JEFF NELSON: Thank you. Welcome to our weekly teleconference with Coach Paterno. We’ll start questions.
Q. After watching the game film, can you evaluate why the offense struggled in the final three quarters Saturday night?
COACH PATERNO: Well, obviously, the turnovers hurt us, and field position in the second quarter was almost nonexistent. The offensive situation for us because of the field position. And as I said, the turnovers. Every time we looked as if we might get a little momentum going.
But that would be to take away from Iowa. Iowa was a solid defensive football team. They played very, very well. They chased the ball down well. I thought at times we did a pretty good job.
I don’t know whether the rain and the weather had an impact on both quarterbacks. We didn’t throw the ball. We didn’t catch it. We threw it pretty well. We didn’t catch it. And I think they went through the same thing. So it was a combination of things. I really couldn’t put my finger on any one thing. But it certainly was not a lack of effort. I think the kids tried really hard, we just couldn’t get it done. .
Q. Could you evaluate your kicking game after the first month of the season? What have you liked about it and what has disappointed you?
COACH PATERNO: I was disappointed obviously that we had to punt block. I told the kids all week this was probably going to come down to a kicking play. It reminded me of when they played Alabama in ’82. We got licked. Not as early as this one, but somewhere in the middle of the season. We blocked the punt.
The personal protector backed up into the punter, and they blocked the punt and got a touchdown out of it and went on to beat it. So that reminded me of that. I think we were better. We covered kickoffs better.
Outside of that particular play, you know, Boone did a good job. And not that the punt block was his fault. The field goal — we made one, and then the other one was, you know, it was just short a little bit. And maybe the wind was a little stronger factor than I had believed at the time. But it was right on target. He kicked it straight. It just didn’t have enough legs on it.
So I think overall we were — obviously, the big, big exception was the fact that we fell asleep against the four-man rush. They were not coming after us. They were really playing it kind of safe. But somebody made a mistake and got the blocked punt.
Q. How concerned are you with the number of turnovers you’ve committed versus the number that you force, particularly fumbles?
COACH PATERNO: I missed that. On oh, I’m very much concerned with the turnovers. There’s no question about it. I started out saying, you know, we had five turnovers. You know, five turnovers – I’m including the punt block as one of the five turnovers – you can lose most games you play. I don’t care who you play.
So, yeah, I am concerned with it. No question about it.
It’s hard to pin down the thing. Some of the turnovers were where a kid doesn’t catch a football. The kid puts the ball on the ground. But, you know, the guy that did a couple of them was one of the most dependable kids we’ve had as far as hanging on to the football a little bit. So you never know. Don’t know.
We were talking about it the other day, remember when Bobby Engle dropped three punts in one game? Kids have days. And you’ve got to, you know, you’ve got to just fight your way through them.
Q. What’s the biggest area you’d like to see the offensive line improve on?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t think there’s any one particular one. I think we got beaten by a good football team Saturday. Played better than we did. I think we’ve just got to continue to improve. Get a little bit better. Do a couple of things as was mentioned. Hang on to the ball a little bit. Try to get a better turnover ratio. Don’t make a mistake in the kicking game, and just keep pecking away.
Obviously, nobody wants to get licked, but I think there are things that can be learned from it. I think our kids we had talked last week, some people asked me how good are we? And I said you never know how good you are until you get into a tough football game, see how your kids react to it. And I thought that we hung in there.
But I think obviously we’ve got to learn from it, and I think we will. So I’m not — I think we’re okay.
Q. What’s the injury status with your linebackers, particularly Sean Lee? At what point does he get to be ruled in or out?
COACH PATERNO: That’s a medical decision. He didn’t practice yesterday, and I would doubt he’ll practice today. I think we’ll go from there. Literally — I know this sounds evasive — but it’s literally a day-to-day thing.
Sean’s always pushing. “I can go. I can go. I can go.” But that’s his personality and his competitive nature. The doctors have to take everything into consideration. They can’t let him go too soon.
He’s a young man with quite a future, and you don’t want to impair his opportunities the rest of his life. Whether it’s sports or something else, you know, you don’t want him walking around the golf course as a cripple. So they’re very concerned about doing what’s right for Sean Lee. And Sean’s very concerned about doing what he can do for the team. So there’s a obviously a conflict of interest there.
It’s the doctor’s call. I try not to in any way make Sean feel he’s got an obligation to come out there and do anything like that. I think it’s all up to the doctors. And knowing what kind of a competitor Sean is, I’ve tried not to in any way get him to think, well, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to play. I’ve got to play.
So it’s a day-by-day thing. That’s not — again, I’m trying not to be evasive. I just think we’re all in the same boat. We just don’t know.
Q. Your kickoffs have been consistently pretty short so far this season. Have you thought about making a move there? Letting the freshman get a try? What are your thoughts on that situation?
COACH PATERNO: Did you say the kickoff returns?
Q. No, the kickoffs with Wagner, they’ve been short?
COACH PATERNO: I think he’s done a good job. He’s been 65 yards kicking them. I think we’ve got on average, I think his average is 65 point something. The kickoff — the problem you get into and I tried to say last week or the week before, when they move the ball back to the 30-yard line and you kickoff now, you kickoff 65 yards, you’re still not getting it to the goal line.
If you keep it high, I think you’ve got a shot at keeping people within a certain area. And I think we did a better job Saturday.
Gee, I think Collin has done a really good job. I would have never even thought about changing kickers there. I think he’s gotten it up high. You know, the difference between college and pro, as I’ve said before, is the pros have a three-inch tee when they kick off on the 30-yard line, which makes a big difference. We don’t have a three-inch tee in college football. I think Collin does as well as anybody.
Now early I felt we did not do a good job covering. We had a lot of kicks back to the 40, and I thought Saturday we did a much better job.
Q. You mentioned how the kids would react in a tough game, and now I guess you have to be concerned how they react after a loss. What are your concerns about that and what have you told them to get their chins up and look ahead?
COACH PATERNO: We’ve got to find out if we’ve got some fighters. As simple as that. If you get knocked down, you feel sorry for yourself. You get up angry. I think they’ll be angry. I think we’ll do well.
We had a good, solid practice yesterday, and didn’t try to do much. We worked about an hour and ten minutes. But the kids were into it. I think today will obviously be an important day because we’ll do a lot more rough stuff today. It’s Tuesday, but I think we’ll be okay.
As I said, I think we gave a good effort. We got licked, and we can help ourselves. I’m always reluctant to get into that kind of a conversation because it takes away from the other guys.
I thought Iowa played a heck of a good football game. Stayed steady. Even when they were down going into the fourth quarter. I think one thing that we didn’t do very well was after the interception they ran it down toward the 27-yard line. We really didn’t — on the quick switch we didn’t play good defense with two downs. That’s about the only thing in the game that I felt we really didn’t have the kind of effort you need. But that’s the first time they’ve been in that situation, some of those guys.
Q. There’s a lot of talk about the offensive line. How do you think the defensive line did? It seemed like Iowa pass protected pretty well. Just generally assess the performance of the front, your down people?
COACH PATERNO: I think the defensive line did an excellent job. I don’t know quite where you’re coming from with the pass protection. He was harassed several times. I mean, he didn’t have a great day. What were they 12 for 25 or 26, he was? He didn’t score the touchdown pass.
I think that we did — the defensive line did a fine job whether we rushed four or we rushed five, sometimes we rushed six. But I think that was fine. And I think the offensive line is doing much better. I think they’re coming along really well.
You know, I’m disappointed in that we didn’t win the football game, obviously, but I’m not discouraged. I am not discouraged with this football team. You know, I will be if we can’t eliminate the putting the ball on the ground and not catching it in the clutch and things like that. Yeah, then I’ll start to get upset. But I think that we played tough and we got licked.
Q. Joe Suhey was born and raised out in Illinois. Has he talked at all about getting a chance to start and go out there and play in Illinois in his home state? Is he excited about that at all?
COACH PATERNO: Really, you guys (laughing). You know we’ve got a football team that just got licked. If you think I’m going around saying are you happy? Are you happy? Are you happy? What would you like to do? Would you like to — me to come over and brush your teeth for you tomorrow morning because you’re going to be going home. No, come on, knock it off, will you.
Q. I was just wondering what your thoughts were about the Illinois quarterback Williams. I see he’s still looking for his first touchdown of the season either passing or running.
COACH PATERNO: Well, the Juice is a heck of an athlete. I think everything is relative. I thought Ohio State did a great job taking away his best target. The kid from Washington that we tried really hard to get that ended up going to Illinois. He and Williams have been a great combination.
Ohio State did a great job taking him out of the game. They forced Williams into doing some other things. But he’s a great athlete. He can do so many things.
You know, he’s been banged up, and considering all the bumps and bruises that he’s had, for him to go in there and play that football game he played against Ohio State — and Ohio State’s a very good defensive football team. I mean, they are very, very fine. I think it shows just what kind of an athlete and competitor he is. He’ll be tough this week. There is no question about that.
Q. You still have a chance to win the Big Ten. You still have a chance to go to the Rose Bowl and have a real good season. However, the national championship would seem to be out of the picture now. And a lot of your fans seem to be really deflated because of that because the expectations here are so great. What would you tell those people who might think; okay, the season’s a huge disappointment now because 23 years now since you’ve been able to win a national title?
COACH PATERNO: I would tell them that I can’t do anything about that. What do you want me to tell them? I think people that have those kinds of expectations every year, obviously, have to be ready for some disappointments. Did Florida wins the championship losing one game last year? Or the national championship, didn’t they?
I mean, I think you’ve got to be realistic. So I would hope they just would not lose interest and their enthusiasm for the football team, our football team and see what happens. We’ve only played four games. We’ll see what happens.
But for me to be able to address what their expectation or disappointment and their expectations is sometimes you’ve got to be a psychiatrist when you’re a coach. But it’s tough to be Sigmund Freud and everybody else. That’s a problem.
Q. If I can follow that up. You want to be in a place, though, don’t you where you have those expectations? Penn State’s clearly that place?
COACH PATERNO: I try to encourage them. I try to encourage them. But I also try to tell everybody it’s realistic that there are days things aren’t going to go your way.
As I mentioned in 1982 when we won the national championship, we had to come off a tough loss against Alabama where we had a blocked kick for touchdown. That would be nice if it’s a replica or forerunner of what might happen this year, but that’s ridiculous. What happened then, happened then. What’s going to happen from here on in, we’ve got to make happen.
Hopefully the fans will not — I don’t expect them to lower their expectations of how well we can play. But I can’t address it when they’re expectations aren’t met. Because we’ve got hundreds of thousands of fans each one’s got a different view of what’s going on. If I try to do that, I don’t know what else I’d do.
Q. Quarless has been increasing on Saturday. Is he becoming an increasing target than earlier in the season?
COACH PATERNO: I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Quarless played almost 60 plays. He played almost all the game.
Q. He played well on Saturday. He’s becoming more of a target than he was earlier this season?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t know. He’s done well. I think he’s done well all year. I think he came back and he’s — obviously Andrew and I have had our problems because of class work and some off the field things that he got involved in. But once he got himself straight to where he’s grown up, he’s been fine. He’s been fine preseason and everything else.
Q. Can you assess Wisniewski’s shotgun snaps? Have you considered giving someone a shot there shuffling things up to give someone else a shot with those snaps?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t think we have anybody better than Wisniewski. I think he’ll get better as he goes along. That’s a tough job to move from guard to center particularly when you are using the shotgun. He’s gotten better all the time.
We did not have — we had a bad exchange in one of the earlier games. Not the one on the goal line. But his snaps Saturday weren’t all perfect, but they were such that they could be handled. So I think he’s doing all right.
Q. Did the conditions on Saturday affect your offensive play calling at all? Were there things that you maybe had in the playbook early in the week that you throughout once you got to the field and it was raining all day?
COACH PATERNO: No, I think field position had more to do with it than anything else. The fact that we couldn’t get any continuity and started to turn the ball over. We had the opportunity to make some big plays. We just didn’t do it.
And I won’t get into the officiating, but I think they allowed some things to happen out there with our receivers that made it difficult for us to do a couple of things.
Q. How’s Brandon ware responded from his injury? How far away is he from playing?
COACH PATERNO: Brandon ware’s a couple weeks away.
Q. Weight wise or because of his foot?
COACH PATERNO: No, because of his foot. He broke a bone. In fact, we just talked about that yesterday. It’s at least two weeks.
Q. Could you talk about the development of Stephon Morris, and what he’s done to see a lot of playing time lately?
COACH PATERNO: He’s a really good prospect. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm. He’s young. We’re anxious to get him some exposure and playing time. When he’s gotten it, he’s done well. I think some day he’s going to be a really good player.
Q. You talked about having fighters. Has it been your experience is it the first loss of the season, particularly if it’s a little unexpected, is that the toughest to sort of respond to?
COACH PATERNO: Well, they’re all tough to respond to. Again, if you want to tie it in with the expectations that fans have, you’ve got to understand that the kids who are playing the game have high expectations. They work all winter. They work trying to get bigger and stronger and quicker and faster off the field. They go to a tough screen practice, and they go all summer workouts and the whole bit, preseason. So their expectations are high. And they’re disappointed.
So I really appreciate the fans’ interest and so forth, but I’m more concerned with those kids. Now whether it’s the first game or whether it’s, you know, we lose another game, they hurt. If you really put the effort into it that these guys have put into it, and you lose, it hurts. It hurts, you know. It hurts the coaches, obviously, because they’ve put the same kind of time — not necessarily the physical time into it, but the mental and all the other things that go into it trying to get a football team ready.
So there are a bunch of us. We’ve got to all get together to see what we can do to make ourselves better. Now whether it happens today, whether it happens five weeks from now, I don’t know. I think it’s always the same. I think it’s how did you lose? Why did you?
You know, we played Texas years ago when I got in trouble. We had beaten Texas down at Texas. And they were a good football team, and they beat us. I think it was second, third game of the year.
I went into the press conference and talking after the game was over. Answered all the questions that seemed to be important to the people that were asking them. But they weren’t exactly important to me. I’m sitting there. Finally at the end I said, Now, look, let’s get this straight. I think if we played Texas five times, they’re going to beat us four times. Now I’m going to go home and beat up my wife.
I never heard the end of the beat up the wife. But I heard that nobody paid much attention to the fact that Texas was that good. They were a better football team than we were.
Now that loss wouldn’t be as tough as the loss last Saturday. We’re a very even football team. They just played better than we did. They played better. They got a touchdown on the blocked punt which they certainly deserved. The kid did a great job. They intercepted the pass, and the kid did a great job returning it 40 yards. And we put it on the ground and started to try to come back. So we didn’t play that well. But it wasn’t a question if we played them five times as we did with the Texas game. We wouldn’t beat them.
So anyway, that’s that. You know, when your kids play hard and you’re in the game, it’s sometimes a little tougher than to just play somebody and walk away and say we’re better than you are.
Q. Sue apparently forgave you for that then?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t know about that. I know a lot of women have never forgiven me for the statement, and that was a stupid statement. Don’t get me wrong.
Q. Are you considering a change at right back? Having McCormack come?
COACH PATERNO: Right now McCormack would start if we played tomorrow. I think he deserves a shot at it, and we’ve been debating whether to get him in there or not. He’s worked hard. I think he deserves a shot.
Q. You’ve talked in previous weeks about the need to force more turnovers on defense. Are you satisfied with that effort from last week?
COACH PATERNO: Well, again, you’ve got to give the other guys some credit. We had two turnovers. And the two we got from them, two interceptions. They didn’t put the ball on the ground. Obviously, we didn’t make a kicking playa, though we did have a decent return on one of the kickoffs.
We’re better. We got two. We won the first couple of games, so we’ve got two. You don’t like to come out of it with a minus 3. That’s what we came out was a minus 3 in the turnover ratio. So that part of it isn’t good.
But I’m satisfied with two. I think against a good football team that’s as precise and does a limited amount of things as Iowa does, and just keeps pecking away at you, I think two’s probably a pretty good day.
Q. A different component of the Joe Suhey question from earlier. The Suhey family has been very heavily involved with Penn State over the years. Looking back at that legacy of that family, what are some of your memories of the Suheys?
COACH PATERNO: You know, I lived with the Suheys. In fact I’m a Godfather. I may even be Matt’s Godfather, I’m not sure. I know I am of a couple of the kids.
You know, Joe Suhey plays here. His father played here. His grandfather was an All American here, all right. His great grandfather was an All American here, Bob Higgins, and was a coach here for 20-something years, I think. That whole family comes in here. They’re Penn Staters.
And if it wasn’t for Bob Higgins who struggled through the years when everybody else was doing what they had been doing, and Penn State decided to de-emphasize as the committee foundation wanted to do. No scholarships. It took a couple of guys like Earl Edwards, who ended up coaching, Al Michaels, and Jim O’ Hora who were all Penn Staters. They went out and hustled to get a couple of kids in. First thing you know in 1947, after the war was over, they had that great cotton bowl team.
And Steve Suhey, Joey’s grandfather, was on that team and was an All American. I lived with them for a year. They were my closest friends here in state.
It’s hard. He’s got a lot of things. You know, people see the name Suhey and he’s playing hard. He’s playing tough. He’s a good football player. Well, I can’t compare him with his grandfather or his father. That’s not fair to the kid.
The kid’s just got to be Joe Suhey, go out and have a little fun. Play the game. But understand that he’s part of one of the great traditions of any university. Any one in the area of football.
Q. Nick Sukay played pretty well on Saturday. Can you talk about Sukay’s development so far this season?
COACH PATERNO: I think Nick did all right. Yeah, I think Nick’s got a chance to be good: It’s the first year he’s played. And he has been bumped up all the time. So I think he’ll get better as he goes along. Good, tough game though. Saturday will help some of those young kids.
Q. Is this a good time to take the team on the road?
COACH PATERNO: I hadn’t really thought about it. I don’t know would I like to take them out? I don’t know. It may be a good time to take them on the road. We get all of us by ourselves and get a chance to do it. It might be something.
Right now we’re just trying to think about how we want to put some things together. We can be a little better football team. And the environment that we’re going to play in has not been something I’ve given much thought to yet.
But I think the point you make, it may be. It may be. We may need to just get away. Get in a good, tough football game before a hostile crowd and go at it. I don’t know for sure.