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Nov. 12, 2011

Penn State vs. Nebraska
November 12, 2011

Q: What do you have to say about your first game as coach and the emotions on the field?
A: Let's talk about the game first. We had a week off. So, usually when you have a week off a lot of times I was worried about that getting off to a slow start, because when you play an option football team, to duplicate that type of speed and that precision is not easy to do. I thought we were at a good point last week. Then, this week rolled around and with all of the distractions and everything else that came our way, obviously it was a week unprecedented in college football history. I knew when we came out for the game it was very emotional. I've been here for a lot of senior days. The players are emotional. The whole thing was very emotional. The prayer, I thought that the idea of Nebraska to get together at mid-field was a very special moment for a lot of people. I thought that our fans, as I had asked them to do on Thursday night to show class and dignity, and they did all day today. The crowd, the solidarity for the children, for the victims, I thought was a touching moment by Penn State and the class that I had asked them to exhibit. I really didn't have to ask them because I knew they would do it. The student body came together. The solidarity they had was a special moment. We came out and we got off to a little bit of a slow start. We just couldn't sustain [a drive] to move the ball. Defense, we were catching. We were just a little bit out of whack for a lot of reasons. I'm going to address these [questions] as honestly as I can and be transparent with what happened here during the week.

Defensively, we made some changes we will continue to stick with. Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson will handle our defense. Kermit Buggs will take over the whole secondary. Today, because of the situation, I helped signal in some things because I've done the signaling for the last 12 years. I didn't want to drop that on them on a Thursday. I did call some defenses in the fourth quarter today. Usually Wednesday night, when Dr. [Rodney] Erickson called me, is my night to prep and Thursday is a mental day for me. I didn't feel that I could do justice to the players and the guys on the defense, who worked their tails off for me, and I didn't think it was right that I would be somebody who would not give them the time that they deserve. They have nothing to do with any of these situations that came up. We got off to a slow start. We didn't do well on defense. We couldn't sustain a drive. But, I was awful proud. We got down 17-0 and [the players] didn't quit. They hung tough. They hung in there together. I guess, your first time as a coach, you've got to make those fourth down calls, whether to go for them or not. Well, one-for-two, that's good in some places but not today. I really hoped we would have got that last one. I thought we could have pulled some magic out there at the end. But, the team hung tough. They showed a lot of resolve today. I told them once again, 'Hey, the expectations are the expectations. You guys know what we expect of you, so let's get done what we have to do.' I told them after the game, 'Let's hang tough.' I was proud of them. I told them it was a privilege to coach them, the way the behaved this week, the way they stood up to a lot of different emotions and the outside influences that happened to them.



Q: Was a decision made on whether or not Joe Paterno is getting the game ball?
A: Anything that happens with the team, I leave up to the team. I had told them, and I think it has been out there, that there [were] a couple things we were going to do today. One of them was the first seat in bus one was going to be vacant. That's where Coach [Paterno] usually sits. The second thing I told them, I would not come out with the team. I said, 'It's your team and it's your responsibility to take care of that.' As far as the game ball, anything that happens there is strictly a team decision.

Q: Was there any meaning to running a fullback dive to Joe Suhey to start the game since that was Joe Paterno's signature play?
A: I don't think so. I'll address that with some other things that happened to us. We had a little bit of confusion early on offense, which wasn't due to anything other than Mike McQueary usually does a lot of the signaling and substation of wide-outs. There was a little gap in the transformation from upstairs to downstairs. I had asked Coach Jay Paterno to come downstairs. I said, 'Jay, we've got to make sure we can get this substitution thing done right.' So, for Jay, calling plays from the sideline is very different from up in the box, so it was a little bit of an adjustment period. I don't want to speak for Jay, but I think he did a great job. It was just getting down there and starting up down on the sidelines and shuffling people in and out that is a little bit of a different situation. I didn't think it was fair to put that burden on Terrell Golden right now. We didn't even have a chance to [replicate] it. So early on there was some confusion, I believe, coming from the top to the bottom just on verbiage and things of that nature.

Q: Have you talked to Joe Paterno since Thursday?
A: It was ironic; obviously, when this thing hit on Wednesday we had a personal discussion. I told the people the other day, I know if I call him what he is going to say and I was exactly right. I should have just put the phone down because I said, 'Coach, I'd like to stop over and see you.' And I knew what he was going to say, 'What for? You've got a lot to do. Take care of the team.' I didn't even have to listen to it. I knew the lecture I was going to get, but I did speak with him. But, it was exactly what I knew he would say to me. 'You have a lot to do, get to work, take care of the team.'

Q: How was the quality of practices the last couple of days?
A: I think the practices have been great. It was an opportunity for them to come together where no one but them was there. There were no distractions. They were happy to come because it was all about football. I saw a lot of joy at practice. They had a lot of camaraderie going on. They were having some fun. They were just excited to get in with their group with no outside influences asking them question after question after question and not having to watch the TV or all of the different stations. They were happy to come into that locker room and tease. I felt that about them because they were giving me the business too about different things.

Q: Were you ever concerned that this game should have been canceled?
A: It's an answer I tell my players all the time; players play, coaches coach, administrators administrate. That's their job to decide what to do. At no time did I think the game would be canceled, nor did I think the game should be canceled. The players on this football team, the players from Nebraska, they deserve the opportunity to compete. They came here for that reason. I don't think anything has changed from that end that they had any involvement with any of these events that have happened this week.

Q: What was it like to have a lot of former players return for the game?
A: That was touching to go out with those players, to see so many guys that I played with, past players that have come here. That was an exciting moment. I think when the players asked me to come out and take a picture with them as the seniors, going through that line and seeing all of the faces that I played with and some of them were saying, 'Remember when we did this.' I said, 'Guys, don't say that today.' It was just a special moment to see them all there. Some of the guys came from all over the place, drove all night. They just wanted to be a part of it.

Q: Were you concerned about how Jay Paterno would react to handling the duties on the field and his father not being here today?
A: I was. I met with Jay back at the Lasch Football Building before the game. I walked him to the office. I wanted to make sure he was OK with what I was asking him to do. Then, he said he was, he was ready to go. I didn't worry about him. I think he prepared well for the game. I knew it was going to be extremely emotional for him, especially when I asked him to come down on the sideline that he was in for a very emotional day. But, I thought he did a great job today and I appreciate the way he prepared for the game in spite of everything that happened.

Q: Will Jay Paterno stay on the sideline the rest of the season?
A: It looks that way. We're going to talk again on Sunday as a staff. It seems like this week, from Wednesday night on, there have been different decisions that have had to be made on Thursday, Friday, even this morning there were some things that came up. We'll be a little bit better organized when we get together on Sunday. I'll talk it over with Jay. I want to make sure he felt comfortable with it. I know he called some plays, [but I don't know] whether the angle was best for him down on the field. I will have a week to work somebody else in to make sure all of those substitutions run smoothly.

Q: As a Penn State graduate, have you ever envisioned a time where something good can come out of this?
A: I felt today that just maybe the healing process started to begin. I saw it last night when we got on the bus and the Blue Band was down there at the Lasch Football Building for the football team and they made them a beautiful sign that they asked to hang up. When I got to the stadium today to see the support from those students and the solidarity with what they believed. I've had numerous calls from student activity groups, would I help them with helping [people] heal? Could I help with children? Could I do a lot of these different things, which I said I would. But, just to see them all out there, in support and the class they exhibited, maybe today is the start of this healing process.

Q: Why did the offense struggle today?
A: We're working the same way we have on offense. I told everybody that for me to go over to offense and stick my nose in, I really haven't been on offense since I coached wide receivers in I think it was 1983. I'm going to try to spend some time on offense starting this week. Not so much with play calling and X's and O's, but I would really like to get around the players. I don't get to spend enough time with the offensive players because I coach defense, I spend all my time knowing the personalities of my defensive players. The only guys I know on offense on a day-to-day basis are some of the players I recruited. My goal today is to go over there and spend some time. I feel it's necessary that I do that. If I'm going to get around them, I want to know their personalities and the way they do things over there because I've been away from it for so long. I've really got to let go and turn the reins of the defense over to Larry [Johnson] and Ron [Vanderlinden] and Kermit [Buggs].

Q: Have you thought about what is going to happen after the next two games?
A: All I have thought about is doing the best job that I possibly could for these student-athletes here at Penn State. That's all I've been worried about is just making sure that I do the best job that I can. We owe it to them. That's all I've been worried about. I don't have time to think about the other things right now.


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