Applause in the room
¡°Holy smokes. We get two wins and I get that. Thanks. I appreciate that. I don¡¯t mean to be a smart alec all of the time.¡±
Coach you appeared to be very emotional before this game. Can you talk about why and what your future might be now?
¡°Well, I think some people are reading things into it as far as my emotions. I was emotional for Zack (Mills). I really was. To have him play that kind of a game against a good football team as he did today. And I was emotional all week with the squad. It¡¯s tough to be around a bunch of kids who work as hard as this group has worked and have very little success. It was one thing here, one thing there, one thing there, and I¡¯d get together with them on Monday after I looked at the tapes. It was never that I could chew them out to say you were guys were awful at this or that. It was always that, ¡®Hey, you guys always really work your butt off and one of these days some things are going to fall into place and it¡¯s going to happen for you.¡¯ And the Indiana game I think we started to show a little bit. The goal-line stand obviously was a tremendous emotional lift for us. But the fact that the offense made two clutch drives when they had to do it. So I was hoping we could build on that and I really honestly feel that Michigan State is as good as anybody in the league.¡±
Do you plan to be back next season?
¡°Have I ever said I wasn¡¯t? Was that wishful thinking? No, I¡¯m planning to be back next year. As I¡¯ve said, I¡¯d like to be able to put together a scenario where I can pick the time I want to leave and have somebody in house ready to take over. So we do what¡¯s always happened. As I¡¯ve said a thousand times, when came to Penn State, Rip Engle became the head coach. He took one coach. I was the only coach he was allowed. When I got to be the head coach 16 years later, I hired one coach, Bob Phillips. We¡¯ve always tried to do it with people that have paid their dues. (Tim) Curley, our Athletics Director, was a guy who worked through the system. He was my first recruiting coordinator. He was a (graduate assistant) and then he became my administrative assistant. Then when he went to Athletic Director and he did some things. Then Jim Tarman took over and Curley became the Athletic Director. I haven¡¯t been able to pick all of the presidents. Most of the guys around me have been that way, and they are great people. Franny Ganter moved out from being the offensive coordinator to where he¡¯s running the football operations and Tim will tell you he¡¯s doing a super job. He¡¯s doing a super job. I feel comfortable with the people around me. I¡¯d like to leave when there¡¯s a lot of stuff on the table and the next guy can have some success. Rip gave me a great football team. I almost screwed it up my first year, but after that I was alright.¡±
Difference from last game in 2003 to the last game of this season?
¡°I told the kids three things. I said, ¡®Enjoy the win. Start thinking about next year. And please, behave.¡¯ It probably should have been in reversed order, but that¡¯s the way it works. I thought last year, and I didn¡¯t blame the squad last year, I think that I just took some things for granted. I had some kids that I didn¡¯t really know well enough. I hadn¡¯t spent enough time with them. And I tried very hard this year when we were having our problems that I understood them and I spent a little more time with them. It¡¯s been very gratifying to see the way they stuck in there all year. Last year I know we didn¡¯t do it.¡±
Are you really optimistic for next year?
¡°I think we have a good football team. I really do. I thought we¡¯ve played everybody pretty darned good. We had some people who have played awfully well against us and are good football teams. Everybody¡¯s upset because we didn¡¯t do much against (Boston College) up there with our offense. BC¡¯s one of the best defensive teams in the country. Wisconsin, until Michigan State gave them a good shellacking, was one of the better teams in the country. I think Purdue¡¯s beating somebody now. Purdue should have beaten Michigan. They should have beaten somebody else until they fumbled the football. It¡¯s a tough league. And we¡¯ve been one or two plays away from being really good. We¡¯ve had some tough injuries. We play Wisconsin and (Michael) Robinson and (Zack) Mills are out of the game 10 minutes into the game. And Chris Ganter, who doesn¡¯t have that many shots during the week, he¡¯s gotta run the show. We still hung in there with them. Robinson was out for three or four weeks. Robinson¡¯s probably our best football player. They¡¯ve had a lot of tough luck. They really have. Robbie Gould missed some field goals. It was nice to see him have the day he had today as a senior. I thought he did a great job today.¡±
Zack Mills ran a lot more today than he has been. What did you see on tape?
¡°Actually, I told the offensive coaches a couple things and I told the defensive coaches a couple things. I told the defensive coaches we couldn¡¯t let them run up the middle. They had to make them run outside and we had to take some of those screens away from them and they did a great job. Tom Bradley and his staff did a super job and the kids did a super job. And offensively, I said they were going to play us for the pass when Zack¡¯s in there because we didn¡¯t want to run Zack. And (Anthony) Morelli¡¯s hurt. So I said we gotta be careful. Jay said to me and Galen said to me they think they¡¯re going to play Zack for the pass, we¡¯re going to run Zack. I said, ¡®You and Galen better work that out. You better not get him hurt.¡¯ And it worked out.¡±
Would you prefer to look at this as a 4-7 season and a disappointing year? Or would you rather look at it as we went out with two wins?
¡°...I¡¯m glad that we won our last two games obviously. I just got threw telling you that the reason I feel so good about it is because the kids are such good kids. They¡¯ve hung in there, and hung in there, and hung in there. And I¡¯m not walking away as if they¡¯re a 4-7 team. I¡¯m looking at it as if they are a bunch of kids that have really hung together and they¡¯ve gotten a lot out of their experience. They¡¯ll be better people for it. I think Penn State¡¯s proud of them. I think the crowd was great. You guys look at it a little differently than I look at it. I¡¯m proud of this football team and I¡¯m proud of a lot of them and that¡¯s how I look at it.¡±
How refreshing was it to hear the fans cheer you and cheer Zack and give him a standing ovation because they¡¯ve been kind of rough all year on you guys?
¡°They haven¡¯t been rough on me. The fans have been great. I walk around the campus with kids and if they are driving a car or something and they say, ¡®Hey JoePa, hang in there.¡¯ Kids on the campus come up. I must have 50 letters from kids. One came the other day from five girls who are in the first row. They said, ¡®When you go by say hello.¡¯ There was a picture of them. They said hang in there. I went over there looking for them. I went over and said hello and the whole bit. I do think that Zack¡¯s had it a little bit. I¡¯ve said this a thousand times. The problem with the quarterback is that you have to have a cast of characters. The timing, the different things that tie in. You gotta get the right pass protection. There are a lot of little things that go with the way a quarterback can perform well. The Michigan State kid had a tough time today because we did some things and they got a little bit out of whack. The kid that got hurt is really a good football player. Zack¡¯s a really good football player. He¡¯s played hurt. He¡¯s played banged up. And he¡¯s played at times with people he wasn¡¯t coordinated with.¡±
About Zack, he¡¯s had his ups and downs, as the team has, over the last four years. Where do you think his place is in Penn State¡¯s history?
¡°I think he¡¯s had a great career. I really do. He¡¯s won some big games for us. He literally won the Ohio State game a couple years ago for us. I think he¡¯s had a great career as far as individual effort and performance. In terms of how many wins he¡¯s been involved with, no he hasn¡¯t. But most of those are not due to his lack off performance. I think he¡¯s done really well.¡±
Coach, the defense has been the strength of the team all year. Can you comment on the five interceptions and the blocked punt on special teams?
¡°Well, we have played really well defensively and I think we went into this game feeling that we were gonna really have to be awful good defensively because this is a very explosive offensive football team. Last year, we weren¡¯t quite ready for them. They put up 50 points, 49 points, whatever it was. So I think they played very alert. They were really smart. And they played fast. Sometimes when a coach says that your teams gotta play a little bit faster, you think that means it¡¯s a 40-yard time. It¡¯s not a 40-yard time. It¡¯s a question of anticipating throws, reading formations. Little things that indicate what might happen. That¡¯s another step as far as getting to the ball. Or another chance for an interception. So I think they did really well. They practiced hard. They practiced intelligently. They were well coached and they made plays when they had opportunities. I don¡¯t know what else you could ask of them. And the blocked punt was something we thought we might be able to do. And I think Rod Vanderlinden worked awfully hard on trying to block a punt. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn¡¯t, but it worked today.¡±
With the defense you have coming back next year, what would you think the potential would be of the defense and the team looking ahead?
¡°We can build on what we have. But we¡¯ve got to have a good winter program. I think we¡¯ll have a little stronger leadership because we¡¯ll have more kids who have had success. A good winter program, a good spring practice and I think from there we can build a good football team. No question, there¡¯s potential to be good. Now whether we can be consistently good every week. We¡¯ve been adequate and competitive over the last few years, most of the time, except for one or two games. But we haven¡¯t really gotten over that part of it. Now whether we can get over that part of it or not will determine whether we are going to be a good football team or not.¡±
Can you talk about the way that Zack Mills went out today?
¡°I thought he was great today. But it all fairness, I think he got a lot of help today. He¡¯ll be the first guy to tell you that. He had good protection. When we did ask him to run, he had some nice holes. He did improvise on a couple of plays and he did really well. I think this is probably the first game he¡¯s played since maybe Wisconsin since he¡¯s really been 100 percent physically. He¡¯s practiced all week that way. He had a little bounce and a little more zip on the ball. And to his credit, he missed practice on Monday because his grandmother was buried on Monday. And he asked if he could be excused and I said, ¡®Sure Zack.¡¯ He got back after practice on Monday night. The kids really rally around Zack. He¡¯s quiet and he¡¯s not a showboat. He¡¯s really a quiet, strong leader.¡±
What¡¯s your schedule from here?
¡°The coaches can go on the road. I¡¯m just going to go out tomorrow just in case anything pops up that I want to go over. Monday and Tuesday the coaches go on the road. I can¡¯t go on the road because you are only allowed an x-number of coaches on the road this next week because it¡¯s still an evaluation period. But then the following week I¡¯ll probably be on the road seeing some kids.¡±
Have you been bothered this year by the speculation and by having to answer all of the questions about your future and the succession? Has it gotten in the way of what you are trying to do?
¡°No. Honestly, I haven¡¯t read one story any of you guys have written, or women have written. I really haven¡¯t. I haven¡¯t got time. Now if I thought there was something that I could read and I could learn something about my team or something, that would be different. Because I would hope I know a little bit more about what¡¯s going on than you folks do. Somebody called me up and wanted to know what was my opinion on the fact that Dickenson and Penn State are having a feud over the law school. I said, ¡®I don¡¯t have the slightest idea what¡¯s going on.¡¯ I said, ¡®Why should I stick my two cents into that when I don¡¯t know what¡¯s going on.¡¯ And most of the time you guys don¡¯t know what¡¯s going on. But I know you¡¯ve got to make a living. You¡¯ve got to write a story. And people want them. I¡¯ve had a lot of fun with this team. I wish we had won a couple more games obviously. But I¡¯ve enjoyed it. It¡¯s really not bothered me at all. Someone asked me the other day about my wife and how she takes all the criticism of me. I don¡¯t know. We never talk about it. She¡¯s in the middle of reading Dante¡¯s Club. And we¡¯re talking about the fact that Dante was gay. And she wanted to know if I knew he was gay. I said, ¡®Yeah I knew he was gay.¡¯ She said, ¡®Did you know Beatrice in his poem was not a woman, but a man.¡¯ I said, ¡®Yeah I knew that. I read Dante when I was 14-years-old.¡¯ Now I didn¡¯t read it in Italian, but I read it. That¡¯s what we talk about.¡±
Chris Ganter came out, it looks like he¡¯s going to pass up next year? What about Chris Harrell and are you going to open up practice to help educate us?
¡°Yeah, maybe I¡¯ll do that. Maybe I¡¯ll let you come to practice some day. Chris Harrell is coming back. We had a choice of whether we wanted to redshirt him or (Andrew) Guman. When Chris got hurt, we decided to redshirt Chris. Chris Ganter can come back. Franny and Chris and I talked last week. I want to do what¡¯s best for him. We have those two good quarterbacks ¨C Morelli and Cianciolo and the other kid from Georgia (Jordan Lyons). They¡¯re all big kids with big, strong arms.¡±
What happened to Dan Connor?
¡°He got a stinger. He¡¯s alright. I just talked to him, I said ¡®Hey, you alright?¡¯ He said, ¡®Yeah, I got a stinger.¡±