Joe Paterno Press Conference
Sept. 25, 2007
On behalf of the people who cover Penn State football, I'd like to offer condolences to you and your family on the passing of your mother-in-law (Alma Pohland).
Thank you, she was quite a woman. We'll miss her. Thank you. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Are you satisfied with the performance of the offense to this point?
Well, I think you'd like to have had about six more points Saturday, yeah. But I think overall, about what I thought we'd be. Maybe (being) a little bit more careful with the football. Coughed it up a couple times and it hurt us. But I think overall pretty good.
Sure, you can always want to be better. Let me answer it yeah, I'm satisfied. I think we'll get better and we'll do better, but I think considering some of the injuries we've had on the offensive line, everything else, I think we've done well.
What specifically were you impressions of Anthony's (Morelli's) performance on Saturday? Do you think he needs to play a little better this Saturday to keep his job?
Oh, boy, how long is this press conference?
I think Anthony did well enough. I think the one big mistake he made, obviously, was when he fumbled the ball in our territory. But I think overall he did a solid job. Again, maybe at the end of the game, we didn't have much time left, we were trying to get that ball up the field in a hurry, he had to run around for his life. Other than that, I think he did a good job.
Matt Hahn was saying earlier today Austin Scott was working a lot on ball-security drills in practice. Have you made any decisions on whether Rodney Kinlaw will start this week, or are you going to stick with Austin Scott?
No, I think we'll just play the game out this week and see what happens. I think Scott's been trying -- he's been very conscientious about wanting to overcome the fact that's he's put the ball on the ground a couple of times. I hate to give up on him. He's been a good kid; he's worked hard. He's been patient. I think he deserves every chance we can give him to prove that he belongs in there.
So we'll play it out this week.
Anthony Morelli was not made available on the list of player teleconferences this week. Was that your call? If so, what was your thinking?
It wasn't my call, but if somebody had asked me I would have said, "Why?" I don't think it's necessary for Morelli to be on every week. He was on last week, wasn't he? Nobody asked me. But if somebody had said, "What do you think?" I would have said, "Give him a week off." Let him get a chance to think about his books and think about the football game coming up, because it's a big game for us.
You said after the Michigan game that you wanted to see how the players responded in practice on Monday. What did you see from your guys yesterday in their attitudes?
I wish I could answer that. We had the funeral for my mother-in-law yesterday and I didn't get back here (before the start of practice). The coaches ran most of the practice. We didn't do much. I only saw about 35 minutes of practice. We practiced about an hour and five minutes, but I only saw the last 30, 35 minutes.
It's hard for me to tell you. I didn't even met meet with them. I met with them quickly after practice was over on the field and said, "Hey, we'll talk tomorrow." I'm going to meet with them this afternoon before we go to practice and I'll have a little better feel then.
Going back to the running backs, are there specific drills they work on in practice to sort of alleviate the fumbling issues?
Sure you do. You do them every day. Drills of just about all the fundamentals are done -- offensive linemen, pass protection, whether you're a defensive back playing jump balls, all those kinds of things: Quarterbacks, footwork, and then running backs, footwork as well as ball-carrying drills.
So, yeah, we do it.
Even though maybe you weren't around the team as much yesterday as usual, did you get any kind of sense of the leadership that you need to kind of get your team back on track? Do you have any kind of sense of how the leaders have stepped up at all, maybe anything you expect from those guys?
I think it's got to come with me first. I was very, very fond of my mother-in-law. She had been a big part of our family. So it was a very emotional weekend for me. To be frank with you, probably just as well I wasn't around them yesterday.
I think it will all come from how I respond to it and the coaching staff does because when you lose a game like that, you can only point the finger at one person: you've got to point it at the head coach. There were plays could have been made there, decisions could have been made, so forth, even in preparation for the game.
People like to be critical of this coach, this assistant coach, that assistant coach. None of those things go on without my okay. I mean, it isn't as if I'm standing out there... So I think it has to start with me. I have to be able to get across to the kids, "Hey, we're going to get better," and we are going to get better. I'm going to get better. The staff's going to get better. You guys are going to get better. I think that's how you approach it.
Where we are right now, as far as leadership on the team, I think that's up to me to try to make sure that there are some people who I think have the ability to be leaders and who want to do the things they way they ought to be done, have an opportunity to be leaders.
With the loss to Michigan, there's a growing chorus of Penn State fans who claim that Penn State should never have joined the Big Ten in the first place. How do you react to that?
I can't react to that. You say the chorus. How many are in the chorus? Sopranos, baritones, what? I can't respond to that.
We're in the Big Ten, all right? It's a good conference. It's been good for the university academically, as well as for all our sports. We have to compete. We have competed. We just haven't dominated as some people want us to do.
Patience has always been a word that has been pretty important at Penn State. Sometimes it takes players two or three years before they get significant playing time. By the same token, for all the people that are saying, "We've got to sit down Austin Scott or whomever," does it send the wrong message if you or the coaching staff gets after a player after one bad game or two bad games?
You ask questions that are so specific. Particularly when you start naming individuals, it's very difficult for me to give you an honest answer.
Everything's different. I mean, what may be appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in another situation. So I can't overreact. I've got to think it through. I've got to make sure I give everybody an opportunity to have some part of the decision in those things.
Patience? Yeah, I think you have to have patience. But I think what you're hinting at is, can you have too much patience? Sure, you can have too much patience. Whether that's a relevant situation in this case, I don't know. I really don't. I'm not going to jump at it right now.
I think Austin Scott deserves an opportunity, or whomever you may be hearing from that chorus, all right, and I've got to just sit down and make sure we do what we think is the best thing for the youngster and for the team.
Your 2005 team was in a similar situation as this, following a tough loss to Michigan and a trip to Champaign. Do you plan to talk to them at all about that, what they can learn from the way that '05 squad handled things that year?
You have to be careful there again. This is the 2007 team. This is not the 2005 team. There are different people involved in what's going to happen. I think we'll point out to them the fact that the season's not over and that we have an opportunity with eight games left, seven Big Ten games, to still have a very, very fine season, but it's going to take some doing. Some of us have got to step to the front, including the head coach.
What problems does Illinois' offense present to you, given they run the option?
I think Illinois' offense is a very explosive one. They've got some very talented kids. They've had two quarterbacks, one is banged up a little bit, but both of them run and throw. They've got a couple good tailbacks...Got good wideouts.
I think it's a very, very explosive offense, and I think we'll have to make some adjustments. We can't go away from our basic package because you don't have that kind of time to keep changing up that much.
We'll obviously have to be aware of the option and play it as well as we can without getting away from our basic structure.
Are you a little disappointed you didn't try to throw the ball down the field against Michigan on Saturday, and is that something we might see going forward with the offense?
Some people said to me, "Why didn't you throw it more?" We threw the ball 50 percent of the time. I think we threw it 30, 31 times. I think we had 61, 62 total offensive plays. I don't think that was our problem.
Our problem was more the fact the field position was so bad that you had to be careful. I think we started once in Michigan's territory, at the 35-yard line. We started seven or eight times from our 20 or inside our 20 out of the 10 or 12 times we had it.
I think the fact we couldn't get the ball back from them was the biggest problem we had. They had the ball 82, 83, 84 plays. (We) kick the ball to the three yard line, we don't keep them down there. When we turned the ball over, we turned it over obviously at inopportune times.
Michigan had one penalty; we had three. Unfortunately two of ours came in very, very difficult situations for us: when we were in the red zone.
I don't know. Again, I have not looked at a lot of tapes because of the situation we had in our family. But I tried to look at them early this morning, and I don't feel as if there's much I would do differently. I really don't. I just think they played a heck of a game. Both teams did a great job kicking. (They were) maybe a little better in the kicking game because of the fact that they get the one kickoff return that took them above the 30.
You have to give the other guy credit. Michigan played well. Played smart. Well-coached. We couldn't make anything happen. When we had a chance to make things happen, we blew it. As I said, the two penalties obviously hurt us and the fact we fumbled the ball on the eight-yard line hurt us, both sides.
I don't want to all of a sudden say, "We're going to change, we're going to do this," because I'm not sure it's necessary.
Other than the injury issue, is there anything about the offensive line that isn't developing the way you would like it to?
There again, I think they're getting better. Obviously, we've got some kids that we had not planned on playing who have to play. We lost three or four kids that at one time we thought might be first stringers. I think we've just got to keep plugging away, get a little better, work at it.
Can you evaluate the job that Ron Zook has done at Illinois, the improvement you've seen in them the last couple years?
Ron is a good coach. Kind of got a bad deal at Florida. Been a good recruiter. He's a very, very enthusiastic guy. Everywhere he's been, he's been successful.
Illinois has gotten better and better and better. Right now they're playing very, very well. This will be a tough ballgame.
You come out of a game like that, do you feel like you're giving your playmakers enough chances to make plays, that you're taking as much advantage?
Well, there's two ways to look at that. I didn't come out of the game with anything but the fact that we did what we thought we could get done because they played awfully soft in there. They were very alert to the wideouts.
They really challenged us to run the football, and we tried to. We didn't do as well as I thought we could with running the football. That was my decision. That was mine to make, not anybody else's. Maybe if I had to do it over again, I might change it a little bit.
I wouldn't second guess myself on that.
If Tony is healthy Tony is a first stringer. He didn't practice much last week. He wasn't really ready to go a lot, so we used Rubin quite a bit. Rubin is a good football player. I think we'll see how it goes this week in practice. Again, we didn't do anything yesterday in the way of any kind of contact or anything like that. I wasn't around him enough for me to answer that question the way it ought to be answered.
Not really, no.
You mentioned you thought Morelli played well. Are there one or two things that you can specify; areas you thought he did well in?
Well, we had long drives to make. I could tell you the couple things that he didn't do well. Obviously he fumbled the ball. He missed a kid that was wide open. But, nobody's perfect. I think Morelli was fine.
You mentioned you and the coaching staff having to get better, too. Where do you think you need to get better?
Well, I think right now the kids are looking around to see what's going to happen. I just think we've got to make sure that we don't get off track, we don't lose confidence in them, because I think it's going to be a good football team.
You guys kept asking me last week, "How good is this team?" I kept saying, "I don't know." You were all giving me the business. I think we'll find out a lot this week. I think the coaches, it will be a challenge for us. I said a couple years ago, "If I can keep my coaching staff together, don't worry, we'll be okay."
I think I have a great coaching staff. I really do. I think it's as good as anybody has. Sometimes I may stick my two cents in there and screw them up a little bit. I think that's the part that I've got to be careful of. I've got to let them run it a little bit. When I say "run," let them do some things that I may not quite agree with.
But I think we'll stick together and go to work.
How do you think Lydell Sargeant played against Michigan? How do you feel about the way he's played this year?
I think Lydell has done well. There again, for me to tell you how well he played, I just haven't looked at enough tapes. I mean, I debated even coming to the press conference. But if you don't come after you lose, you get, "He doesn't show up..."
But Lydell has been steady, solid. I think he's played well.
You mentioned a couple times last season that you weren't able to do some things you wanted offensively because of the inexperience of the offensive line. Do you feel that's holding you back at all this year?
I don't think we've been that bad offensively. That's the problem I can't quite figure out. We scored a lot of points until this football game. A lot of this football game was the fact of the field position. You've got to give Michigan credit. Michigan did a good job. Their kicking game was great.
As I said, they didn't turn the ball over to us except the one time. That was in our territory. Then they punted, took it out. They had the ball the whole time. The offense didn't have the ball enough for us to really kind of get into a groove. They were struggling, going uphill all the time.
I honestly feel we're not bad.
When do you expect John Shaw will be back?
I don't know. That's a medical question. He hasn't practiced, done anything in two weeks.
For so many years you've talked about defense and the kicking game. It seems a lot of these games you're struggling on offense. Do you find it's hard to change that? Is that still the way you are?
I disagree with you on it. That's all. I think last year at times we were an awfully good offensive football team. In 2005, we were a fine offensive football team. Other years, if I go back to '94, we probably still have the record for average yardage per game in the Big Ten. We were over 500 yards a game.
No, I don't think that. I think you start out with if you can't play defense and your kicking game isn't solid, then you don't really have a chance. But when you go to the offensive side of the football, you've got to evaluate the other guy, what he's doing, hang on to the football. Morelli didn't throw an interception in 30, 31 passes.
We've got to get better. I'm not arguing we don't have to be better. Yeah, we've got to get better. But I don't think that's got anything to do with it.
With regard to the running game, earlier you mentioned, this week you're going to play it out and see how it goes. Does that mean Austin Scott is going to be the starter against Illinois?
I answered that question earlier, didn't I? I'm not making up my mind until we practice this week.
At the risk of beating a dead horse with the offense thing, in some of the games against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, you've not been able to get the ball in the end zone. Is there a common theme throughout those games, or is it just individual games where you're struggling?
Well, they haven't been able to get it in (either). You're in a tight, tough football game with two teams playing well...people don't really dominate it offensively. The games you're talking about, outside of the fact that we threw two interceptions against Ohio State a year ago, they didn't score. They scored what? (14 points)Michigan got, what, 17 points against us a year ago? Was a fine football team. Played real good defense, the whole bit.
Who else did you mention? Wisconsin didn't get a lot of points against us.
I think when you're in a tough football game, they're playing well, they're alert and so forth, you've got to be careful you don't give it to them. Sometimes when you're playing against a good defensive team, as what happened to us with Ohio State...when we had to get back into it, we threw two interceptions for touchdowns. That's how they got their points. Other than that, they only got one touchdown, I think.
I think we're playing against some people that play the game the way I think most guys would like to play it. You're tough on defense. You don't make any mistakes in the kicking game. When you get some opportunities, you take advantage of them. But don't give the other guy that many opportunities. That's what has happened to us.
Can you talk about the Illinois linebacker J Leman, what you've seen from him defensively?
You'd have to give me his number.
They were a tough defensive team last year. They're better this year. Their scheme is good. Zook and his staff have done a good job with what they've had. They don't give up big plays. Indiana had one, maybe. They play solid, all right? And I'm sure the linebackers have a lot to do with that. They play with three linebackers and a safety up around the football at times.
I really couldn't tell you specifically.
Your young defensive linemen hung tough against Michigan. How beneficial was it to have them go through a game like that this early on in their development?
I think the whole game was good (for the team). I think the game was a good thing for the whole football team, and maybe in particularly the down linemen. I think you pointed it out. I think your conclusion, leading me into saying how important it was. Yeah, it really is.
The fact they were able to go in there, stay in there, play tough for the whole football game, and the fact we were able to play a lot of them. We alternated them. I think we alternated maybe eight kids. Some of them, like (Aaron) Maybin, is a redshirt freshman. A couple of those other kids are true sophomores. I think they did well.
We were solid defensively. As I said, we couldn't force a couple of turnovers. But the other guy is playing it close to the vest on offense. They weren't taking any chances. They scored on a quarterback scramble. The big play of the game was third and 16. We let him scramble out of there, throw the ball. We had a little bit more time to go in there and do some things. One play here, one play there.
Can you evaluate how you thought Galen (Hall) and Jay (Paterno) did with the play calling?
I thought they did really well.
How much input do you have (in the play calling)?
I have a lot of input on the tempo of the game. If the game is going a little differently than I want, I'll yell up to Galen and say, "Hey, don't forget this, don't forget that. The guys, they're walking into a certain coverage" and so forth. I do more harm than I do good, so... If I left them alone, they'd probably be a lot better off.
What has been your impressions up to this point of Evan Royster as far as his work ethic?
Royster is going to be a good football player. It's hard to get him in there when Scott has played. Scott has played well in some big games. (Rodney) Kinlaw is starting to feel his oats. Kinlaw has a lot of possibilities. It's tough to get him (Royster) in there.
But his day will come. He's still only a freshman eligibility-wise.
You mentioned in big games that you can't give the defense an opportunity to make big plays when you're on offense. If you keep fumbling the ball with the conservative game plan, is there a point where you just say, either way...
We fumbled the ball twice. The quarterback fumbled it once when he was scrambling on a passing play, okay? Scott fumbled the ball on the eight yard line. It was very close as to whether it was a fumble or not.
I'm not going to argue whether he was down, not down, what have you. Two fumbles. All right?
When you make statements like that, "When you keep fumbling the ball, you're going to do this, do that," it's hard for me to answer them intelligently.
You also said Morelli threw no interceptions.
I thought that was a positive. We threw the ball 31 times. My only point was made, somebody asked me about whether we should have thrown the ball more. We threw the ball 50 percent of the time. That's all I can say.
I don't want to throw it more than that, all right? I don't want to throw it more than that if I can help it because I don't think that's the way we're going to get to be a better football team; we're going to be a really dominant football team.
That's the only reason I mentioned 31 passes. And outside of the fumble, he was careful with the ball. He even threw the ball away a couple of times and avoided the sack, made some improvement in that area.
Should we have thrown more short hitches and things like that outside? Yeah, you can second-guess yourself, all right? But it depends on what the other guy's going to let you throw, too.
You go up against Illinois a lot in recruiting. What type of impact do you think Ron's Zook's recruiting is going to have on the conference?
We don't go up against them a lot. Ron has done a good job - he did a really good job down in the Washington, D.C. area. There was a kid down there that was a real big time player, that a lot of people wanted. We were never really in it with them. We don't really go up against him a lot.
Maybe a kid from New Jersey or someplace like that, that they have an interest in that we're not sure we have one or not. Ron, he was down in Florida. Ron is a very, very aggressive recruiter and a good one. He's a very aggressive coach and a good one.