Joe Paterno Press Conference
Sept. 18, 2007
Now that you've had a chance to look at the tapes, can you assess your team's progress going into the Big Ten season?
It's tough to tell. We haven't been under a lot of duress. I've always said you never know how good a football team you have until they have to do some things when they're under a lot of pressure.
I think we're still in the stage of finding out how good are we. But, obviously we've made progress. I certainly don't feel bad about where we are, but we still have a lot to do.
Could you evaluate Justin King's performance against Buffalo and his match up with some of Michigan's wideouts, Manningham?
Well, it's not just Manningham...(Adrian) Arrington and the other kid, (Mike) Massey. They have good wideouts obviously. I think Justin did a good job. He's a little careless. He doesn't finish some things off.
I think it will be interesting to see how he does against a couple of guys as good as the Michigan wideouts, but I think he'll hold his own.
Lloyd Carr said that Chad Henne may come back this week. How do you prepare for two quarterbacks, especially with the kid, Ryan Mallett, who has made one start and is 250 pounds?
I don't think you do that. I think you've got to realize what kind of a football team Michigan has. Mike Hart, the wideouts we just talked about, a very, very fine offensive line, are the things that you worry about. Henne at quarterback, has experience and everything else and has played well against us, and is a good quarterback.
Now, whether he's not playing or the other kid's going to play, I think you got to be careful about that. For all I know, they could put Hart as quarterback. Put him in an empty backfield, shotgun, like everybody else is in the country is doing these days. All of a sudden you have a whole different ballgame on your hands.
You just have to prepare for most anything that the other guy might be able to do with the kind of personnel he has. Michigan has a lot of options because they have some really great people at key spots: tailback, offensive line, wideouts. Whichever quarterback plays, he has an awful lot of assets to go with him.
After the last game, there were questions about Austin Scott staying as a starter. He's still listed as No. 1 on the depth chart. Is this one of those situations where regardless of who is listed first, both guys are going to play each week?
I thought that would've been the first question...They're both going to play. I think they're both good, solid tailbacks. I just thought it would be a good idea to sit Austin down a little bit because he gets a little careless with the football.
I think it was important to make a point, that no matter how good a back you may be you still have to hang on to the football. I think we're seeing one of those guys, Mike Hart, who is one of the best backs we have played in a long time. He never puts the ball on the ground. I think he's carried the ball 400 times, 500 times, I don't know, and had a couple fumbles.
I think that's something that's got to be a goal of every good tailback: That he hangs on to the football. But Scott's a good back and so is Kinlaw. I think both of them will play.
A couple players said this morning they thought the key to this game was stopping Mike Hart. Do you feel the same way?
Yeah, no question about it. If Hart can run for 200 yards we're going to be in for a long day, and he's capable of doing more than that. He could have run for 300 yards against Notre Dame if they wanted him to do it.
I think that's a key. But, again, you can't underestimate how well they can throw the football down the field. Those wideouts are tough. I mean, they're really tough. As I said, with the offensive line, they're tough to get to. Tough to get to the quarterback, make him throw it in a hurry because they're solid, and their scheme is good.
I think we've got to stop Hart, but we can't stop Hart at any cost because still we'll be looking down field when they're throwing the post and throwing the fade, all the little kinds of things they do very well.
Going into another season of conference play, how do you feel about the way the Penn State/Michigan game has developed as far as being a rivalry?
I think, as is most of the Big Ten games that you play when they're close and they're competitive, it's a rivalry, yeah. I think we've had some great football games with them. Some we've won, and obviously we've lost some.
The last two times we've gone to Michigan we've had two great football games. Lost a game on the last play of the game both times. We had pretty good football teams. So did Michigan.
So I think that builds up. We recruit against each other. The fact is the last couple years they've had some really fine Pennsylvania players, Chad Henne obviously would be one of them. A Western Pennsylvania kid, (Steve) Breaston, ran a kickoff at the end of the game two years ago to put them in position to make the drive.
Yeah, I think it's a good rivalry. We're not adjacent states, but we're close. I think it's a good rivalry. I think we've got a couple pretty good rivalries in this conference.
Could you talk about how important Knowledge Timmons has become in special teams? Was he injured at all in the game? People didn't see him after the beginning out there.
No, he wasn't injured. I don't know whether there was an opportunity for him to play as much on the specialty teams he was on, but he's doing a good job.
Knowledge is going to be a really good football player. Knowledge is his own worst enemy at times because he's a guy that's very emotional. As he's getting older and more mature, he's getting better. He is a good athlete. He's a very, very good athlete. He's a tough kid. Just got to be able to play every play the way you're supposed to play.
Most of the times he does. But he's a very emotional kid. He's enthusiastic. You gotta love him. When I say some of these things, I think sometimes people think it's necessarily derogatory. It isn't. It's just an analysis of the kid. I think he's someday going to be a heck of a football player.
A lot has been made of the losing streak to Michigan, now at eight. When the players are asked a question, obviously they can't go back that far. You obviously have been there for all eight. Is there something about Michigan that just makes Penn State tighten up?
Well, the first time I coached against Fielding Yost (1901-23, '25-26), it was tough (laughter).
Every year's a little different one. We've had some good luck and bad luck. No, Michigan's a good, solid football team. Playing at Michigan is a lot of fun. It's a great crowd, and I think you ought to enjoy it. I don't look at it the way maybe some other people do.
As I said, the last two times we went down there, we played about as well as we could play. A lot of things went into the fact that we didn't win the games, and that's mostly the fact that Michigan played a little better than we did. But we played well.
So I don't look at it that way. I'm glad to hear the kids say they don't remember.
I know you've been a little nicked up at right guard. What is the situation there? Does Stefen Wisniewski look like he'll be a factor for the rest of the season?
John Shaw is hurt. His knee is in fact, we probably shouldn't have played him a couple weeks ago when we were playing him. He's hobbling a little bit on that knee. We had to bite the bullet and just say, Hey, we're not he didn't practice the last couple days last week. I doubt if John Shaw will play this week. Now, this is only Tuesday. Yesterday we didn't work him. We'll see what happens.
I think Wisniewski is a good prospect. He's still only a true freshman. You wish you had somebody that had a little bit more experience, particularly against a team that does as many things as Michigan does on defense, and a team that most people have had trouble running the ball against.
We didn't run the ball very well against them last year. Obviously, Oregon, you've got to be awfully careful about that Oregon-Michigan score, because Oregon is an extremely good football team. I mean, they've got all the tools to be really good. And I think the Appalachian game was just a little bit of a fluke. I don't think they were quite ready for that.
So I hope we don't have to use Wisniewski a lot, but right now it looks like we will.
There seems to be a notion out there fueled by the national media that this is a down year for the Big Ten. Do you buy into any of that at all?
Oh, gee, I don't know whether it's down. I mean, somebody's got to tell me what's down and what's up, what's mediocrity, what's great. You got Ohio State in there, a great win (at Washington). Wisconsin is a heck of a football team. Michigan got off to a bad start. Iowa got licked by an Iowa State team that a lot of people thought going into the year was a top 20 football team.
I just don't know. Michigan State beat a Pitt team that's getting better all the time. I don't know whether we're down, up, what. I think you won't know till we play a while. All I can tell you is the teams that I'm looking at Michigan, and Michigan's a heck of a football team even though they're 1 2.
As I started to say, they literally manhandled Notre Dame. Appalachian, I think they just didn't understand how good they were. Oregon's a top notch football team. Their quarterback's a heck of a player at Oregon, as well as some of the other kids they have.
I don't know. Maybe we're down. Maybe we're up. Maybe we're in the middle. That's why you guys get paid to make those perfect predictions.
A couple guys on Saturday talked about maybe a lack of intensity or focus during the Buffalo game. Are you pleased with what you've seen out of the team in both areas of practice so far this week?
I don't know about that. The kids would know better than I would. I know I got on them one practice. I thought we were horsing around a little bit. Cut it short, chewed them out a little bit.
Buffalo's a little better than people think. Their quarterback's a good football player. I mean, they beat Temple as badly as they did. Temple goes up, plays Connecticut, which should be a good football team. I mean, most of the guys on my stuff would tell you they think Buffalo is going to win seven, eight games in the MAC this year.
Maybe the kids would know better than I would if they weren't focused. But I didn't sense that except one day. We had a little prayer meeting. I thought after that we practiced well. I thought we went into the game with a little bit of enthusiasm.
You got to give the other guy credit. They did a good job against us early.
I was wondering if you saw Jordan Norwood's touchdown catch on the film and what your thoughts about that were, how important a part of the offense he's becoming with the reliable hands he has?
Norwood has been a big part of the offense for two years. That was not the first time he's been in a football game where he made a big catch. I couldn't tell you for sure he caught it, didn't catch it. It was close. I don't think there's any question.
But I think he did catch it. I'm just a little bit prejudiced, all right (laughter)? It was a great effort no matter how you twist it. It was a superior effort. I think Jordan is the kind of the guy that goes around in his own way, does what he's supposed to do, and when he has an opportunity he makes the most of it. He's done that for a couple of years. He's a very, very smart football player. He's aware of a lot of things.
Quarterbacks like to throw the ball to him because he doesn't run in the coverage. He knows how to create some space. When he gets into a zone he can recognize a zone, and he doesn't go too far inside or too far outside. He stays where he belongs.
He's a good kid to have to throw the football to. He's a good wideout. If he were two inches taller, maybe a step faster, he'd be sensational.
I thought Rubin played well. He's in a position, I think the best position for him. He's a tall, lanky kid who has had to learn how to play a little bit faster than he's used to playing. Hasn't played a lot of defense. He was on the other side of the football. But I thought he did well.
Davis practiced (Monday). The doctors think he'll be okay Saturday. They don't want us to have him do much hitting because of the shoulder, but I think we'll be okay there.
Do you do anything special this week to get your guys, especially the younger players, ready for their first road game?
Not really...we're not going to do anything special. I think the older guys will handle that, the guys that have been on the road, understand what you got to do. I'll talk to them about the routine and all those kind of things. Once you blow the whistle, what are you going to do? There's 11 guys over there...we've got 11 guys. You play.
Maybe the crowd might be a problem. If we didn't have an experienced quarterback I would be a little bit concerned. But both (Anthony) Morelli and (Daryll) Clark have played enough football. They've been on the road. So I think we're okay. I don't think that's going to be a problem for us. It's just a question of whether we're good enough.
At the beginning of the year you'd expressed some concerns about leadership on this team. Do you feel any better about that aspect, especially going into a game of this magnitude?
Yeah, I feel better. Slowly, as we've played, certain people have come to the front. Kids like Golden, who was elected captain, and obviously (Dan) Connor and (Sean) Lee have always been the kind of guys that are leaders. But I think we're coming.
Morelli is starting to be a guy that on the sidelines has a little fire. He's got a little more confidence in himself. I think the offensive line is starting to get we have Shaw to keep everybody together. (Mike) Lucian did a pretty good job at the right guard spot. I think we're really starting to get to where we feel pretty good about ourselves.
How good are we? That's what we got to find out. But I think we're starting to get it. We're not there where I'd like to be all the time. I won't feel comfortable until we get in a tough game. All of a sudden we got to make some plays. A couple guys get in the huddle and say, Let's get it done. Then I'll tell you we got real leadership.
Up to now, I think we've been improving, improving, improving, and we're getting to the point where we're on the verge of maybe being a pretty good football team.
Is it tough to get a read on Michigan?
No, I don't think it's tough to get a good read on them. I think the Appalachian game, if they don't have that field goal blocked, they kick the field goal, they win the game, all right? I don't follow Appalachian State, but after that, everybody was aware of the quality of their coaching, and a couple of their players.
Oregon, as I said earlier, when you look at Oregon and Michigan, Oregon just did some things. The quarterback was hot, had a great day. They go out and they beat Fresno State big. Oregon beat Fresno State big, and Fresno State went into triple overtime with Texas A&M, which is 3 0.
So, I think the hardest part for everybody is to evaluate the team as it plays. They've got pre season polls, some magazines, you got some papers, the TV guys get on and they're all, "Yeah, so and so this and so and so that. They got this guy, they got that guy."
I've really felt that Michigan is a good football team, I really have. I looked at the Appalachian game, obviously looked at the Oregon game, and I've looked at the Notre Dame game. They're tough. They're a good football team. Good kicking game. That punter is probably as good a punter as there is in the country. Good return game.
They've got some big play guys. They've got some guys that make big plays when they have to make them. Against Oregon, they got so far behind, they had to scramble a little bit.
I think we're playing a heck of a good football team. What else can I tell you?
Koroma is still not ready to go. Eliades practiced last week and could have gone.
Has Rodney Kinlaw improved his patience as a runner?
I think Rodney is getting better. I think both he and Scott are pretty good backs right now, I really do.
If the game comes down to it, do you feel Morelli, if he has to throw a whole bunch and for a lot of yards, is he at a stage in his development where you can win a game like that?
Well, I think he's going to have to. Yeah, I think Morelli is a pretty darn good quarterback. I don't know if people expect from him. The times Morelli has gotten into trouble is when we've broken down in our pass protection, period. Most of the time he's been pretty good. He doesn't complete every pass he throws, but I think overall he's been a good quarterback.
He's played against some tough teams. We lost four games last year. Haven't lost one yet this year. I'm not worried about Morelli. Morelli is the least of my worries.
Talk about the hurdle, the challenge that Michigan has become. You really haven't had any opponent that has beaten you as many times as they have. Talk about what opportunity there is.
I haven't looked at it that way, really. As I said, we've played some really good games against them. It came down to the last play of the ballgame, some of which we could dispute, some other factors besides just the players.
No, I think that's the way it goes. I mean, I've been in it long enough to realize there are times things just don't go your way for a while. You have to have a little patience. In fact, I was talking to some people when they were trying to get on Lloyd Carr. I told a couple of guys, I said, "Sometimes you're here (hand raised) and then you go here (hand lowered), all right?
If you don't panic, you'll get back up there ((hand raised), all right? If you panic, start to try a lot of different things, you listen to the media, you try to accommodate critics, you're going to stay here (hand lowered). You stick with what you know.
That's the way I feel about it with certain games. We've played games that you played well enough to win, but you didn't. A break here, a break there, didn't do it. I don't look at it quite the way you guys are looking at it.
This is the first Michigan game that you've played since Bp Schembechler died. What was his legacy and how did he improve Michigan football and help the Big Ten?
I never coached against Bo. I can tell a story about Bo calling me up after we were in (invited to join) the Big Ten. He said, "You sneaky little son of a..."
I said, "What are you talking about, Bo? He said, "you sneaked in there and the athletic directors and coaches never had a vote because it was all presidents."
I said, "Bo, nobody sneaked in. " He started screaming and ranting. I started screaming and ranting at him. I liked Bo. Bo is the kind of guy you had to like. You know where he's coming from, no hypocritical statements. He never pontificated, said some things. I always had a lot of fun with him.
I never coached against him. I think you have to figure that he and Woody Hayes, at a stage of the Big Ten, probably dominated a lot of things. I've said this before, you guys get tired of hearing me say it, I think when Joe Tiller came into the league with a little different type of offense, that people say he can't do that here. I never forget the quote Joe Tiller made when they said about throwing the football. He said, "Don't you think it snows in Wyoming?"
I think then it started to change. This league's got a lot of great young coaches. The kid at Wisconsin (Bret Bielema). Ron Zook is going to make Illinois really good. Kirk Ferentz...I could go down the list.
I think Bo and Woody dominated the thing for a while. I think right now there's so many darn good young coaches. I think the league's got a little different personality than it did when maybe Bo and Woody were running the show. I'm not sure, because I wasn't in the league when they were running it.
With all the threats you have at receiver, tight end, how much of a challenge has it become, from a game planning perspective, to make sure everyone stays involved or gets their touches in the passing game?
Well, if you're going to have a good football team, you can't go out there with the idea somebody has to catch the ball five, six, seven times. You got to go out to win it. And what they give you, you take. The guys, when they have an opportunity to make a play, they got to make the play.
I've tried to preach that all the years I've coached. That's what we're trying to do right now. If you think we can go out there and say, Okay, we got to get you the ball six times, we got to get you the ball seven times, you're in the wrong program.
We're out there to win the game. Whatever you can do to help us win it, which means if you're a wideout, you better be blocking your butt off on every play even though you may not get two passes.
We've got a great young receiver, a kid like (Chris) Bell. I don't think he caught a pass last week, did he? I wouldn't know whether he caught one or not. And he's a heck of a player. Just turned out Norwood got a couple, (Deon) Butler got a couple. Golden got one catch, a touchdown, but he was ready to take advantage of it.
So I just think you've got to be a team. You got to make your contribution to the football team. If you don't want to do that then you're in the wrong league. You're at least in the wrong program.
You mentioned Clark earlier. With the problems Michigan has had with mobile quarterbacks this season, is there any plan for potentially any place for him to try to take advantage of his mobility?
Michigan had a little problem with the mobile quarterback at Oregon, but that wasn't their big problem. Their problem was they spread them out so much, they couldn't do some things they like to do defensively because the kid could throw the ball.
No, we're going to play our game. We're going out to Ann Arbor and find out just how good are we. We're going to play them our game. I'm sure Lloyd will be in the same way with his guys. They're going to play their game and let's see what happens.