THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our weekly teleconference with Coach Paterno. We’ll start with questions.
Q. Your team has had slow starts in its three road games. Is there any explanation for that and is it at all a concern?
COACH PATERNO: Well, yeah, I have a little concern obviously. Do I have an explanation? No. I really don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.
Obviously I’m just glad we were able to learn from the slow starts and go on from there. But other than that, I don’t have anything. We had a slow start last weekend at home.
Q. Joe, what is Chaz Powell’s status for Saturday? What is your impression of Greg Jones as a Michigan State linebacker?
COACH PATERNO: I think Jones is a really good football player. In fact, we talked about him this morning. What has he got, a hundred some tackles, a couple other things? We were talking about him. I think it’s 53, isn’t it, his number? I don’t talk names, I talk numbers when I talk with the staff. Basically that’s where I come from with the numbers because I look at people, I don’t look at reputations, I look at the way they play.
He’s a heck of a football player. Powell I doubt will make it. In fact, we’re not really counting on him for this week.
Q. How do you think DeOn’tae Pannell was at guard last week and will he stay there the rest of the season?
COACH PATERNO: We only have one game left. He’ll stay at guard. I thought the he did a pretty good job really, not a great job, particularly if you figure he’s coming off an injury and a new position. I thought overall he did a good job.
Q. What is the status of A.J. Wallace? How does the absence of Beachum affect your team?
COACH PATERNO: Well, Beachum is obviously a big one. He was a kid that played on special teams as well as played fullback, tailback, a great kid on the practice field.
A.J. may play, so I’m not going to get into that.
But they’re different types. Beachum is all over the place for you. Anything you ask him to do, he does well. A.J. is a little different. A.J., we’ve asked him to cover kicks, he’s done a decent job on that. He’s played a decent corner. So, you know, he’s a good football player who probably could be better than he performs. But Beachum is one of those guys, he’s a coach’s player.
Q. Devon Smith, why haven’t we seen more of him lately than we have in the beginning of the year?
COACH PATERNO: Didn’t get in a couple games because he cut classes, all right? He wasn’t in a couple games. He decided he was here to get an education, so we played him a little bit last week. He’s okay. He’s got a long way to go to grow up. But he practices hard. Obviously, he’s got great speed. Compare him to a kid like Drake, which I’m assuming you’re going to ask me about next.
Q. You got it.
COACH PATERNO: Yeah, Drake has been a quarterback on a team that was one play away from winning the state championship. A little bit more versatility and can do more things than the other kid can do. He doesn’t have the speed obviously that Smith has. They both have a place in the future.
But, as I said, you know, they got to do it the way we want it done, and that means you go to class. If you don’t go to class, you’re wasting your time.
Q. Why didn’t Drake play more so far?
COACH PATERNO: Because Powell got hurt.
Q. Why didn’t he play more earlier?
COACH PATERNO: Why didn’t he play more? Because Powell was better. Don’t you go to the games?
Q. What are your thoughts about the season that Andrew Quarless has had both on and off the field? What do you think he needs to improve on to succeed if he goes on to the next level?
COACH PATERNO: I think Quarless is doing really well. I think, you know, obviously we’ve done a lot of things with him that we haven’t done with a tight end in the past. We put him in the backfield. He’s half a fullback, half a tight end sometimes.
I think he’s had a heck of a year. He’s been a leader, which has made me feel good about the fact that he took some of the things that we disagreed on, he took them to heart, he’s going to be fine, graduate and everything else.
I’m very pleased with Quarless. I think the biggest thing we have to do with him is probably get him the ball more.
Q. You used Kevin Newsome for that one play there. What was the thinking there? Did you plan to use him more before the game got tight?
COACH PATERNO: You know, I’m always trying to get Kevin a little bit. You know, Kevin Newsome has a future, but we put him in, let him get knocked around a little bit. He can run with the football, change of pace. You know, you hate to be out of style. The wildcat style… I go down every once in a while and look at new suits, stuff like that, buy a decent tie. My wife says, You’re not going to wear that tie to this press conference. I say, Some of these guys don’t even know what a tie is.
I just want to be stylish, so we stick the wildcat in there one play a game.
Q. You usually wear a jacket.
COACH PATERNO: I know I usually wear a jacket. But after watching you guys for 11 weeks, I felt I was a little overdressed.
Q. Joe, last couple weeks defenses have done a pretty good job against your wideouts, really didn’t get much from the wideouts at all last week. Is that because of execution on your part or what defenses are doing to you? What can you do to adjust to that?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think it’s a question of what they’re doing and giving us more of an opportunity to run the football. Early in the year, they challenged our wideouts, challenged our passing game, were not going to let us run the football. I think as the season went along, they started to realize the wideouts were guys they had to worry about, and Clark was a kid they made sure they didn’t let him get a hot a hand. They started to change some coverages, do some things, which gave us an opportunity to run. I think we’ve done a little better job running the football.
We’ve had some bumps and bruises up front, different combinations. Pannell started out as a starting right tackle, now he’s a left guard. We didn’t count on (indiscernible) doing much, and he’s starting at right tackle. We’ve had to improvise a little bit up front.
But even having said that, you know, they’re giving us better opportunities to run the football, and we’re trying to take advantage of that. Maybe we should be throwing more. I don’t know. I think we’ve scored enough points. We haven’t maybe scored them exactly where everybody wants them. We didn’t do a particularly good job against two of the better defensive teams that we played against, both Iowa and Ohio State. So I think we could be criticized in those games. But other than that, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.
Q. In a nutshell, how do you feel Michigan State’s quarterback Kirk Cousins ranks among other quarterbacks in the Big Ten?
COACH PATERNO: You know, that’s an interesting question because there aren’t a lot of solid quarterbacks in this league. You know, the kid at Northwestern got hurt against us early. This kid here Cousins is a good quarterback. You know, they’ve beaten some pretty good football teams. They’ve been in games where they scored a lot of points, maybe not enough to win, but they’ve been very competitive because of their quarterback. Iowa had a fine quarterback. Kid breaks a leg, they lost the game last week that maybe they probably would have won. Not probably, but they would have had a better chance to beat Ohio State with their quarterback.
There are a lot of kids in the league that are all-around good football players, and good wideouts. I’ve been a little bit perturbed because I think the media has jumped on the Southeastern Conference bandwagon, our schedule, this schedule. When you look at it, there’s two pretty good teams in the Southeastern Conference. There’s probably one good team in the league that Texas is playing in. There’s obviously three or four teams that are comparable in the PAC-10. Who knows who’s gonna win each week out there.
You know, I don’t think some of the kids in our league have gotten the credit they should get, either the wideouts or the quarterbacks.
Q. Could you talk about Michigan State’s kicking and return game. Will that be one of the more challenging outings for your special teams?
COACH PATERNO: Every week has been challenging one way or the other. But your point is right. They have an excellent kicking, return game, and an excellent punter. This kid kicks the ball high, right down the middle of the field. They cover well. We just can’t make any mistakes. The kicking game will be a big factor in how this game goes. If we don’t cover our butts off – pardon the ‘butt’ reference – if we don’t do a good job there, we’ll have troubles. Really, that one kid can really go. 90-some yards last week. They’re good.
We spent a little time yesterday on it. We’re going to spend a lot of time on our kicking game this week.
Q. Joe, can you talk about where this rivalry with Michigan State ranks as far as in the Big Ten and why the past couple games at Michigan State have been so tough.
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, that covers a whole lot. Got an hour and a half in this press conference for me to answer?
Michigan State plays well against us at home. We just talked about this this morning, how tough they’ve been out there in Lansing for us. That’s number one. How is the rivalry? It depends on the year.
We started out when we first got in the Big Ten, George Perles, who was coaching out at the Hula Bowl, who I think at that time was the athletic director and football coach of Michigan State, was an old friend, a guy who had been on the Pittsburgh Steelers staff for a long time, a guy I knew. I tried to recruit one of his kids who was a good football player. He called me up. He says, Why don’t we make our game, the game we’re going to play, as the last one every year? He said, We’ve had a great tradition with Michigan State, which we do. Duffy Daugherty, who was the great head coach at Michigan State when they had the great teams in the ’60s, was from Barnesville, Pennsylvania. He was a Barnesville, Pennsylvania kid. When they beat us in the ’50s with those guys, they were all Johnstown area kids, (indiscernible) township and Adams township. Nowadays, that’s all been combined. So we’ve had a long history. Even when I came here in 1950, I think the only game, I think Michigan State broke Penn State’s streak of 18, 19 wins when they had gone to the Cotton Bowl. So there was a good pattern to that. I thought that was a good idea.
I think it’s been a good series. Obviously, you know, there’s a couple series in the league, in the conference, that go back further and have a little bit more tradition. But I think, as we play our way into where we’re not the outcasts there in the hinterlands, I think it will be a very significant – I don’t know what you call it – end-of-the-season game for both teams and for the league.
Q. You talked about the importance of your punt return guys fielding the ball cleanly. After you put a couple on the turf last week, do you consider making any changes? What do you think the problem is there?
COACH PATERNO: We’re not going to let them punt (laughter).
We’re going to try to catch the ball. You’re right. We didn’t catch the football. We spent some time on it. I think Zug had a bad day. He was trying to make something happen. We were behind. He came out, I said, You got to be careful with the football. He said, Coach, I tried to make something happen. You got to appreciate that in a competitor. Astorino, the same thing. He caught the ball, was running. You got to give Indiana credit for that one because the kid saw that he had a shot at Astorino from the back, punched it out.
I think your observation is right, we didn’t handle the ball well, and we got to handle it better. Having everything in tow, those things are going to happen to you. We were sloppy everywhere. We put the ball on the ground too many times there. Obviously a couple of them came from the punt game.
Q. Do you anticipate any changes there?
COACH PATERNO: Oh, yeah. You’re talking to an old punt returner. I still got the Brown record for the yardage in one game in punt returns.
We’ll be all right. We’ll be all right.
Q. Last week you said you were going to make personnel changes on your special teams. How did those changes help you?
COACH PATERNO: I thought we did a good job on coverage, both punts and on kickoffs. We changed some people. But, unfortunately, Beachum and Powell, we put Powell on the coverage team, and Powell probably won’t play this week. Beachum the same way. We’ve got to make a couple more changes this week, and hopefully they’ll work out as well as the ones last week.
Q. Do you know who you’re considering in replacing Beachum with?
COACH PATERNO: I’m not sure yet.
Q. After you lost to Ohio State, everybody figured your BCS hopes were out the window. Now they’re saying if you win on Saturday, you still have a shot at getting in the Orange Bowl. Wonder if you talked to your team about that.
COACH PATERNO: You know, you guys know more than I do. The only thing I know is we’re playing Michigan State this week. Don’t make a darn bit of difference. You guys speculate all you want. If we don’t beat Michigan State, none of that makes any — none of it’s important. So I don’t waste time with it.
I’m going to try to go out there and show those guys how I used to catch punts, ran for touchdowns every time I got my hands on the ball, see if we can beat Michigan State on a punt return so we can keep some of you guys happy.
Q. Navorro Bowman has been a big part of the defense the last couple years. There’s reports he’s considering going to the NFL.
COACH PATERNO: I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
Q. Navorro Bowman.
COACH PATERNO: I never talked to him about it.
Q. Evan Royster has 990 yards. Can you analyze some of his progress this year and throughout his career, how good of a back he’s been for you.
COACH PATERNO: In fact, I got on Royster a little bit either last week or two weeks ago. I said, Hey, you’re not playing with a lot of enthusiasm like you have. I thought he played well last week.
He’s a good, solid, all-around black. He’s not flashy. He’s consistent. He knows what’s going on. He can do everything you want him to do. He blocks well enough. He’s a really good receiver and he’s intelligent. If we put something in on a Monday, we don’t have to worry about whether he can handle it or not. You have some other players, you know, when you debate whether you want to try something different for a particular game, you always wonder whether he can handle the mental part of it.
Royster is a heck of an athlete. He was a great lacrosse player. He’s got an older brother who is a fine football player that went out to Stanford. At some point people thought that our Royster was the best lacrosse player in the state of Virginia, which is a good lacrosse state.
He’s a good player.
Q. Hoping you have your old athletic director hat around somewhere. Are you involved or been kept up to speed with the university’s new pricing plan for football season tickets that’s out there?
COACH PATERNO: Well, the only thing I know is they were debating it. They asked me what I thought. I said, Look, you guys have the responsibility for 29 sports. It’s a lot different than when I was the athletic director. Didn’t have the impact it was now. We didn’t have scholarships for all the women’s sports. We didn’t have to upgrade facilities. Right now we’re going to build another softball field, a better softball field, for the women. And I think we should. We didn’t have some of the pressure that we have as far as, you know, expenses and things of that kind. You guys were all uptight about trying to find out how much I was making. Then when you found out how much I was making, that was the end of the story because there were guys out there making three and four times what I’m making. There’s an awful lot of pressure.
I think that the university is doing the best it can. Now, what exactly the specifics of the program, I don’t know. All I’ve ever said to Tim Curley is, Tim, you’re doing one heck of a job, all right? You just look around at the facilities, you look at what they’ve done to the soccer field, you look at the baseball field that was put out there, you look at all the things that have been done. How you paying for it? He said, Well, it’s tough. I said, Well, you know, remember, whatever we do, do it well.
In fact, I’m going to be after his back to fix up the visiting team locker room. We got the worst visiting team locker room in this conference. We have to spend money to fix that up.
So I think that they’re doing a heck of a job. I’m disappointed that either the media or somebody who knew what was going on would let it go because they had told me, you know, Wait till the season’s over, we’ll make the announcement. Michigan State is on my mind, all right? That to me is the only thing we should all be thinking about, Michigan State. Now all of a sudden I got you asking me a question about something. I said, I ain’t part of it, except I know you’re going to do a good job. And I think the university has done a super job.
You take a look at what other people are doing. How much are we charging compared to other people? I think we’re probably at the bottom of the list. I saw what Michigan charges, and I saw what Ohio State charges. See what these other people are charging, what kind of money we got to raise. I don’t know whether it’s changed or not. When I was the athletic director, every time they raised tuition, the budget went up. We don’t get a nickel from the university for anything. Completely self-supporting. So they got to do something or we got to cut back sports, and we don’t want to do that.
But that’s not my bout.
Q. Might have been a pre-season magazine where you talked about eight home games, the challenge it is for the fans.
COACH PATERNO: I haven’t got the slightest idea what you do with it. It’s not my decision to make. I got Michigan State to play this week.
Q. Can you talk about why Mark Dantonio looks to be a good fit at Michigan State. Last week you talked about Indiana playing in hard luck. Michigan State has been in every game and also has had hard luck. Might be better than their 6-5 record would indicate.
COACH PATERNO: Absolutely. I think Michigan State is a fine football team. I thought Indiana was a good football team. I told you that.
No, I think Michigan State and Mark Dantonio is a fine coach. I said to Bill Lynch before the game, The one thing about this league right now is we got more good, young coaches than I’ve seen since I’ve been in the league. I said, I just hope that everybody understands it’s going to take a while for some of the programs to get going. You got to have a little luck. Michigan State has had some bad luck. Indiana has had some bad luck. Put the ball on the ground at the wrong time, get a lousy officials call, which you’ll get from time to time. I said, You know, just hang in there.
Michigan State is obviously a little further along than Indiana. They’re on the verge of being a really good football team. I hope they’re at least 10 days away. But they’re good. Mark is a good coach. They’re doing a heck of a job. It will be a good football game.
Q. Joe, could you talk about what Ed Czekaj meant to Penn State.
COACH PATERNO: Ed is one of the great Penn Staters. When I came here, Ed was an associate or assistant. I forget. Ike Gilbert was the business manager. We didn’t have an athletic director in those days. We had a dean in phys ed and an athletics guy by the name of Carl Shott. Ed worked for Ike Gilbert as kind of a bookkeeper kind of thing, and then Ed moved up. Ed was so loyal to Penn State. He was as fine a Penn Stater and did a good job.
I got a little annoyed at one time, went in to see Ed. I said, Ed, where is the money? I want to build some facilities. We had been to four straight New Year’s Day Bowl games. There wasn’t any money to build a couple facilities which I thought we needed. Ed said, We got to do some things, we built the research lab, did this and that, so it’s been used. Ed said, It wasn’t really my decision, but it was the university’s decision to do it.
I said, Well, why don’t you and I go down there and make a fuss. He said, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to embarrass Penn State. He said, I can sit and take a backseat.
That’s the way he was. He was just a wonderful, wonderful man. In a way, all those guys are gone. McCoy and Gilbert, Ed, Jim. Don’t see much of Jim anymore. Long tradition of great Penn Staters.
Q. Has your team been as consistent as you might have hoped for at this point in the season, late in the season?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think we played well. Obviously we would liked to have won another game or two. But I think for a young team, some key positions, people were young, I thought overall we did all right.
You know, as I said, I would have loved to have won another game or two, and probably could have had a shot at it. But we didn’t do it. So, I mean, again, hopefully we’ve learned from some mistakes we made and we won’t make them again this week when we’re, again, going out to Michigan and playing a tough Michigan State football team.
You guys are the guys that are disappointed, I think.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, coach.
COACH PATERNO: Thank you.