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Oct. 6, 2009
University Park, Pa. - -
Q. Do you feel that the running game has turned the corner after its performance Saturday at Illinois?
Well, I never feel one game makes it...you know, it's obviously better than not having done as well as we did. I think we're making progress. I would hope we're making some progress. It's a young offensive line. I thought we're more precise. We finished off more blocking, more blocks. Plus, the fact that Illinois was concerned about our passing game. What, the second, third play of the game, (Derek) Moye hangs onto that football and it's six points. I think that we had a more balanced offense, and we had some kids with a little more confidence in what they're doing. So the combination gave us better results. Now, whether we can follow up with that, I would expect this week we'll get more from Eastern Illinois in the way of blitzes, such as the in Temple game and some other people we played, Syracuse, where they're not going to give us a chance to run as much and force us into doing some other things. If we can handle that, then that's a different story. But I think you've got to do it more than once.
Q. Bobby Bowden has come under fire at Florida State in the past couple days. It appears he might not be able to go out on his own terms. Do you have any reaction to what's going on down there?
I don't know what's going on, so it would be foolish of me to discuss it.
Q. Your defensive ends, Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore, they played well against Illinois. Are they coming along to where you want them to be?
Well, I think the defense played a good solid game Saturday against Illinois. I think your observation about Crawford and Latimore are right. I think both those kids have a chance to be really outstanding defensive ends. There's some things they don't do as well as they will when they play a little bit more. But I think overall the defense did well....makeshift linebackers. A couple of those kids played two positions at linebacker. We played a little bit more nickel defense than we've played because of the linebackers' physical situation. Yeah, I think that overall, defensively, I thought we did well. We made one mistake on the deep pass which should not have happened, but it happened. We've got things to correct. Hopefully this week we'll have a good week at practice and get a little better.
Q. This is your Big Ten bye week essentially. Would you rather be having this week off and no game or playing a game against an opponent like Eastern Illinois?
Well, I don't know what you mean by an opponent such as Eastern Illinois. I think Eastern Illinois is a good solid football team. You can put all the quotes "A," "AA," "below BCS," "above BCS"... I can't follow all that stuff. I had trouble with the alphabet when I was a kid (laughter). I would obviously prefer an open date if we can have one. I think after you've gone as far as we've gone (pre-season and five games) and you're banged up, and we're banged up, you would like to have an open date. But if we had to keep the 12 games, which all of a sudden was made available that you could have 12 games and we were trying to get as many home games as we could...I mean, we wanted at least seven and we ended up with eight. I would prefer we played the 12th game the week after we play Michigan State. But, our understanding at that time was we were not allowed to play a game after that. But then since then, some other teams in the Big Ten have made arrangements to play games after what had been the final date of the season. So, I would have preferred we had an open date for a lot of reasons, not one of which is the fact that we're playing Eastern Illinois. I think Eastern Illinois is a solid program. They're 4 1. The coach has been there for a long time. They're solid. If you look at the he stats and everything else, you'll see just how steady they've been. The quarterback (Jake Christensen) we played against a couple years ago when he was at Iowa. They have a kid from Michigan that was a running back that is an outstanding running back. They've got a lot of people. When the NCAA passed that rule that you could transfer here we go with the alphabet again - I-A to I-AA and not lose a year, a lot of kids like the kid who was at Pitt and transferred to Delaware and is now a pro quarterback. What's his name? The big, tall kid. (Joe Flacco) Yeah. I mean, in the old days you would've had to sit out a year. (Pat) Devlin, he left here because he could play two years at Delaware. He didn't have to sit out a year. If he wanted to transfer to one the Big Ten schools or other schools, he could not have played two years. So that has given these clubs some good football players. When you get a solid, sound coaching staff, as they have at Eastern Illinois, they're tough. So I get a little bit annoyed with that attitude.
Q. You haven't been able to use as many bodies in your defensive tackle rotation as you have the last few years. Is that as concern at all with (Jared) Odrick and (Ollie) Ogbu maybe getting worn out? Are you okay with that? What are your thoughts?
Well, I'm not sure you're accurate with that observation. But, Odrick is obviously a tough guy to get out of there. Ogbu we took out a couple times (at Illinois). I know Larry took him out a couple of times. (Devon) Still a doing well. We're trying to work in a couple young kids behind Ogbu. We had originally felt that (Brandon) Ware would have been the guy there. Has a big, fat bottom with good feet. We thought he would have been there, but he got hurt and hasn't done anything for three weeks. So, I think we've been all right there. We substituted at the end spots. (Sean) Stanley made a big sack (at Illinois) and he's a true freshman. And Latimore, as you mentioned, and Crawford. I think we're okay there. We're doing fine. I'm still a little concerned about our depth at linebacker because of the injuries. I'm concerned a little bit about our secondary getting a little bit better ball reaction and maybe coming up with another interception or two. But, I think that'll happen if we keep them healthy and they have an opportunity to play more.
Q. Referring to an earlier question, the chairman of the Florida State Board of Trustees yesterday said he wants Bobby Bowden to retire. You said you weren't aware of that. That was the news coming out of there. What's your reaction to that?
I have no reaction because I don't know what's going on. I'm sitting in the office this morning at a meeting, and I said, "Hey, I got to get out of here. I've got make a telephone call. " It was something I had to do about a couple things, recruiting and other things. So I said, "I've got to get out of here, plus I got the press conference." Somebody said, "Well, you better be ready to answer some questions about Bobby Bowden." I said, "What's going on?" He said, "Well, there's some pressure on Bobby." I said, "Well, what I don't know I can't talk about. " So I didn't ask him any questions. I don't know what to tell you.
Q. Jeremy Boone completely changed the field position for your guys twice during the first half when the game was still pretty close on Saturday. Do you think people appreciate how much of a weapon he's become for you guys in the kicking game?
Well, I can't speak for other people. I know we as a coaching staff certainly appreciate it. I think he's been a real strong factor in what success we've had the last year and a half, so I think he's done an excellent job. I think he's a heck of a competitor. He's a great kid in the locker room. He's great on the practice field. I enjoy him. He's very mature. So it's good to see him have so much success. Obviously, it's been a big part of our ability to control the score, because he's given our defense a lot of good field position situations.
Q. You said a couple minutes ago that you have a lot kids that are beat up. Could you just generally update us? Is there anyone we don't know about?
We're not sure (Devon) Smith will be able to go yet. (Nerraw) McCormack is doubtful. He got hurt early in the (Illinois) game, but he gutted it out and played the whole game. That was the first time he started. He had been practicing really well, which that's too bad. (Brent) Carter may not go. (Stephfon) Green has had...he got banged up a little bit in the game. We didn't put him back in there. So he's a little bit of a problem. (Chris) Colasanti, who is backup linebacker, is banged up a little bit. I think most of those guys will play. I don't think McCormack will play. It's doubtful whether Smith will play because of the concussion. They'll test him again today, whatever they do to find out whether he's shaken off the problems you have with a concussion. So we've got a lot of kids with bumps and bruises. (DeOn'tae) Pannell's got an ankle. He practiced yesterday, but he's limping around a little bit. There's probably one or two others that I'm missing. I think they'll all play. But as I said, if we had an open date, we would have had a chance to give those kids a rest. We can't give them a rest.
Q. After watching the film from the game, can you assess the play of your tight ends this last weekend?
I thought they did a good job. I think the tight ends have played well all year. Now, we haven't gotten the ball to them as much as we did Saturday. We had gone into that ballgame against Illinois thinking we were going to have to get the ball to the tight ends for a lot of different reason, a lot of technical reasons. I don't want to get into that. And that's what happened. I think (Andrew) Quarless caught four passes (five) and I think (Mickey) Shuler had a couple catches (three), which is...but we had predetermined that if they were going to do certain things on defense that we expected, that that's what we would like to do. Quarless and Shuler have both done a good job blocking and they've been solid. Just needed an opportunity to catch the ball, and we hadn't been throwing it to them much.
Q. You touched on the Eastern Illinois quarterback, Jake Christensen. When you see him on film, does it look like he did at Iowa? What are some of the problems he may present?
They're a very sound football team. They don't make a lot of mistakes. I think he's about a 65, 68 percent completion kid. I think he's averaging a couple hundred yards a ballgame, and they've been in some close ball games. They got licked for the first time this past weekend against a really good football team. I mean, that's a team that's ranked high in their particular situation, so he's got a lot of poise. They play to win. He doesn't make a lot of dumb mistakes, or does their team. They don't get a lot of stupid penalties. They don't put the ball on the ground very much. So you've got to beat them. They're not going to beat themselves. You've got to beat them, and it starts with the quarterback. Now, not having seen him for a couple years, it's hard for me to say, "Well, he's great in the huddle." With the team he has now, I don't know. It looks as if he's got complete control of that offensive football team. That's what you would get from watching the tapes, regardless of his Iowa background and that.
Q. I think I got on maybe a minute or so late. I'm sure that one of earlier questions about was about Sean Lee. I didn't hear it. What's his status for Saturday? If he could go, might the prudent thing to do since this is a nonconference game be to wait a little bit longer with him?
No, Lee's not going to be ready to go. Wouldn't make any difference who we were playing. I don't feel comfortable with your reference to the fact that it's not a conference game. It's a game. It's an important game and a big game for us. You know, we've only won one in a row.
Q. Did you notice a change in Stephfon Green's running Saturday? Was he a little more decisive when hitting the hole?
I thought he did a really good job. That's all a question of...he's been banged up a little bit in practice and kind of was a little bit careful about some things and had a tendency to think he could outrun everybody. He's a kid with a lot of speed. It's taken a while for him to just settle down and take the crack inside and go from there. I think Galen (Hall), the offensive coordinator...he also works with the running backs. He's coached some of the great running backs that ever played in college football. He had Emmitt Smith at Florida when he was the head coach at Florida and the backfield coach at Florida. Before he became the head coach at Florida, he coached all those great running backs at Oklahoma. So he's got him doing exactly just that. He's doing a better job going up field and taking better advantage of the blocking, a little more patience. So I think he's one of these days going to be a really good back.
Q. There are a lot programs that are playing I-AA schools. Why is Penn State playing a I-AA school? What went into the process of you guys deciding to play a school like that?
Why don't you ask me about all those other teams playing I-AA schools? You want a list of them?
Q. Go ahead.
You got Michigan, Florida, Miami of Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and on and on.
Q. So why is Penn State playing a I-AA?
Because we...all of a sudden we had...I thought I explained that earlier. We had an open date. We had a chance to play 12 games. All right? Which means money so we can support the other 28 sports on this campus. All right? You know, you go around and you try to get somebody that would be appropriate. At one time, I think and you guys can correct me if I'm wrong on this at one time you couldn't count a I-AA, whatever I-AA really is, a I-AA victory as part of your qualifications for a bowl game. Is that right, or no? So, they changed that. We had an opportunity to go out there and find someone really good to play. You know, you've got a couple years to pick out somebody, you got to go out and look around. We were fortunate enough to be able to get a good team like Eastern Illinois with a good football tradition and a fine program. It worked out.
Q. You were able to trade off Arkansas State for Oregon State last year, and that ended up helping you pretty well. Did you consider or was much emphasis placed on trying to trade this game off for another team?
I haven't got the slightest idea.
Q. Who makes those decisions?
Well, I'm sure there were some inquiries made by Tim (Curley) and Fran (Ganter), who handles most of the thing. And if there were an opportunity for us to make some kind of a switch they would have come to me. They didn't come to me. Either they didn't feel it was appropriate or they didn't feel there was anybody available.
Q. You mentioned all the schools that are playing I-AA teams. Is there really a need for a 12th game in college football?
Now you're in a whole different ballgame. Nobody ever asked me about scheduling 12 games. That's strictly, strictly a financial situation that was determined by people in higher places than the head football coach.
Q. Would college football be better served taking that game back?
Don't put me in that...I'm not a prophet. I'm not that smart. You guys are, but I'm not.
Q. One last thing. Do you think your fans should pay the same price for a game like this as they would Ohio State or Iowa?
That's up to them. Stop belaboring the question. I don't know, that's up to them. That's up to them. Is it worth you coming to the game? That's your decision. All right? Don't get me into that, will you for crying out loud? We're playing a good football team, and a bunch of kids are going to get ready for it from Eastern Illinois and from Penn State and go out there and play as hard as they know how to play and go from there. I hope the fans come and see it and enjoy it.
Q. Talk about coaching against Bob Spoo this weekend. What do you know about him and the type of coaching style that he brings?
Well, he's one of those guys that's been around for a long time. Must have been there 15, 18 years, something like that. I don't know him as well as I know some other people. I don't go to meetings with him. In the old days, when I was younger, I used to go to all the AFCA meetings and sit around and shoot the bull with all those guys or go to clinics. So, I don't know him as a friend, but I've seen this is not the first time I've looked at one of his teams. I can't tell you exactly which teams we may have looked at. Or somebody may have sent me a tape and said, "Hey, you should look at something somebody's doing," and maybe give you a good idea. He's really done a good job there.
Q. With all the injuries you've had at linebacker, have you considered moving people from other positions over there just to kind of shore things up?
Yeah, we're trying some kids. We've got the (Mike) Zordich kid and Colasanti. We had talked about red-shirting Colasanti, not playing him, and then we got so banged up we decided we'd better play him.
Q. What was the injury to McCormack?
Ankle problem. He got it early (vs. Illinois) and he stuck it out.
Q. Can you talk about the balancing act between running (Daryll) Clark more, healthy offense, and then protecting him and limiting him from getting hits? It that a conference, non-conference thing?
It's not exactly a...I mean, that's not exactly something that you say, "you're going to do this and you're going to do that." You play it by ear, I guess. That's maybe a cop out. I don't know. But, the (Illinois) game, when we went into the second half, we were still struggling to get control of the game. They were doing some things that lent itself to the quarterback plays, and so we took a shot at it. I wasn't happy. I'm not going be happy if we have to run Clark a lot until the younger kids come along. But I feel better each week, because some of the other kids are getting better each week. I would hope they would. So we're taking a little bit more after chance with Daryll. Obviously, when he gets his hands on the football he knows what to do with it. He's a good runner. But I can't tell you...we don't go into the game, "Well, if the score is this or this is that" or whatever. We don't have that kind of control over it. The other guy has decisions that he can make that can take us out of what we want to do. But things worked out. We had a chance to help ourselves by having Clark run the football, and the big running play he made was a big play for us.
Q. Expanding on that a little bit, Kevin Newsome has six just pass attempts so far this season. Has he gotten enough game experience to this point in the year?
No, I wish we had been able to give him more experience, but he's getting a lot of reps in practice and getting a better feel for some things. He's a little bit like a lot of high school quarterbacks that got away with running...every time they had to do something they ran away from people. He's still only a freshman. Not a redshirt. He started in January, but he's still a true freshman. So, I wish we could have gotten him playing more. I really would have liked to have him in the (Illinois) game more. But, we just haven't I haven't felt comfortable. Two things: I didn't want to put him in there with too much pressure on him and have him not succeed, because that would only set him back. I wanted to put him in situations and give him things that I felt comfortable (with), that Jay felt comfortable (with), he could do as indicated by the way he did them in practice. When we were comfortable he could do this in practice, we were willing to try and put him in the game and let him do it. When he was able to do this, plus this, plus this, we were willing to do it. Unfortunately, we haven't had as many opportunities to play him as we would have liked.
Q. Is Sean Lee's injury more serious than you originally were led to believe? He's been listed as day to day since the injury occurred.
Well, he's got a sprained knee. They don't want to push it. It's a delicate thing. If you're in charge of a young man's future, you want to be careful you don't jeopardize it. The medical people have been very careful with him. So, again, that's another tough question. I can't tell you whether, how serious, each week they examine him. At the end of the week, he tries to do what he can in practice and we've got our fingers crossed that he'll be okay. Whether he's going be or not, we're going lean and I talked this over with the medical people we're going to lean on the side of being too conservative, more protective. The kid's been a great asset in this program, and he's got a future that goes beyond intercollegiate football if he wants to play football. We certainly don't want to jeopardize that.
Q. Are you also being more conservative with Sean because of what he went through last year with his right knee?
You're asking me medical questions I don't know. I talk to the doctor, and the doctor says he's got a sprained knee. We're rehabilitating it. We're bringing him along. We're hopeful one of these days we're going to be comfortable and we can tell him to go out and play. That's all I can tell you.
Q. Have you been pleased with the way Lou Eliades has responded to his injuries and getting taken out (early this season)? Can you talk about the way he's progressed?
Eliades, I think he's doing better. He's doing well. He's got a ways to go. We all have a ways to go. We're a long way from being where we have to be. But I think Lou got over the initial shock of what it takes to play with a little bit of a discomfort, and I think he's come along.
Q. One other thing on Lee. He says when he comes back he's going to have to wear that brace. Is there any tendon damage in there?
You're asking the wrong guy. No, he's got a sprained knee. Obviously it's not necessary to operate on it or they would have just operated on it and given him some time to rehabilitate it and he can get on with whatever he wants to do beyond his football at Penn State. So I don't think there's any...you know, it's hard for me to explain. When I was in college, if the trainer didn't like you, Jack McKinnon, he would say, "Get out of here." He wouldn't even tape you. You went out and you played with sprained ankles and everything else. Now the situation is such that there's so much...the intensity of the game and the consequences of making mistakes with a kid, as we've seen with coaches who have been condemned for pushing is a kid too hard and conditions and all those kinds of things. It's a very delicate balance. I think our people have done a marvelous job. You've heard me say this before: They have done a marvelous job in getting our kids ready to play when it's appropriate that they play. No, whether there's damage to the tendons or not, I don't know. You said he's going to be wearing a brace. I haven't talked about wearing a brace. He and I haven't talked about that. I don't even talk to him about his injury. I just ask him how he's doing.
Q. Stephon Morris is true freshman that's played extensively. Can you tell me what you've seen from him, and why are you comfortable putting a true freshman out there on the island?
Well, ordinarily he wouldn't start, but we like to play him because he's a very aggressive kid and he's going to be a good player. It gives us a chance to when we decided we were going play a little bit more nickel against Illinois and we took the (D'Anton) Lynn kid and put him up there as a nickel, so we needed another corner. Morris has been working at the corner, but he had to play more corner Saturday than he's been playing.