Oct. 28, 2008
Q. Do you think the leaders on this team have done a good job of getting others to buy into the philosophy, whether it's regarding matters on or off the field?
I think they've done a great job. They've come together who the leaders are, I don't want to particularly get into names or numbers but they just; they realized where they were. They know what kind of talent they have on this football team. The only thing that could prevent them from having a good team would be themselves and some of the things that were going on. And, if they let distractions get to them, you know, all the work they've done through the years would have been wasted. And I think they've rallied around and said, "Hey, look we're going to watch each other and get it done." And I think they have. I think they've done a great job.
Q. Prior to Saturday night's game you had taken some really good teams into Columbus and just come up short. What would you say is a little bit different about this team that enabled Saturday night to kind of go Penn State's way?
Well, you're right, we've taken some pretty good football teams into Ohio State. Most of the time the Ohio State kids played better than we did. Once, twice, I felt, a bounce here, a bounce there... It was the same kind of game this past week. And we got the one turnover, which I think is a credit to this football team. And really a bounce off of the question that Rich just asked me about leadership, they knew that they had to play smart, they had to be poised. The crowd should not be a factor in whether we were good enough to win or not. We're good enough to win. And I think they went in there and they did that.
When you go into a football game and you don't turn the ball over, I think most of the time you are going to win the football game if you have equal talent. Most of the time we've played Ohio State we've had equal talent. A couple times we didn't. A couple times they didn't have equal talent when they played us up here.
So, it was a good feeling. It was great. It was good to see kids go in there and have that kind of poise that it takes to win in that kind of environment. I think they proved they're a pretty good football team.
Q. Coach, I know you said before you liked off weeks. What will you guys do this week and all? Will you prepare for the last three games of the season? Will you take the weekend off?
We fouled up the whole week already because we're having a press conference. I had hoped we weren't going to have one. (Laughter.) I could do a couple things without.
No, we're going to practice today. We gave them yesterday off.
I had a squad meeting last night at 5:00, just to sit around and shoot the bull without any pressure on us to do anything. To tell them where I felt we were, and that we had a long way to go yet.
I had a quick look at Iowa yesterday against Wisconsin, and Iowa's playing really well at this stage, and so we're going to have our hands full. But, we talked a little bit about that.
Today we'll go out without pads for about an hour, do some running so we don't go backwards condition-wise. And then Wednesday and Thursday we'll go with pads and try to get some of the younger kids doing some tougher things. See if we can get some of those guys more ready to play in case we've got to play them. (We'll) take Friday, Saturday off. Then come back to work on Monday ready to get ourselves into a good game week.
But, I think they need some time off; not only physically, they need some time off mentally. (There's) an awful lot of pressure when you are going through what we're going through. And you can't let up on them. It isn't as if they can come out to practice and you can horse around completely. You try to horse around a little bit with them. But you've got to be careful because it's just a you know, one mistake, one slip.
The three game stretch we just went through is tough. You play Wisconsin and Ohio State away and then Michigan in three straight weeks, and they're you're seventh, eighth, ninth game, you're physically tired, you're mentally tired, you're in the middle of class work. I bug them all the time about going to class and those kind of things. So I think they needed the week off. And we're going to try to give them as much time off as we can without going backwards. We can't afford to go backwards because we got a long ways to go yet.
Q. Joe, you said after the Ohio State game that you were going to use this week to get together with the doctors and assess where you are in terms of your health with your leg, your hip, or whatever. Have you done that, or, if not, do you have that scheduled?
I was thinking more of taking care of the doctors; they need help. No, I'm trying to be a smart aleck.
But right now, I'm going to meet tomorrow morning and talk to the doctors, and they want the do some tests and see exactly where we are. Because I've really not given them an opportunity to get a professional look at what my situation might be.
I think I'm going to have to have something get done. But I want to find out from them what they think has to be done and get it done maybe as soon as I can after the season's over so that I can get on the road and go out and recruit.
It's not one of those things that has to be done, but I'm uncomfortable; that's obvious if I'm walking around with a cane, you know, I'm uncomfortable, but it's fixable, and it can be fixed. So I understand that.
Hey, I don't want to put words in the docs' mouths but they need to really take a good look at me and do some tests. Once we get that done but they don't think it's something that is going to keep me out for a long time.
Q. Joe, can you give an update on Daryll Clark and his injuries and what the plans are for him right now; are you going have him take it easy in practice this week maybe?
Well, right now they don't want him to practice for a couple days, and it's not necessary. In fact, it might be good, get a chance to get both (Pat) Devlin and (Paul) Cianciolo a little bit more work. But I don't think there's any question he is going to be all right when we play Iowa. But right now we're just not going to use him a lot. I don't think he needs a lot of work. I think the other kids can use the work, and I think we will use them, practice them. But everybody seems optimistic he is going to be fine.
Q. Joe, forgive another question about your condition. You are talking about having surgery?
Not yet. After we talk tomorrow morning they might say, "Hey, let's go in there and fix it up, it needs to be fixed up." And, obviously, it would be my option as to what the alternative may be. If it meant I didn't have to have an operation and I can do what I've been doing I've operated fairly well really, you know. Obviously, I don't run around on the practice field, and I've been upstairs because I've not wanted to be a distraction on the sideline.
The little time I spent on the sideline after this thing everybody was, "Hey, Joe, you know," they're all moving people away from me, and I didn't think this was a good environment for us to be involved in some tough football games.
So I really honestly don't know what I'm going to do. If they say, "Hey, we go in there and fix that thing up..." Dick Vermeil was up here a couple weeks ago and talking at one of the Hall of Fame banquets and Dick had some hip problems, and he said, "Hey, I was six months going through this saying it really bugged me; if they could fix it up in three days, I was fine." If they tell me that, I'd be stupid not to have something done. But I think we've got to give them a chance to take a good look at it and give me a choice as to what I want to do.
But I'm not going to I mean, we've got too many people who worked too hard for me to back away from our coaches have really worked hard, and we're on the verge of having some success in a lot of areas, and I think I have to be involved in, and I want to do it.
If they say well it's six weeks or something like that, but I don't hear that. I hear a couple of days. If they want to operate, I hear a couple days.
Q. Joe, your team didn't have any penalties on Saturday. I think you've had two games this year where you've only had one. Can you remember a time when you guys have done better in that area? And can you talk a little bit about how important it is because I think sometimes it gets overlooked?
I really can't tell you whether we've had any similar situations as far as the lack of penalties. But I certainly can address the fact how important it is. I don't think there's any question. If you can get a team to go in there and hang on to the football I mean, if they're competitive; I'm a not talking about a team that's out manned. But with the kind of personnel we have, we should be able to play against anybody if we don't give the other guy opportunities.
So I think it's important that we've done what we've done. And they have done this team's been a very, very coachable football team. We have not turned the ball over very often. And we have not had a lot of penalties; one or two that hurt us in a couple of games. Which didn't hurt us because we were better that particular day than the team we played. So I think it's important. How important, that's hard to determine. Depends on the game.
Field position in the game (last) Saturday, everybody talks, "well you do this offense or do this." You know, it was a really good football game. Unless you're a guy that really enjoys people playing hard and playing well and being in good position, tackling well, reacting to situations, you might miss some of the little things that went on in that football game.
But the field position was, we didn't give them good field position, except on the fact on two kickoff returns I didn't think we did a particularly good job. And they didn't give us field position. We had a long way to go most of the time. And if you have a long way to go and you are solid defensively and you don't give up big time plays...
They got a field goal after they threw a pass that we probably should have done a little better job covering. But we're playing good football. If we play against everybody else the way we played against Ohio State we'll be in pretty good shape.
Q. Joe, how does it feel to see a guy like Navorro Bowman, a guy some may have seen you wanted to throw under the bus when he was suspended, how does it feel to see him make the best of his second chance?
Well I think that's what it's all about.
It's interesting some of you guys are too young to remember I had a little problem with Bobby Engram when Bobby was a freshman, and Bobby had a lot of problems. His dad was killed in a terrible accident and so forth, and he got involved with a couple things. I had a letter from him about three, four weeks ago saying how much he appreciated the fact that Penn State stayed with him. I think you do that.
It's hard to give up on a kid unless he really...I mean, I've got kids. I've got five kids of my own. I don't want to give up on them and I wouldn't want anybody to give up on their kids. I'm glad to see Bowman work it out, particularly since he's had some tough luck. He lost his dad this year. And it's so hard for the public to understand when a kid comes out of high school being, you know, with the publicity and all of the exposure that they get, they come into college and all of a sudden they've got to just be another guy and they've got to understand that and how many people come around them that they don't even know.
I always preach when somebody comes out of the woodwork you don't even know and they want to be your buddy, be careful. Boy or girl. They want to come out there. And some of them are not mature enough. I think maybe Bowman was in that category. But he learned his lesson and that's great. That's a very satisfying situation for me because he is a good football player and he is a good person. And I think someday he will look back at his Penn State experience and think it's been a pretty good one.
Q. A lot of focus this year in the national media has been on some of the great offenses in the SEC and the Big 12. Do you think a lot of people have lost appreciation for great defense and special teams play?
Well, I can't speak for everybody, and I go back to I don't know what people are saying or reporting or what have you because I just don't. It doesn't really interest me. But I think that I've said many, many times if you play good defense and you don't make mistakes in the kicking game and hang on to the football you've got a shot.
And I think that our defense has played well; haven't given up big plays. I think the game has given the defense the advantage of not having to play with a short field most of the time and I think we've been a good solid football team.
The question that has been asked me so many times is. "how good are you?" And I've tried to be honest, and I've tried to say "I don't know," but as long as we do the things we've done I think we're pretty good. And that's defense, special teams, hang on to the ball when we have it offensively, take advantage of any breaks we get. If those things happen, I think we're pretty good.
Q. Joe, how do you find a balance between having a bye week and trying to stay focused off the field? You know, what do you hope the guys will do during the bye week to kind of keep their minds sharp off the field when they're away from the game?
Well I think your point's well taken. I think that what you don't want to do is I don't want to go in there and say, "you guys better be doing this and this or that as far as football is concerned." They've got to have a little - they've got to get away. They've got to just get in the classroom, go downtown. Don't misbehave but, you know, just don't pay attention to everybody telling you how good you are, just relax a little bit. We've got a week off, we're not going to push you, we're not going to shove you, we're not going to make you do certain things that we have to do during the game week. And try to get them to understand they've got to be mature about those things. But they need a week off.
And I'm not going to, you know, we're not going to badger them or anybody like that. But they can't get too far away from it. We talked about that last night at a squad meeting. You know, "I don't want to you get so far away from it what you forget that we still have a long way to go. And when we come back together on Monday to get ready for Iowa I want us to be close to where we have to be in order to be able to beat a good football team."
I can't tell you how you do it. I can't tell you exactly what you do. You try to talk to the guys that are the leaders, you try to say, "hey, now you guys take care of this and you guys watch this and somebody tell me if we've got a problem" and those kind of things. You try to be around them enough and, again, I keep going back to the one thing that I know I badger you with it, but I've got assistant coaches. They have a room full of kids whether it's Larry Johnson with the defensive down guys or Dick Anderson with the offensive guards and tackles or Bill Kenney or Jay with the quarterbacks, I keep saying, "are your kids okay, are you all right, is there anybody's nose out of joint or something like that?" So we talk about it all the time but we try not to do it in a way that they feel that we're checking on them every minute.
Q. This year's team you are getting a lot of contributions from players who either weren't highly recruited or weren't highly rated by the recruiting gurus. What do I think that says about your approach to recruiting and maybe about how knowledgeable the gurus are?
(Laughter.) You want me to talk about how knowledgeable? "Knowledgeable" is not exactly the adjective I would use for recruiting gurus. (Laughter.)
You know, it's all gimmicks. It's all for the fans. "So and so is the number one rated this" and so and so. We don't pay attention. I've never paid any attention to that and I never will.
I've got nine coaches who have coached for hundreds years almost and I've looked at thousands of high school kids in my life, and if I would have somebody out in Florida or Chicago tell me who is a good football player, a high school football player, I ought to get fired.
It's unfortunate. What's unfortunate about most of it is the fact that now some of these things like these all star games are pressuring kids not to tell anybody where they're going because if they do and they make an announcement they won't get in the game, and they're pressuring people. And that bothers me. I don't think that's right. If a kid knows where we wants to go, he's comfortable and so forth...you guys have heard me talk sometimes on Friday nights. I'm not a guy that likes to tell a kid I know what's best for him. I don't.
We look at kids and I have spent a lot of time making sure that the kind of kid that we're recruiting belongs in a program such as ours. That doesn't mean he doesn't belong in somebody else's program. And I try hard to make sure that it's good thing. And I've used this statement a thousand times: It's like getting married; you better not tell your wife too many lies because you've got to live with her. You've got to make it happen. If you don't make it happen, it doesn't do anybody any good.
We recruit people that we feel comfortable that can play, come here and play and we can coach and we can win some games with. Whether we get the guys that everybody wants us to take, that's a lot of hooey.
Q. Follow up talking about the assistant coaches. Are there certain responsibility or tasks they've taken on since you've been injured? On the flip side, are there things you have taken on off of them to try to balance the ledger out?
No. I think we're operating pretty much the same way. Game day obviously is a little different.
The assistant coaches have always had...we do what we've always done. I come out to practice. Some mornings I don't go in the office because of the fact that it's just so hard for me physically to do some things every once in awhile, so we get on and we have a conference call and I have a staff meeting on phone. And we talk just as if I were in the meeting with them. And so I don't think we've really changed much. I really don't.
I think that on game day, obviously I would prefer to be down on the field but I'm not even sure that that hasn't worked out to our advantage as I've said a couple of times. So I don't think it's changed much. I really don't.
You know, they know me. They can probably predict if they brought up something exactly how I was going to respond. We've been around together so long. Even Kermit (Buggs), the new kid as far as a full time coach, but he's been with us three, four years, GA and otherwise. So many of them have played for us played when I was a coach. So I think we're fine.
I think they just, you know, "this is what Joe would probably want to do." And when I get involved in the meeting with them or something, "hey, this is what we're thinking, what do you think?" kind of thing. And if I don't particularly agree with them we argue that. You can argue it out on the phone as well as you can do it if I'm in a meeting room pointing my finger at them. So I think we're doing well. And again that's a tribute to the guys.
If every year I had a new coach, two or three new coaches in key spots, a new coordinator...I recruited Galen (Hall) out of high school. I recruited Dick (Anderson) out of high school, Mike (McQueary) out of high school; Tom Bradley out of high school. Those guys have all been around me so long that it's not necessary for me to Bill Kenney's been with us, what, 20 something years now I think? So I think we're very comfortable with what's going on.
Now, I'm not comfortable because I'd love to get out on that field and do a little bit more physically than I'm doing now. And yet when I say that, I'm probably having more fun with the squad because of the motor scooter. I can run around and I can grab them, which I spend less time going from here to here because of the motor scooter so there's a tradeoff. But I think we're doing all right.
Q. Joe, what happened to Drew Astorino's hand, and how important is this week just for everybody to get over the little bumps and bruises that you kind of accumulate during the year?
I think Astorino is okay. I talked to Doc this morning. The only one we're a little bit concerned about would be Daryll (Clark) because he's gotten a couple tough hits. So we're going on keep him out for a day or two. Everybody else I think is ready to go. But we're not going to do that much that we have to worry about it. And I told Doc that. I said, "don't fret about what we're going to do." I think Astorino will be fine.
The guy that really surprised me was (Anthony) Scirrotto. I was very, very nervous about him getting in there and going in there, he played a tough football game. He did a heck of a job for a guy, you know, with a concussion that hadn't practiced until Thursday.
Q. Do you have any reaction to what happened downtown Saturday night after the win with all of the fans pouring into Beaver and College avenues?
You know, that's disappointing that destruction goes on. Obviously you want them to be excited. Nobody has a better fan group than we have. When we played Michigan, that crowd was unbelievable; the whole business about the White Out. But, to destroy property and that kind of stuff is really not something that ought to be identified with a celebration is the way I would look at it. I think one of these days we probably ought to, maybe I've got to do something and talk to the kids and say, "hey, look it's big game. If we win it, everybody have a lot of fun but don't go downtown."
Now, again, having said that, I'm not sure what happened downtown. I really don't know. I just see a headline, and I read where there was destruction. There's no need for that. There's no need for that. Jumping on cars and things like that, go down and have a little fun. I was young once and I probably did something stupid once in awhile, but you just hate to see them do that kind of thing.
Q. How pleased are you where Sean Lee is at with his rehabilitation and how pleased are you with the contributions he's been able to make not playing this year?
I think Sean Lee, obviously is not going to play this year, but I think he's making good progress with his rehabilitation, and he's been kind of an inspiration to some of the younger linebackers. He coaches them all the time; the linebackers. He watches them and he is out at practice every day. We take him on a trip. We have to count him as one of the 70 you are allowed to take on a trip and he is on the sideline and he's helping Ron Vanderlinden. He's been a real plus. But, obviously, we're looking forward to having him back next year.
Q. The last time you were 9 0 was 1999. What can you take from that year that you can apply to this experience, if anything?
I forget what happened after that (when 9-0 in 1999). I know Minnesota beat us. Was that the Hail Mary, is that the one? I don't know.
You know, we've got a different cast of characters. We had a couple guys that I felt kind of let the rest of the football team down. And I won't get into names who were going to be high draft picks and all that kind of stuff, and maybe lost sight of the fact that it was not a question of the team it was a question of what might happen to them.
I don't mean to beg off, but I really don't remember exactly. I think my reaction to it when it happened was we just had a couple guys that, you know, I didn't do a good job with, I didn't stay on top of them. We lost a couple key players on the football team. We lost the last three, four games. So that's where I... hopefully we're in a different situation this year.
Q. What impact did Jerry Sandusky have on this program?
Jerry was a great asset to this program for a long time. I always felt that Jerry had two loves: One was obviously his ability, his wanting to help younger people in The Second Mile and being a head coach. He could have been a head coach a couple places, but he really he backed away because they were going to ask him to give up some things in The Second Mile. Jerry was a heck of a football coach.
Q. Does practice differ at all going into bye weeks since you're not really preparing for a team?
Oh, sure. As I said, this is Tuesday. If this was Tuesday of a game week we'd be out there pretty tough. We'd be going at each other trying to get a tempo. We would have practiced yesterday. We would be in pads. We're not going to be in pads today, just be in helmets. And then you spend a lot more time with the younger kids tomorrow and Thursday. Particularly when you get an open date this late in the year.
We have nine games under our belt. For us to go out there and start to change things, no. We don't want to change a lot of things. Do they know what they're doing? Yeah, they know what they're doing, the guys that have played. Are there some kids out there that are just starting to get the feel for things? Yeah. Do they need to work? Yeah. So you go to work with those guys and try to make sure that those kids are ready.
You always...unfortunately you never know who is going to play. Did we know Devlin was going to have to come in there and do what he did? And you are fighting time, because if you spend too much time on the field, the guy that is ahead of Devlin is tired. You've got to back away from how much you do with the whole football team.
Every morning I wake up, I say, "how much time I want to spend, how much time we want to do this, how much time we want to do that?" When you have an off week you can make a couple mistakes. I can work them too hard if I want to. But the one thing I don't want to do is I want to make sure we get the younger kids better. So whenever we have to pop them into a football game they're a little bit better than what I would have been if we didn't have an off week.
Q. You mentioned if you would have anything done after the season you want to get it done quickly to get out and recruit. Reading between the lines, does that mean you plan on coming back next year?
You know, have I ever said I wasn't coming back? Okay? (Laughter.)