gerald Hodges' injury and how long do you expect him to be out?
COACH PATERNO: How long he'll be out, I don't know. But he's got a broken (bone)... I imagine, I don't know, I'm not a medical guy, but it's going to be a while. It will be a while. Whether it's four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, I couldn't tell you. But he's got a slight break there (lower left fibula). And he's going to be out for a while.
What's your sense why the defensive tackling has been an issue through the first two games?
COACH PATERNO: I think that's because we have some tentative people who are getting in good position but they're not quite sure they're in the right position. They're not very aggressive going after some people and the tackling. We've tried to emphasize the fact you can't stand around and let the other guy make the move all the time. You've got to go after them and establish something before they could get too much steam up. But that takes a little experience. Even though some of those kids have been around a little bit, they run around and play an awful lot. But I think the observation that we haven't tackled well is accurate.
And, I think, we've got to improve the tackling. And we've got to improve our ball reaction. We haven't had an interception in two games, a turnover in two games. It makes it pretty tough to win against anybody, particularly against a club as good as Alabama is. The kid at Youngstown (State) who was 21 for 27 without an interception. So, we've got a ways to go in those kinds of things, when you play two games without a take away, without a turnover. You've got to start getting to be a little bit more aggressive and got to get some people that go after things. And that's a big job we have ahead of us.
I was wondering if you could evaluate the performance of Evan Royster so far and are you satisfied, content with the production, the effort there?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think the effort's fine. I don't know whether we've really established the kind of running game that Royster would do well in. Royster is a kind of a "pick 'em and spot 'em, give me a crack and I'll go" guy. He's not a guy that's going to run over you.
He doesn't have great speed; has good speed. But he's got good instincts. He obviously catches the ball well when we use him as a receiver. We haven't used him yet as a receiver. But I think he's doing all right.
I think it's the whole mix that we've not been able to sustain any type of... we did, I think, the first game. We did what we had to do. We didn't want to do too much against Alabama and recovered from the shock of being down so far. We started to play a decent football game and I think Royster did a little better the second half than he did the first half. But I think we're okay. We've just got to take a good look at where we like, and tackling is one of them, ball reaction, things I've already mentioned are principally a little more consistency with the offensive line. But they're all doable. They're all doable. But we've got a lot of work ahead of us.
You mentioned the offensive line. What is your evaluation of them through two games? And what will it take to kind of tighten that unit up and make the running game go a little better?
COACH PATERNO: I think they did a better job this past Saturday, because Alabama's a good defensive team. They run at the ball well and played with good speed. And with a young quarterback, as we have, they're experienced enough as a coaching staff and so forth to realize there's a lot of limit to what we can do with them.
And so it makes it just a little bit tougher for us we certainly haven't fooled anybody. And so the offensive line has a little tougher job than maybe what ordinarily they would have if we had a couple of other things we were doing. But we're not in a position yet to where we can do some things. Playing with a freshman at tight end. (Garry Gilliam), and a kid at left tackle (Quinn Barham). That's the first time he's played much football offensively.
So we've got some kids that have got to grow up. So, I think the offensive line made progress against a pretty good not a pretty good, a good defensive football team. So just got to as I keep saying, we've got to keep working, got to get better.
Did you notice, were the holes there that the offensive line was making for Royster, did he maybe miss a few opportunities?
COACH PATERNO: I don't think there were any big holes no, I think he did all right. I think we've got to start... let me put it this way: We have too many people that are analyzing everything and sometimes they don't know what they're talking about. And in your particular case right now, I don't want to be rude, but I don't think you're being fair.
Graham Zug hasn't caught a pass yet. Coincidence or is there anything going on there that's discernible?
COACH PATERNO: I thought you said Dr. Graham. I was wondering who the devil that was. No, I think, there's nothing there really. He had a chance. He dropped the one pass which would have been a big play for us, we threw the ball to him. We've got good receivers.
We eventually are going to have a good passing attack as soon as we do a couple different things that the young quarterback or the young quarterbacks, the group, can handle.
And we need to do a little better job pass protecting. All those things have to come together. And then Zug is not a great speed (receiver), but a good receiver, had a good year last year and will get better. I think the whole football team has got to get better as we go along. But one thing will help the other. One group gets a little better, it will help the next group to get a little better and so forth until we're finally going to be a pretty good football team. Right now we're struggling, obviously and Zug is struggling with us.
Kent State has played pretty well defensively this season, especially against the run. Anything that they did that concerns you for the passing game?
COACH PATERNO: I think Kent State is a good, solid football team. BC is a good team. And BC had troubles with them, a lot of troubles with them. They hustle. They have a terrific kicking game, place kicker and punter. Punter averaged almost 50 yards in the ball game.
They do a lot of things well. Young quarterback, but he's got a lot of poise. Defensively, I think they're good. There's one kid that really plays well. They've got a linebacker that plays well and a down guy that can play anywhere.
So I think it will be a good again, with anybody, we're going to have to play better than we have so far in the ball game. But we're home and we've got some advantages in that sense. But we've got I keep saying we've just got to get better. And we're going to have to get better this week in order to be able to handle Kent State.
You've often talked about the difference between injuries and bruises and just being nicked up. Stephon Morris was on a little bit earlier and he said he hurt his foot near the end of the first half that he didn't tell anybody because he wanted to stay in the game. What is his physical status for this game? And also did he make a mistake by not letting your medical staff know that he had hurt his foot?
COACH PATERNO: Oh, I don't know. To go on and say we made a mistake because we played somebody who was bumped up a little bit, no. I think Morris came out to practice yesterday, tried to do a couple of things. But there's no break (in the foot). They've x rayed it and the whole bit. He's got some pain there. We're hopeful that he'll practice today. When he got hurt on Saturday, the first I heard about it was Sunday. And I think the medical people, that's the first day they had heard about it was on Sunday, because all of our kids who play in the game have to come in Sunday morning and see the trainers and the doctors, just to check up and make sure we're not missing (injuries for) anybody.
What are you seeing so far from Silas Redd? Is he pushing Evan Royster for more playing time?
COACH PATERNO: I think Silas will be a good back. I think he's done well when we've played him. We've not asked him to do too much. But Royster, the minute we can get a little bit more running room for Royster and the kid behind him, (Stepfon) Green, they're both good backs. And Redd would be the third behind those two. I think he's got potential. But he certainly is not as ready to play as those first two kids I mentioned.
How do you think Nick Sukay has played through the first two games, especially with some of the issues you addressed earlier with ball reaction and tackling?
COACH PATERNO: I thought Sukay played well. He must have had five, six tackles early in the game. Our problem is tackles after six, seven, eight yard gains. We're not being aggressive enough around the football. And again you've got to give Alabama credit. That kid's a good back (Trent Richardson). We knew that going in. The other kid (Mark Ingram) won the Heisman trophy. I bet if you talked to the coaching staff they'd tell you this kid is every bit as good and they gave him some running room and he ran tough and they played with a lot more enthusiasm than we played defense. And Sukay saved a couple really long plays. I think he's done all right. But there, again, we've got to start doing a little better job in pass defense. We can't... we've got to start making a couple of plays where we get the ball back.
You mentioned Gilliam. You haven't been able to get the ball to the tight end much. Is that just a factor of young guys at quarterback and tight end, or is it part of just not being experienced?
COACH PATERNO: (Andrew) Szczerba got hurt. Szczerba has still not practiced one play (this season). We counted on him. We knew we were going to be a little shallow there. Because the other kid behind Gilliam is also a freshman (Kevin Haplea). But he's been here (since January)... he's a redshirt kid.
So I keep coming back to it. It's something you guys are going to get tired of hearing and I get tired of talking about it. We're a young football team. It's going to take a while to get to be, play with a little more confidence, a little bit more verve and the whole bit. And the kids that are playing are going to be pretty good. Gilliam is going to be a pretty good end and the kid behind him is going to be a good end.
But we hadn't expected them to have to carry the load. We expected Szczerba to be our tight end. And as I said, he's not even he's not practiced one play.
You said you'd have a better idea who your leaders were once you lost a game or went through. Who has stepped up as the a leader, as a vocal leader?
COACH PATERNO: I don't know if we've got anybody who has grabbed a couple of guys I think (Brett) Brackett is - (Stefen) Wisniewski is starting to come around a little more and I think (Ollie) Ogbu is really trying hard to be a leader. But when you get a lot of guys that are just not quite sure about some things and they like that little, that all out attitude it takes a while to get some.
I think the experience down in Alabama will be good for them. You hate like the dickens to take a licking like that and say you learn from it. But you do take a bunch of kids, take a kid like Bolden last year he was playing high school football and plays in that stadium and it was wild and great, and it was the kind of thing you would think. But still he's carrying a big load.
And there's a whole mess of those kids like that that have never really played in those kinds of situations. And the other team was that team's had a lot of success. The defending national champions and the whole bit, playing at home, lot of enthusiasm... big, big hype about the whole thing.
So I think overall we weren't as bad as I thought we were, as many I'm sure after the ball game weren't a happy warrior, and I wasn't until we practiced yesterday. I thought yesterday we came out there with a bunch of kids that want to get better. And we've got to get better. It's as simple as that.
We can do all the talking we want to talk about. But, individually some kids have got to get better. We've got to get team unity. We've got to get better, do a better job coaching, we've all got to do better.
You were playing a lot of different guys on defense (at Alabama). Are you still searching for the right combination? Are there some positions that are kind of up for grabs at this point?
COACH PATERNO: Well, the reason we played a lot, in fact I talked to Larry Johnson about that. We even talked this morning about how many plays Devon Still played 50 some plays and nobody else played much more than high 40 plays. But the humidity was tough.
I mean, it was particularly the big guys. And in particular, the pace of Alabama. They really had a fast pace. And some of the kids just plain got tired. I think we're in pretty good shape. So we played a lot of kids. And we have some down people. I thought our down people played, defensively played a pretty good game. I thought our linebacking wasn't very good. We didn't tackle well enough.
But there's no reason the reason we didn't play the reason we played as many down guys as we have is we got some back up guys and we wanted to keep them fresh and it was hot.
It was not as hot as I thought it was going to be, but the humidity was tough. A lot of them came out of there, a couple of kids had cramps. They didn't show it until we got them on the sideline and had a chance to get some fluids in them and the whole bit.
Both left guards we saw (in the game) on Saturday. What have you seen from both of them so far? And is that still a spot that you're undecided with?
COACH PATERNO: They're fighting it out. But right now (Johnnie) Troutman is a little bit ahead.
And why do you say that he's ahead of (DeOn'tae) Pannell? What has he shown more of to you? What has he done to separate himself?
COACH PATERNO: He's playing better.
COACH PATERNO: He's playing better. You want me to give you a clinic? Got a blackboard here? I'll show you, for crying out loud. No, it's as simple as that.
First two opponents are completing 76 percent of their passes against you, 37 of 49. Are you disappointed with the pressure you guys have ... didn't seem like you were getting much pressure on the quarterback?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think I started out saying a lot of the problems are the fact we haven't had an interception and we haven't had a turnover. I think there's a combination of those things. I don't think we're aggressive enough in the secondary and reacting to the ball because we're nervous about getting licked, maybe, because there's a lot of those kids that may not be enough pressure up front, I don't know.
I doubt that. I think the down guys really made a strong effort. And it was the first game was a little different than the second game. Have to be very careful with this quarterback, the Alabama quarterback, because as many of you had probably seen in the Texas game, he's a tough scrambler. He's a tough guy to pin down. We didn't do quite as many things you like to do because of the skill of the quarterback.
And obviously the rest of their offense, their offensive line is pretty good. So I don't know. Yeah, sure. You don't get an interception in two games, I don't care, you don't get a turnover, yeah, I started out telling you I was concerned about that.
Yesterday in practice, did the tackling intensity increase at all from what you saw in Alabama?
COACH PATERNO: Yesterday was Monday. You can't kill them five days in a row. I mean, a lot of kids are bumped, bruised, sore, we don't put the full pads on them on Monday. So sometimes it's not intensity. Sometimes it's just the confidence. Sometimes you get in there and you get let somebody's reputation influence the way you handle it. And that kid (Trent Richardson) got hot. Broke a couple of tackles early. And then I think we got a couple of guys panic a little bit. But I'm not sure about that. I just know we didn't... the end result was we didn't do a good job.
Looks like you've changed your punt formation for this year. How is that going to help punt coverage and all of that?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think we've got a chance to get a little better coverage. We've used that spread punt years ago. And then we got out of it when Floyd Little ran three back for touchdowns up at Syracuse, before you guys were born. I can still see him running by Joe Bellas right in front of us. So we're back to the three deep guys and the spread and the lineup up front.
But I think for our personnel, it's helped. Because we have a lot of younger guys, smaller guys, who can run. And they're up on the line of scrimmage. And we'll see if it works out. So far so good on that. Coverage is good. Potentially, (Anthony) Fera will be an outstanding punter. He's a little bit erratic right now. But I think once he gets a little bit more confidence in himself, and he can concentrate a little bit more, we'll be pretty good there. I think obviously the fact that we've got one blocked (vs. Iowa, 2009), the fact we had two games last year that the punting game hurt us, we had to take a good look at that and we decided we could change.
You guys lost Hodges at the beginning of the game. How did that impact what you guys were trying to do with the linebackers and do we see more Khairi Fortt this week in his spot?
COACH PATERNO: No, I think I made it clear that the trouble with the linebacking might be that they're not quite confident enough that they can attack people. And I want to make sure they get everything in place and you can't do that with some good backs. So I think that's just a question of playing a lot of them.
(Michael) Mauti hasn't played that much, played a lot. (Nate) Stupar has got a lot of ability but every once in a while he just drifts a little bit. I'm not saying he's not a great athlete but he's a tough kid and he hustles all the time. (Bani) Gbadyu has played pretty well.
I think we've just got to get on. I can only say it so many times. We've got to get better. We didn't tackle well, period. And some of it is technique. Some of it is a question that they're a little bit hesitant. Some of it was maybe they were out of position.
They had to play 60 I think they had 60 running plays or 60 plays from scrimmage; Alabama (did). And they did a good job. We did a much better job offensively than I realized. We only really were twice we were first down and out. We moved the ball pretty good. We gave up that big fumble, dropped a pass here or there.
Devon Smith has obviously good speed. What else does he give you on offense? What do you like about him?
COACH PATERNO: He can catch the ball. He's a wideout. No, Devon is a good tough kid. He's a good competitor.
Alabama won the national title last year. They were No. 1 this year. You get to play them. When you play a team like that, does that give you an opportunity to evaluate where your program is from a personnel standpoint, what it would take to get to that level to compete for a national championship?
COACH PATERNO: Well, to a degree. That's not the only thing that comes in to your evaluation. You can get licked and you can get licked. Depends on how then you've got to look at the individual kids. There's a lot that goes into it. But, certainly, how they played away from home and before that crowd against a team with that much talent, you've got to take all of those things into consideration when you evaluate where you can go.
And I think I've made it quite clear. I think we can be a pretty good football team, but we've got a ways to go. I mean, I don't know how many ways I can say it.