At the weekly Joe Paterno press conference, the questions came fast and hard about the Alabama loss, and Joe even seemed uncharacteristically willing to deal with them. The only thing was that without even quoting Shakespeare this time, the venerable Head Lion was semi-inscrutable.
About Chima Okoli’s injury:
As I said, we’ve only practiced the one day. And yesterday was just to try to get an understanding of what happened to us against Alabama, to try to correct some mistakes. We really have not talked about who is going to play and exactly what we’re going to do. We spent this morning doing that.
And we’ll go out this afternoon to see what some people are ready to do. So that’s a tough question for me to answer right now and know what I’m talking about, because I couldn’t give you an honest answer on that.
About the quarterback controversy:
I think we’ve made a decision up to a point that we want to play both of them (Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin) for a while until we find out exactly which one we think might be better for the football team and help them win.
But, right now, I think it’s a toss up. I think both of them are doing well. There again, I think I said after the ballgame I’m reluctant to have people start blaming it on the quarterback. I mean, I think we’re just not making plays.
We started that ballgame (Alabama) where we had a chance to make some big plays, a couple in the end zone, one of which would have been a tough catch, but the other one should have been an easy catch going down the sideline for touchdown.
We just didn’t it’s easy to pick out somebody and blame him, particularly the quarterback, because it’s such a predominant person. The ball comes to them and they do something with it.
But I think both quarterbacks have played well enough for us to win with. And I’m reluctant right now to tell anybody, “hey, we’re going to start this guy,” because it would look like as if I’m, like the other guy didn’t play well. I thought they both did a pretty good job, really.
I think we have to help them. I think some guys on the team have got to make some plays. We’re the same way; we go in the ballgame, second year in a row we played that football team without [forcing] a turnover. And a year ago we had four or five and we had three turnovers in this one.
When you get in a tough football game against a good team, you’re in a uphill battle all the time. So anyway that’s one of my typical long answers to a simple question. We’ve got two quarterbacks. And as we talk now, whether we have two quarterbacks a week from now, we’re going to we’ll see.
About coaching from the booth instead of the field, and the timeout debacle (and everything else but the kitchen sink):
The timeouts, that goes back to the confusion on the sideline goes back to the fact that, again, you think your kids understand certain things.
Two kids got hurt and they didn’t know whether to go down, come in, come out. They come out of the game late. And in order for us to save ourselves five yards we had to call a timeout on the sideline. I think that we’ve got to do a better job, obviously, of making the kids more game aware so that when that happens – you’re hurt, sit down, stay there until we make a substitution for you. We’re allowed to do that. We don’t want you to be phony about the substitution, but we had kids who were half off the field, back on the field, back out. And the guys on the sidelines weren’t sure what exactly was going on. And finally we ran out of time.
So I think we’re all right there. There again, that’s an obvious thing. Here you go in the first quarter, you take three timeouts. I’m angry. I’m angry upstairs. I didn’t know exactly what had happened either. I’m yelling down at them [coaches on the field], “you guys going to make up your mind what you want to do?” And then, of course, after I had a chance to talk to some of the guys, I found out that the kids were the guys who created the problem.
So I think we’re all right that way. I don’t think that’s a problem. We’ve got to catch the ball and we’ve got to make some things happen on defense in a tough ballgame. We just haven’t done that. It’s as simple as that.
Now, why we haven’t done it, obviously you’ve got to take a look at yourself and say, “hey, maybe there’s something I as a head coach have to do a little differently.” I don’t know. But we can’t expect to win consistently when you don’t get a turnover on defense.
I guess we were almost last in the country last year in the turnover ratio, and we were allowing too many on the other side of the equation. So that’s where we are.
About how the front seven performed and what they’ll have to do to stop Temple’s running back:
I thought we played well on defense most of the time, except for the fact that we didn’t come up with a couple of interceptions.
The only time I was disappointed in the way we played defense was when they scored the last touchdown. It looked like a couple of guys got a little bit discouraged and nobody rose to the occasion to make a play.
But I think overall the down guys played fairly well. I mean, better than fairly well. I don’t think we got blown off the board, what have you.
They have a couple of fine running backs. I think the one kid ran for, had the ball about 25 times, ran it for about 115, 120 yards. I thought and most of that came towards the end in there. So I would disagree with you, Joe, on your evaluation, if I understand what you’re saying.
And I thought that part was fine. Did we come up with an interception? We had a chance for one, on the third down and 12. We had a chance to get the interception. We didn’t come up with the ball. They took it in there.
So things like that that we have got to do better. We’ve got to change the game around on defense once in a while. That part I think is a legitimate criticism.
I don’t see anything specific in there about how the linebackers played and I see no reference at all to Temple’s running back.
About failure to make big plays: is it the coaching or the players’ confidence:
It’s probably a combination of all of it. It’s probably I’m not a guy that backs away from taking criticism of my coaching. And I’ve been more than willing to say, “hey, I didn’t do a good job,” this or that. But I don’t think I would do that with our staff or myself on Saturday.
I think we just I don’t know whether we’ve had you get into a mental attitude maybe. “Here we go again.” They don’t turn the ball over. We drop a pass, this or that. And it gets to be a self defeating situation.
So there’s a lot of little things. We’ve obviously that’s the challenge ahead of us as coaches and a challenge ahead of the leadership on the team and some of the guys that should be the leaders, and that’s what we’ve got to somehow get over that attitude.
We’ve got to go out there with the idea, “hey, we’re going to make some things happen for ourselves.” Can’t moan about the officiating, can’t moan about this or that. We’ve got to make some things happen for ourselves. And right now we don’t seem to have that sense.
About Al Golden — has Joe talked to him since he left Temple and how bad does he feel about the morass Golden walked into at Miami:
I did not talk to Al before he took the job down at Miami. Frankly, I was surprised he took it, because I knew what a good job he had been doing at Temple. Temple was a good team last year. We had our hands full with them last year. We were ahead by a couple of points going into the fourth quarter (15-13, won 22-13).
And this Temple team is the best Temple team I’ve ever seen, and that’s in all the years we’ve played. They’ve got some size. They’ve got speed. They’ve got excellent quarterbacking. They’re a good football team.
And I think Al and I don’t want to take anything away from the present coach (Steve Addazio) but I think Al left that situation in good shape. Whether it was a good move for him to go to Miami with all the fuss that’s going on about that situation right now, I think you’d have to talk to Al about that. I don’t know enough about that for me to be critical of what Al wants to do.
He’s a bright young man, who certainly did a great job for us when he was on our staff (2000), captain of our football team one year (1991). He’s got a couple of guys that are on that staff that have been good players and (Mark) D’Onofrio was a fine football player and a bright kid. He’s coaching their defense down there (Miami) and coached the defense at Temple.
So Al knows what he’s doing. And he probably felt that was a better move for him. But he sure left a good situation for Temple. Temple is a good football team right now.
Joe finally answered one completely, but felt compelled to present some additional information about Temple as an opponent.
About how his young players will handle the realization that Temple hasn’t beaten Penn State since 1941:
Well, I don’t think we’re in a position to be anything but run scared ourselves. I think we’ve got we haven’t done anything.
I mean, we’re not a team that was a great team last year. We went 7 and 5 last year (in regular season). Lost some games because we were sloppy and the turnover situation, the whole bit.
I think we’ve got to take a good look at ourselves and say, “hey, we’ve got a ways to go.” And Temple certainly is not going to be somebody that’s going to be easy. It’s going to be tough. And we better get ourselves ready to play as well as we can play.
And if I’ve got to convince them to do that, then I think we’ve got the wrong kids out there playing. Because unless they’re stupid and they look at tapes, they’re going to see what kind of football team Temple has. [It has a good football team. —TNT]
About how the decision to substitute quarterbacks is made:
I think it’s mostly as the game goes on. Although, we did expect to do something almost exactly what you just described. We had gone in there with the idea we were going to let a couple of series and then we were going to put Mac in there for a couple of series and go from there.
I might second guess myself a little bit, because I thought Bolden threw the ball really well early. I think he just didn’t have any luck.
But we had kind of told the kids that’s the way we would operate for a while. So maybe we change that a little bit, but I intend to play both of them.
About Curtis Drake and how he is progressing in light of his injury:
I don’t think Drake’s 100 percent yet. The doctors I keep asking the doctors, “is he getting better, is he getting better?” And he goes out there and runs, but he’s still not a lot of you would be familiar that we put red crosses on a kid, he can’t do anything; put a green cross on him, he can’t have any contact. And Curtis has still has got a green cross on.
About dropped passes:
Concentration, obviously. And it’s a question of confidence. That’s the hard part sometimes when you watch practice, a couple of those kids that didn’t make some catches (in Alabama game) make some great catches in practice. I mean, it’s just something I’ve got to get them over. And we can play up to our potential. We’re not playing as well as we can play, I don’t think.
Now having said that, as I’ve told you guys 100 times, I’m reluctant to take something away from the other guy. I mean, we did not get licked by a poor football team Saturday. Alabama is a good, solid football team. That’s not a question we went out there and had a bunch of rinky-dinks beat us. They’re a good football team.
There are no weak spots on that football team (Alabama). And they can run and they hustle and they’re well coached. They’ve had a lot of success. They are used to tough competition and have had some success. So that’s where I’m coming from.
About why Temple has suddenly become successful in view of their past weakness:
Temple’s program? Well, I think they went out, Al went out and got themselves they went out and did a really good job recruiting. And I think when they got them, they went to work with them and they were I think only won two games the first year (1-11). I could be wrong on that. But I know they didn’t have a lot of luck the first year.
But they didn’t panic, stayed with a couple of things that he believed in, and they worked on getting some people stronger and quicker and a little bit more knowledgeable about how to play. And they started going with maybe five good plays or 10 or 12 or 14, so now they’ve got a solid core.
Al left it and, again, the new coach is a very enthusiastic guy. I don’t know him well, but he was on the Florida staff when we played Florida last year. And we had a little get together with the new coach at Pitt and the Temple people with the idea we ought to be working making Pennsylvania high school football in any way we could help the high schools.
And I was very impressed with both those guys. I think that Pitt’s got themselves a heck of a guy even though they replaced one of the guys I admire very much, (Dave) Wannstedt. And obviously Temple replaced a fine young coach with this guy. And he’s good. When you see the game, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
About Stephfon Green’s status with the team:
He won’t be with them this week.
Whoa! There’s more to the story than meets the eye. I alluded to some strange hypocrisy in Paterno’s behavior toward doghouse dwellers this year but I did not know the full story at the time. Apparently, Joe did not know about Green’s illegal activities during the summer. What? The head coach didn’t know? Certainly, the police would have contacted the Athletic Department at least. The Altoona Mirror reports:
Green got in trouble for undisclosed reasons during the preseason and was kicked off the team before being allowed back. Paterno was not aware, however, that Green allegedly had provided alcohol to minors on July 15 and didn’t find out until the senior was charged by police last week.
About why Penn State punted while down three scores in the Alabama game with 13 minutes left:
We were still in the ballgame. We were fourth and 5, at about, what, the 40 some yard line? They make that [stop], the game is over. I would do the same thing exactly the same way. [Sphincter mode. —TNT]
About not being able to win the big games, as compared with Penn State teams of the past that were impressive in winning the big ones:
I think the observation is probably correct. Why we’re not doing a little bit better, again I go down to some success. I think we’ve not had some success in some key situations, which would give some of these guys a little bit more confidence in themselves.
Unfortunately, we had to play a lot of them when they were young and they weren’t ready really to play as well as they would have liked to have them play last year. And they haven’t gotten that quite out of their craw.
But I think we’ve got to see what happens. I’m not going to go I know everybody’s disappointed we didn’t do a little better job [vs. Alabama]. Certainly I’m disappointed. But still we’ve got a bunch of good kids. They’re working hard. They got beaten by a fine football team, didn’t make anything happen for themselves, got a couple of tough breaks and the whole bit.
I think we’ve got to make sure we don’t panic, go from there, because I do think your point about do we know how to win a big game? We haven’t done it for a while.
About plans to coach on the sideline this week:
I hope I’m going to do it this week. I thought I could do it Saturday. But I don’t move quick enough to get out of the way. As you see, I can walk without the cane now. Although, I can’t walk I have a lot of pain after I walk a while. And then it gets sore. But I’m getting there. I’m hoping I’m going to be able to do it Saturday.
I’m walking up steps now. They didn’t want me to walk up steps. I’m walking up some steps on it. And I’m optimistic, but I’m not positive [it will happen vs. Temple].