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Joe Paterno Press Conference

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Sept. 23, 2008

Q. Is your team playing the way you had anticipated going into the Big Ten portion of your schedule?

You never know what to expect. I don't, really. I was just hoping we could play well enough to win a couple of games. I thought we had the potential to be a decent football team.

We've been fortunate. We've played some people that haven't played really well against us, so I'm still reluctant to get too excited. But I hoped we could win all four of them, if that's what you're driving at. Yes, I had hoped we could win all four of them.

Q. Are Koroma and Evans practicing, and is there any chance they could play Saturday?

Well, we'll see. They took practiced yesterday. I'm not so sure what I'm going to do the rest of the week.

Q. On the situation of the Big Ten, many people have been looking at it as a more wide open now than when the season began with some of the things that have transpired. Where do you look at your team's position as you start off the Big Ten schedule?

We have a tough football team to play this week. I think Illinois is a good, solid football team. It's the first Big Ten game we're going to play. I think you play it one by one.

I haven't had a chance to really spend a lot of time looking at anybody else in the league. But, obviously, I've paid a little bit more attention to Illinois because of the fact that we're playing them first.

I know you fellas have to put something in perspective every week. I don't have to. I've just got to put one thing in perspective, and that is the team we're going to play, and I try to do that.

I can tell you, I think Illinois is a good, solid football team. They beat us last year and played really well. They have some wonderful personnel. Their quarterback (Juice Williams) is an outstanding player. They've got a couple of skilled people that are excellent. They play solid defense and have a good, solid kicking game. That's what I'm looking at. We've got to play well.

 

 

Q. How much do you think Illinois' quarterback has progressed in the last three years? I think Williams played very, very well against us last year. He's obviously better this year. He's been a little bit more consistent. I think they've depended on him a little bit more this year than last year. They don't have that other back, (Rashard) Mendenhall, that was with them last year.

So, I think that they're depending more and more on the quarterback. And I he's doing a really good job for them. He's a big kid. He runs well. I think he's made good progress.

Q. Do you know what happened with the (kickoff) coverage last week, and how are you addressing the kickoff coverage this week?

I wasn't pleased with the kickoff coverage. But, again, I had gone into the game trying to tell people I thought they had a good kickoff return guy who had been very successful before.

They have a lot of confidence in their kickoff return game. We didn't do a good job but that's really probably not fair to Temple and the kid (Travis Shelton) who ran the ball back. You have to give them some credit for doing a good job.

But we've talked about it. We're going to work hard on it this week and try to do a little better job, if we can. Because last year we went down the field the first time we had our hands on the ball. Kicked off to them, and they ran right down our throats for a touchdown on the kickoff. So we're aware of the fact that we've had some problems there.

Q: Why is the conference such a grind week in and week out? After 15 years of being in the conference do you feel you've acclimated yourself to that grind?

Well, I think we are playing good football teams every week, whether you call it a grind or a challenge. I'm not sure which way you handle it. We, obviously, had a chance last year to do really well against everybody in the league except Ohio State, which was the one team that we just weren't good enough that particular day.

But, I think most anybody in a good conference probably faces the same problems. Last year we didn't have any open dates. This year we have one open date. The other conferences all have a little different scenario as to how their season goes. So they do have open dates. Some will finish up until the first week of December.

The Big Ten, last year, we went right through. This year everybody's got a week off. In fact, Illinois had a week off last week to get ready for us. And I think when we play Wisconsin, they have a week off before. So there are some teams that can get a break in what you call the grind.

But it's a good, competitive league, and I you've got to be ready to play it. Whether we all of a sudden got used to it or not that's hard for me to say.

In 1994, when we were in the second or third or fourth year in it, we won them all. So I don't think it's that. I think it's your football team. I think it's a combination of that and the way you play the home and away schedule. Our away schedule is pretty tough this year. So, it's a combination of a lot of little things.

But if you're good, you're good. You handle it. If you're not good enough, you're not good enough. You don't handle it.

Q: lllinois is coming off a bye week this week. I was just wondering if that would be an advantage for them?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by that. If I had my preference, I'd rather have a bye week. But it doesn't always turn out to be an advantage. We've had bye weeks and didn't play well the week after the bye week. So if we get licked, it's because they're a better football team or they do a better job than we do. I don't think it will be because it's an off week.

Now if they have some people banged up that wouldn't be able to play, and because of the week off they can play, that might be helpful to them. I'm not threatened very much about that, really.

Q. What's the status of Mike Lucian and Mickey Shuler for this week's game?

I think they'll both be okay. Neither one of them did much yesterday, but I think they're going to do more today. I'm hopeful we'll have both those kids ready to play Saturday.

Q. Navorro Bowman and Aaron Maybin are two kids who look like they're really coming on fast to us because they make a lot of spectacular plays. Are you seeing, when you look at the film and see the total picture of every down they're out there, are they coming on? Are they getting better as fast as it appears to us that they are?

They are both good. They make some mistakes, obviously. You wouldn't see the bad things. You see the good things. But I think they both played well (vs. Temple). They're getting better each week. They're both good athletes, and they like to play and they hustle. They have a chance to be really good.

But they've got to get into situations with people that know a little bit more about them and pay more attention to them. Maybe the teams we've played so far haven't done that. But I thought both of them played well Saturday.

Q. Al Golden mentioned last week that when Andrew Quarless is in the lineup, it adds another dimension to the offense. I was wondering if you agree with that?

I don't want to take anything away from Mickey Shuler, because young Shuler, he and Quarless are very close. Shuler might be a little better blocker, and maybe Quarless is a step faster. But they're both good tight ends.

Our problem is, there again, you've only got one football and you're trying to get it to a lot of guys.

I keep talking to Galen (Hall) and Jay (Paterno) saying, "let's get the ball to the tight end more." But, if you do that, you take away from this or that.

So, we've got a good balanced group of people who can go get the football and can hurt you with the pass. There again, it depends on what people want to let you do and whether somebody's having a good day or a bad day. I think Quarless is a good football player. I think Shuler is, too. Both of them are good tight ends.

Q. How is your leg feeling and do you plan to be on the sideline on Saturday?

I hope to be. I could have gone down in the second half on Saturday if I wanted to. But I figured we've got a lot of football ahead of us, and maybe I will take it easier upstairs. I intend to be on the sideline.

Q. About Juice Williams again, can you talk about the types of challenges that a mobile quarterback places on your defense? What is the best way to contain a quarterback like that?

There's no best way. I think it isn't as if you can just gang up on one aspect of the game, whether it's their option game or their sprint out pass game or whatever. I think you've got to be balanced. If there's a tendency, as your game goes on, hopefully you can pick that up and take something away they might want to use in a key situation. But it's a game of chess.

He's good. He can beat you running. If you play the pass and if you don't play the run, he can beat you throwing the football. They have a good screen game. We didn't do a very good job against the screen against Temple.

So, they are going to move the football. And we're not going to contain them. They're going to move the football. They were beaten by Missouri and I think Missouri scored 48 points to beat them. They're going to score points.

Q. How serious is the injury to Doug Klopacz?

Klopacz is gone for the year. He's got the same thing that Hayes has. He's out for the year. He's got an ACL. It's an added a problem for us in the sense that we had counted on Klopacz being number two (center). But we've been practicing (Stefen) Wisniewski at center all year. So if we got in a jam, and (Mike) Lucian's okay, and we can move him back to offense, and Lucian can be the back up guard on the inside, and Wisniewski can be the back up center. We'd have to make some kind of combination.

But all those kids play center. (Rich) Ohrnberger practices at center. Lucian practices at center. Wisniewski practices at center. Then we have a red shirt freshman, a kid by the name of (Quinn) Barham, who has been practicing there. So we have people, but none of them would be as good as Shipley would be at center.

Q. You said after the game on Saturday that the Koroma and Evans situation wasn't in your hands anymore. What changed that allowed them to come back? Is Judicial Affairs going to make a decision soon?

I think they'd have practiced last week if I had let them.

Q. Did Judicial Affairs make a decision or what changed to allow them to go back to practice?

I'm not going to comment on that. If you want to, call Judicial Affairs.

Q. You've mentioned several times that you don't know how good a team is until it overcomes some adversity. In 1994 against Illinois, you were down 21 0 and that team ended up coming back and going undefeated. How did that team overcome the adversity that day?

Great leadership. Obviously, we had some great football players. There were reasons we were down 21 0, and we had some bad luck at the hotel. The power had gone out in the hotel and so forth. So we were down. We had a lot of poise. Kids made a couple of plays. We got back in the football game. We ran a fake reverse pass just before the half that tied up the ballgame.

But the big thing about that football game was we were still down with 5, 6 minutes to go, and we had the ball. We had to score a touchdown, and we had the ball on our own 5 yard line, with 5 or 6 minutes to go. And they sucked it up. Took the football down. (Kyle) Brady made a great catch.

We went down the field, and we did things under pressure. And that's what I mean about adversity. You get in a game with somebody who's got to do something. Even in 2005, people forget we're 4th and 19 when (Michael) Robinson hits the kid (Isaac Smolko) over the middle, the tight end from Ohio...4th and 19. We went down there and won that game. From there on we were a pretty good football team.

Those are the kind of things. If you're going to have a good year and you're going to have the kind of football team that you can say, "that's a heck of a football team." Like Bo Schembechler said after the 1994 Illinois game. He said, "I didn't know how good they were until now. They're a great team."

Q. You have had 11 fumbles in the last three games. How much of a concern is that and how do you address that in the middle of a season?

It's a tremendous concern. You don't address it just in the middle of the season. We address it every day. We have ball-carrying drills and take away drills. It worries me. It really does. I don't think it's good putting the ball on the ground that many times.

We talk about it, we practice it. As I said, we set up drills where the kid carrying the football has to protect it with one or two guys trying to pull it out, that kind of thing. But I don't know what else to do.

Q. Can you talk about trying to get ready for 8:00 p.m. games considering you're playing in three again this year? What's different about that? What do you do? What do you tell your guys because they're waiting all day to play?

I'm not worried. I'm just worried about keeping myself awake until 12:00 o'clock at night by the time it's over. You know, you adapt. Sometimes we forget when you're young it's a little different. There are games on during the day. They're watching football games in the day. We go out to Toftrees when we're home, and we can keep people away from them. They can sit around and watch the game together or they can take a walk if the weather's decent. It's similar when we're on the road. But you'd prefer to play earlier.

When we're home I think playing at 8:00 o'clock is good for us. The crowd's more into it. And I think there's a lot of excitement around it. So I don't think that's going to be a disadvantage to us. Maybe when we're on the road I'll feel differently. I don't know. But playing at home I don't think it's a big problem.

Q. What kind of shape are Koroma and Evans in given they haven't practiced in two or three weeks?

Next question. I'm not going to get into that with those guys. Simple as that.

Q. Is A.J. Wallace's hamstring still bothering him?

No, there was a little bit of a misunderstanding I think there. I said he wasn't in there in the second half. I called down to Tom Bradley. I said, "Tom, get Wallace in there." He said, "his hamstring's bothering him." I looked down there and he's in on a couple of the return teams. I think he's okay. I really do. He practiced yesterday and he looked okay.

Last week he not only had his hamstring bothering him a little bit, he had a day he was sick. He had eaten some food that created some stomach problems. So he didn't practice one day last week, and that may have had some bearing on his efforts to play on Saturday. But he played the first half, and I thought he was going to play the second half.

I talked to him this morning about it, and he said it was a little sore..

Q. Devon Still has said that he expects to be back for Michigan or a little later than that. Have you ruled out that possibility?

No, I think he can still come back. That would be great because he's already given up one year. But that's a guess. I don't think our doctors could tell you yes or no, and obviously, I can't. But I'm hoping he will be back.

Q. I am looking for a little history lesson here. New Beaver Field. What do you remember about it? Before you moved over here, do you have fond memories of that place? And if you do, can you share some?

I've told this story a thousand times. I know you get bored hearing my old war stories. But it (Beaver Field) used to be right across the street from the Rec Hall. The baseball field was right across the street. The whole athletic layout was right there.

We used to go over and have a pre-game meal at the Nittany Lion Inn and walk over to the stadium. In fact, when I first came here we used to dress the freshmen in what was the old water tower. You know that water tower? That used to be their dressing room, but we'd go over there.

It was kind of nice. It was more of a small college kind of stadium. That kind of a feeling, for wont of a better word.

But Coach (Rip) Engle came in one day and said we're going to move the stadium. And I said, "What do you mean?" Talking to the whole staff, he said Dr. Walker, President Walker, said we're going to move the stadium. And I said, "you're going to move the stadium?"

Most of the time I shoot my mouth off right away. But I wanted to think about it. After the meeting was over I walked over to him, and I said, "you know, Coach, that would be a big mistake. You're going to destroy Penn State football." (laughter) That's how smart I was. That was 75,000 seats ago.

I can still remember when we were going to be playing West Virginia, and then we had to play Syracuse in 1959. And the West Virginia coaches were scouting us.

In those days, it wasn't as it is today where you don't scout. You're not allowed to go scout someone. There would be a couple of guys that would scout you all year. So you'd see them maybe Friday night you'd have a couple of beers with them and that kind of thing. When you were on the road, the same thing.

So Whitey I can't think of his last name right now he was scouting us and so forth. So we were talking before the game underneath the stands. We were talking and I said, "what are you guys going to do against Syracuse?" Syracuse was killing people. We were about to play them in two weeks.

He said, "we made up our mind we're just going to take the ball and shove it right down their mouth." The score was 28 0 at halftime (laughter).

Every once in a while, a guy says, "shove it right down their mouth," I bring up the West Virginia story. But it was a fun place. It was good for us at that time. I think Dr. Walker had more foresight than any of us. He moved the place, and I think it all turned out for the better.

Q. You're 1 7 in your past eight Big Ten openers. Can you pinpoint any reason for that? And what are some of the troubles moving from non conference to conference play?

I haven't got the slightest idea. I really don't. Are we 1 7 opening the Big Ten (schedule the past eight years)? I don't know. I just don't know.

Q. Does the routine differ much this week? You have a routine that's probably set. They're fresh from a bye, do you alter that? And then you have to go from 8:00 o'clock and turn around and travel. How much of the whole picture do you just play it week to week?

Well, I think you've got to play it week to week. Obviously, a lot will depend on how we play this week. If things go well and the routine during the day works out pretty well, then you don't change as much.

If things don't work out well and as you look at it you say, "well, one of the reasons we didn't do as well as maybe we could have was because of this." Maybe it's the routine, maybe it's the schedule, maybe we didn't pay attention to this early enough or something like that.

You try to analyze it, but right now I couldn't tell you. Right now, I wouldn't know. We're just going to play this one. It's a home game, and I can't worry about what they're going to do on their off week. There is nothing I can do about that. I can only do something about us.

I'm going to try to make sure that we're prepared as well as we can be prepared. We're not over-practicing. We don't overreact to the fact that they have a week off. We're going to do a lot of different things. And we're going to try to play this game as if they didn't have a week off. Then we'll go from there. I think you have to play it almost week by week.

Q. What's been the key to the offensive success converting third downs?

Well, I think people, obviously. I think the quarterbacks have done a good job. I think the play calling has been good. And we've got some people who can make some big plays.

Q. Do you think that the way they've been able to convert, especially a lot of 3rd and longs, does that show that they might be a team that could overcome some adversity later on?

Well, it's helpful. I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to do those things. But that's not the way you asked the question. You want me to make a declaration of some kind, which I can't. I hope you're right. I don't know. I haven't got the slightest idea whether you're right or you're wrong.

I can't be wishful thinking. Hopefully we can continue to make third down plays. Obviously, that would be very beneficial to us as far as the success we want to have the rest of the year.

But whether we can or we can't, obviously, has got a lot to do with the opposition and what we've done previously. They're going to look at what we've done and how we've done it...try to take that away from us and are we flexible enough that we can do it with something else and overcome the fact that they've adjusted to what we have done? I don't know if that makes any sense, but that's basically where we are.

Q. Jordan Norwood leads the team in catches. A lot of those have been over the middle. (Brett) Brackett had the touchdown over the middle Saturday and the tight ends got involved. Was there more emphasis placed on throwing the ball over the middle this year? (Anthony) Morelli didn't seem to do that a lot in the last couple of years.

I'm going to have to look at the stats on that. I'm not sure you're accurate about Morelli throwing it over the middle, that part of it.

You take what they give you, or at least you try to take what they give you. You've got three good wideouts. Most everybody worries about (Deon) Butler and (Derrick) Williams on the outside. So I think it would make it easier for us to get the ball in the hole with them.

Q. How do you and Coach Buggs determine who goes from what spot on the kickoff coverage team? And have you had a chance to look at the film of the Temple game and see maybe what went wrong on a couple of those returns?

Sure we did. We had one guy who got collapsed one time; double-teamed him out of it. And the other guy went a little too wide, and the kid did a good job finding the hole and getting up into it.

As I said earlier, I think you've got to give Temple credit. Temple scored and they did a good job. That still is not all of it. That's not the only reason they did well.

We didn't cover quite as well. A lot of those kids hadn't had that kind of pressure on them before. There's a lot of young kids on the kickoff team. Several freshmen.

You'd like to get them in the football game, plus the fact that you don't want to get some of the older guys too tired.

We're addressing it. They'll learn. I think we'll be better. We'd better be better, because this Illinois kid (Arrelious Benn) can return kicks.

@PennStateFball

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