Monthly Archives: October 2009

Big Ten Picks

Before I get to the picks for this week, allow me to direct you over to Jeff Rice’s column in today’s Centre Daily Times.

Nail, meet hammer.

All this talk this week that certain players from Penn State aren’t getting just due from the beat writers is total bubkiss. Rice points that out.

What I will continue to point out in defense of my journalist brothers and sisters is this. It ain’t our job to promote the players. Like I said earlier this week we have guys we definitely root for. For me, it’s a guy like Clark, I will always be willing to admit that.

If Joe is concerned that his players aren’t getting promoted, look no further than the school itself. Paterno and gang have never promoted players vying for awards properly. Ever.

Before every season members of the FWAA get all kinds of propaganda from schools that have award candidates. Tennessee sent out a media guide just for Eric Berry this season. Illinois sent out a DVD of Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn. Oklahoma sent stuff out for players, Notre Dame too.

Penn State as recently as 2002, when Larry Johnson was a finalist, didn’t do much to help his cause. Same for Mike Robinson in 2005.

Create a notepad, give me a DVD, promote the guys. Do something. But don’t blame the media for lack of credit bestowed among players. That’s just not fair.

PICKS

LAST WEEK: 4-1, thanks Northwestern for the comeback, ruining  a perfect week. Almost hit exactly on Ohio State-Minn. Had 37-7, was 38-7.

ON THE SEASON: 47-14

NEW MEXICO STATE vs. OHIO STATE, Noon, Big Ten Network

Buckeyes are rolling, should not let down headed into Penn State in a week. I think Pryor has another huge game and the Buckeyes need to do something to fix the running game as a whole.

The Pick: Ohio State 35, New Mexico State 10

PURDUE at WISCONSIN, Noon, ESPN2

Badgers have to curtail the bit of a tailspin, Purdue is fighting for bowl eligibility…and that won’t be easy. I still like the Badgers running game here, especially at home. Purdue beat Illinois last week, proving nothing after that Ohio State win, so I am still not sure what we can expect from them.

The Pick: Wisconsin 24, Purdue 12

MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS, 3:30, ABC

If Illinois was ever going to break its slump, this would be the week. And that’s not meant as a disrespect to Michigan, they are definitely the better team, but how much did getting crushed at home by Penn State take out of the Wolverines?

I’ll say not much. Nice rebound this week. Does Illinois have a quarterback yet? Do they have a head coach?

The Pick: Michigan 27, Illinois 9

MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 8 pm, Big Ten Network

Feel awful for the Spartans because they had that game against Iowa last week. Going to Minnesota to close October, at night, outside, that’s not going to be good. Weather for the game calls for 37-degrees, will feel like 31. No thanks.

Michigan State showed me something battling last week and I still believe they are on the rise toward the end of the season. But Minnesota at home should be tough.

The Pick: Michigan State 24, Minnesota 20

PENN STATE at NORTHWESTERN, 4:30, ESPN

I would call this a trap game if Penn State hadn’t beaten Ohio State last year. Then they might be looking ahead too much. Northwestern cannot run the ball, I am not sure anyone up front can block Jared Odrick and Daryll Clark will continue his hot streak with Derek Moye and Chaz Powell.

It’s expected Stephfon Green returns next week, so Brandon Beachum is your No. 2 tailback again. I think my final score will look closer than the game really indicates.

The Pick: Penn State 37, Northwestern 20

MAIN EVENT

INDIANA at IOWA, Noon, ESPN

You get the feeling the Hawkeyes are living a bit of a charmed life right now, and if this game were on the road I might be a little more suspect.

I think Indiana is definitely a live underdog in this game, but again, Iowa City is becoming so impossible to play in if you are the opponent.

How will Iowa compete without Adam Robinson? Or Dace Richardson? Colin Sandeman is likely out too. Iowa has a chance to prove something here, but I am beginning to believe they cannot survive much longer.

The Pick: Iowa 27, IU 20

 

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Nittany Lion Hotline recap

Nittany Lion hotline is done for another week. A recap.

Your Host: The always joyful Steve Jones, who by the way I had the chance to catch a few minutes of on the way to meet another beat writer last Saturday to watch the game. He and Jack were really good in the first quarter. But I cannot stand hearing “We” when Jack speaks. Just saying. Hammer, if you read this, please don’t hurt me.

Presenting sponsor: Sinus Buster Nasal Spray

Player Guest: Cornerback A.J. Wallace

Joe arrives at..: See “The Big News”

The Big News: Joe was absent tonight. It was Tom Bradley and Galen Hall in his place. The humor factor went into the can once that was announced. Bradley is awesome, but Joe is just funny even when he doesn’t say a word.

The Big News II: Toward the end of the show, offensive coordinator Galen Hall that Stephfon Green is “not healthy”…and uses the phrase “if he comes back healthy”….hmmmmmm.

A.J. is up:

  • A.J. didn’t want Minnesota’s Eric Decker to get any clean releases and he tried to play as physical as possible against Decker.
  • A.J. gives props to Jerome Hayes and Navorro Bowman for that fantastic goal line stand vs. Minnesota two weeks ago.
  • Game has slowed down for AJ. “Everything was moving so fast. Now it seems that everything slowed down. I think it comes with patience,” says Wallace.
  • A.J. Was a running back in high school, he says he got bored playing running back because he scored too much or had too many yards and the conversion to cornerback was hard because he had to play so physical.
  • He calls Beaver Stadium an “un-compairable” stadium in college football.
  • He wants to do non-profit work when he is done with college.
  • A.J. wears No. 1 because he wore it in HS, and he wanted No. 5, but he had to take No. 12 so he waited until No. 1 came open. (No. 1 is to the PSU corner what it is to the Michigan wide receiver. The marquee corner, aside from Zemitas in ’05, wears it now. Anwar Phillips had it, Justin King took it, then A.J.)

Wallace exits stage left. Scrap is due up after the break.

It’s 6:18 in the east, 3:18 in the west and just after midnight in London, and we welcome defensive coordinator Tom “Scrap” Bradley into the program.

  • Caller on I-80, who hits a dead spot on the road asks something. Bradley says the defense is playing well because the offense is playing so much better and shortening the game for the D.
  • The side judge signaled for the clock stoppage on Saturday at Michigan, so says Scrap. Jones adds in there, in a hilarious deadpan moment “and Penn State won 35-10.”…ahhhhh Steven.
  • Northwestern’s pass patterns are different than Michigan’s spread attack. They are working on a new-front four rotation.
  • Doug from Wellsboro asks for Scrap to essentially give up the gameplan for the defense this week. Scrap declines. (And then Paterno sends a hitman to Doug’s house to make sure he don’t call da show no more. “Doug? Oh we won’t heah from him no more.” )
  • Scrap compares Kakfa to Tebow. Neil Geoghegan from Journal Register thinks C.J. Bacher is better than both of them. Mike Gross would laugh at Neil and tell him Kakfa is better than Bacher and that Bacher stinks and he doesn’t like him.  (inside joke)

Back from the commercial, Scrap is kind enough to stick around. Apparently he isn’t trick or treating tonight. Hey, you know what, I bet that’s what Joe is doing and I bet he is going as George Paterno. (I dearly miss George and Franny in the booth on Saturday’s. Franny is one of my idols.)

  • Henry from Steelton calls in. I am starting to think Henry in Steelton is Henry Hill of Goodfellas fame. Love the Steelton. Steelton and Carbondale is where my people are from.
  • Caller wants to know Scrap’s stance on a playoff system. Bradley wants it. “I think it can be done. Tie it in with the bowl games if you want.” Hey NCAA, when Scrap speaks, you best listen or he will tear your $&*#^!%**#& head off.
  • Bradley repeats his notion that Jared Odrick is the best 3-technique guy in the country. (Agreed)
  • The belief is that Josh Hull is vastly underrated. (Y’all will laugh, but I agree. Dude has been unbelievable this season)
  • They are pimping Astorino and his accomplishments.

Bradley exits stage left to root for the Pirates tonight. Wait, what? Oh the Pirates and their awfully cheap, overly sensitive ownership isn’t in the World Series? Sorry, my bad.

Galen Hall joins the show at 6:41 pm in the east, 3:41 pm in the west and about the time for last call over the pond….who am I kidding…they don’t stop drinking in the mother land.

Galen says he’s glad to be here. Sure sounds like it.

  • Caller asks how he can get some autograph pictures of Joe. That’s your question? Really? You can ask anything of the OC, or Jonesy….and you ask how you can get a JoePa autograph? CHILD PLEASE!
  • Legit question: What happens on a road trip Friday. They meet at 1:15 pm, fly out at 4:15, takes about an hour and change on the charter, they grub, go to bed, and they mix in a few meetings, then head on over to the stadium.
  • Caller from Chi-town asks who the biggest surprise on O has been and which player hasn’t been fully utilized yet? Galen says the surprise, really there is none. The players are playing the way they all thought they would.
  • Royster has made progress has come in making more decisive cuts behind the zone blocking scheme. He has to get more comfortable with the offensive line. Galen says he is picking up the blitzes better.

Final segment with Galen Hall

  • Caller stumbles around his question saying he used to see Galen play pinball at a local bar. OK, creep. He asks how many plays Sean Lee was in on last week. (Jones slips in, “35 give or take). Galen doesn’t think the injury bug will tag Sean Lee.
  • They pimp Daryll Clark…which is good, but I doubt anyone from ESPN is listening and I doubt that any Heisman voters out of state heard it. But this is what PSU needs to do, they need to pimp their own players better. We can’t write feel-good stories just because we like someone in our jobs, we have to be down the middle and write the facts (even though it does come out every once in a while we like a guy, like I said the other day)…so keep this up and these guys will get recognized.

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Midweek rumblings

Since when did anyone say Daryll Clark isn’t the right guy for Penn State, or isn’t a good quarterback?

All of a sudden there’s this “Daryll isn’t getting as much credit” push from Penn State.

Again, I ask, since when?

 

Daryll Clark

No one doubts that Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark is among the best quarterbacks in the country/Morning Call Photo

He’s been the face of the football team since his first collegiate start in 2008. The only time anyone on the beat ever doubted Clark was back when he was battling Pat Devlin…and that’s only because no one had any idea what was in store for either going into 2008.

 

We all found out quickly.

Still, some feel it’s necessary to state the obvious when it comes to Clark and make it out as if those on the beat have shunned him all the while yet someone is now championing his cause.

Please, we haven’t shunned him.

Anyone who’s read beat writers such as myself, Rich Scarcella, Jeff Rice, Cory Giger or (now Philly Inq Eagles writer) Jeff McLane, just to name a few over the last two years, knows we love the kid.

Dare I say some of us (me included in this argument) root for him to do well, which is supposed to be a no-no in our profession, but I will fully admit to being a fan of DC and maybe that’s come through in my work over the last two years and maybe it hasn’t. Either way I don’t care. He’s a good story, a better kid, and a great leader and we’ve all noticed.

Some just need to open their eyes and read a little more.

That doesn’t mean he is immune from stating the other obvious though. Penn State may end up two games away from back-to-back perfect seasons, both losses to Iowa in which Clark does share some of the blame. He probably still takes too much of it for this year’s loss. But he did not produce in last year’s loss, and outside of two drives, the offense stalled against them this year.

Those are facts. As tough as they are to digest, there is good and bad with everyone and everything. And those who get paid to be objective are supposed to point those out.

FIVE THINGS I THINK I THINK GOING INTO WEEK 9

1. Iowa cannot survive without Adam Robinson: Or can they? Is there a team that is better suited to handle adversity than the Hawkeyes right now? Let’s see, go on the road and win at Penn State. Check. Win at Wisconsin, check. Win in the final seconds on the road at Michigan State? Check. Is there a more charmed life in the Big Ten? I’m going against the grain here and will say they survive and win out.

2. Northwestern is not a trap game for Penn State: Sure it’s sandwiched in between Michigan and Ohio State, but because the Nittany Lions won at the ‘Shoe last year, there is no pressure to look ahead. If either team does, it will be Ohio State, but they will not come close to struggling with New Mexico State.

3. Speaking of the Buckeyes… Jim Tressel is feeling the heat when it comes to Terrelle Pryor, whether he wants to admit it or not. Tressel got a touch snippy with me on the Big Ten call yesterday and you can tell he is sick and tired of answering questions about Pryor’s development and confidence. They are, however, fair questions.

4. Going to East Lansing? Yeah, good luck. Especially with the season winding down. I’d say two teams in the conference, if they got do-overs for some tough losses would rip through those opponents now. One of them is Penn State, the other is Michigan State.

5. If you can’t run, you won’t win: More obvious than anything here. But two teams in the conference, Northwestern and Ohio State, have used their quarterbacks as primary rushers the last couple of weeks. Memo to both teams, stop. Yeah, Terrelle Pryor needs to run because he is a freak and it’s part of his arsenal, so I almost give Ohio State a pass there, but Mike Kafka? Hey Coach Fitz, are you trying to get him killed?

STILL ALIVE

No, not about the Big Ten, but my prediction of Oregon to the Rose Bowl is still very much alive and well, and while I love watching USC and would root for them if I wasn’t such a Miami nut or bandwagon-driving Notre Dame apologist now, I have to pull for the Ducks on Saturday night because being right and saying I told you so is better than, well anything else sometimes.

NOTRE DAME BANDWAGON FACTOR

Yes, I still believe they will win out and go to the BCS. Call the Bandwagon factor +9 right now.

Enjoy the rest of your week, Yankees in six.

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Joe Paterno transcript

JEFF NELSON: Welcome to our weekly teleconference with coach Paterno and we’ll start our questions.

Q. Joe, you’re two-thirds of the way through your season. Is your team about where you thought it would be?
COACH PATERNO: Oh, I don’t know where we thought we’d be. I was hoping we’d be pretty good. I think we’re getting to be pretty good. I’m certainly not unhappy with where we are.
But we still have a ways to go. There’s some things we’re not doing well. Obviously the blocked punts bothered me. We wasted some opportunities.
But I think overall it’s about — we’ve probably done as well as we could have, considering some of the positions we went into, which were inexperience, the injuries to Lee and Bowman and those kinds of things. But I think overall we did probably as well as we could.

Q. You just mentioned Navorro Bowman. He seems to be one of the most versatile linebackers you’ve had in recent years. How important is he to your defense, and have you talked to him much over the season about keeping his focus, given some of the things he’s dealing with?
COACH PATERNO: I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about, “dealing with”.

Q. I mean the probation thing, the offseason, stuff like that. I know you talked with him before the season.
COACH PATERNO: Hopefully that’s behind him. But you say one of the most versatile. You guys have short memories. Posluszny wasn’t bad. And Lee, until he got hurt, wasn’t bad. I think Bowman’s in that class. I think Bowman’s a fine linebacker.
Obviously losing some games early in the year, he wasn’t in quite the kind of conditioning you would want him in. That’s one of the reasons why I keep him in the game a little longer than maybe I would have, because I just think he needs to get where he’s going to have — we’re going to be in some tough games where it’s not going to be quite as — he might not be quite as comfortable as he’s been, and people start taking more notice of him and doing some things to make it a more physical game for him.
So I think that there’s no question he’s a fine linebacker. He’s one of the better linebackers in the country. And I hope we can keep him healthy.

Q. What were some of your impressions of Pat Fitzgerald when he was a linebacker there at Northwestern?
COACH PATERNO: Darn good. We had our troubles with Northwestern out there when Fitzgerald was there. In fact, Ron Vanderlinden, who works with our linebackers now, was coaching at Northwestern at that time. He was assistant coach out there before he went to Maryland as a head coach.
And that’s where I first started to wonder who was coaching the linebackers at Northwestern. When I had a position opened, I went after him, when Ron went to Maryland, I went after him right away. Fitzgerald, he’s a great guy for college football.
He was a heck of a competitor. Smart. Tough. He’s going into the Hall of Fame this December. And we’re fortunate that there’s going to be some Penn State going in. Kurt Warner is going in as a player. Jimmy Weaver, who played for us for a while, got banged up, was the son of Manny Weaver who was a high school coach in Harrisburg and a Penn Stater. And Pat’s going in. He may be one of the youngest players to ever go in, I don’t know.
But he was a heck of a football player. Smart, tough, the whole business. You knew when he decided to coach he’d be a heck of a coach.

Q. After the game in Michigan Saturday some of your players said you told them before that they didn’t understand yet how good they could be. As a coach, how do you know when a team finally does understand that or does get that?
COACH PATERNO: I wish I could tell you. I’ve been around a lot of football teams. And you get a feel for things. The thing I have worried about with our kids going in in certain games is the leadership of some of the older guys, because so many of those kids have not been in really tough games.
I think it’s a credit to Clark, and we mentioned Bowman. Lee, who is on the sideline all the time. And Odrick, who doesn’t really get the kind of credit he should. And Landolt, I think they’re as good in their positions as anybody.
So you just get a feel the way they practice, their reaction to each other, their reaction with the coaches, reaction with me. And sometimes you say to yourself: Hey, these guys, they can be pretty darned good. And I felt that way going into Michigan. I felt we were about ready to play the kind of football game that they could walk away from and feel pretty good about themselves.

Q. You didn’t have a punt blocked, I don’t think Jeremy had one blocked for 130 straight attempts. You’ve had two now. What’s, from your perspective, what different is going on this season so far than maybe in the past?
COACH PATERNO: Well, the one with Iowa was a fluke. They weren’t even trying. They were in what we call a punt safe. It was at mid-field, and they didn’t know whether we might fake it or not.
Because we had the fake earlier in the year when Bailey ran for about 15 yards. So they just came, somebody just blew the assignment. And I won’t get into who blew it, that’s not important. And they came in and blocked the punt and got a great bounce, picked it up, ran it in for touchdown. That doesn’t happen very often.
But once he get something blocked like that, everybody examines everything you’re doing. They figure, hey, we can get one. We can get one.
And I think we spent a lot of time on punt protection because I was worried about that, and I think that we may have gotten Boone into a situation where he had had so much practice, got a little bit careless, because we really — that should not have been blocked. It should not have been blocked. He was just a little bit too long in his steps and he started to kick the ball away from some people and then see some other people and kicked it right into the block.
And that’s not — I don’t mean to put the blame on Boone, because I think we could have done a better job on it. I’m concerned about that. I’m concerned — each game we go in there I’m more worried about the kicking game.
We go into the Northwestern game, Northwestern had a couple of kicks run back. But in the clutch, when they had to get it done, they blocked the punt. They blocked the punt and went on and won the game, made a great comeback against a team that was playing really well, Indiana at the time. I think they were down 28-3, something like that, 29-3, went on to win it.
The blocked punt had a lot to do with it. So we’re going to spend a lot of time on the punting game.

Q. Last week a great win over Michigan. Next week a very much anticipated home game against Ohio State. How do you expect your team leaders on the field to handle this week as far as making sure the guys are focused?
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, you bring up a scenario that I don’t think’s going to be, will be relevant to what where we are. We’ve got to play Northwestern. I haven’t even thought about the game after that one.
And hopefully we haven’t — Northwestern’s — we talked about Fitzgerald. He’s a heck of a competitor. His kids are playing with enthusiasm, tough, and making plays when they have to. They’re big play opportunists. And a fine quarterback and two receivers that catch everything that’s around them.
And No. 12 and No. 85, and I mentioned the kicking game, they’ve been up and down a little bit on that. But in the clutch they’ve made some big plays in there in their kicking game. We’re going to have to stay in focus on Northwestern. The question is getting better and maybe hopefully we can beat them. Nothing to do with what comes after it.

Q. You talked a little bit about Pat Fitzgerald already. But when he got the job at Northwestern, he got it under some extremely tough circumstances. I’m just wondering how impressed you have been with the job he’s done to keep him as competitive as they have been?
COACH PATERNO: I said it. I said I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s done a great job. The reference you make, the unfortunate death of his predecessor, was, yeah, I think that was tough and obviously he was close to and his love of Northwestern, his alma mater.
I’m talking about Fitzgerald, and the way that whole circumstances had developed. I think he went in there and he felt he could get the job done and he could do something good for his alma mater and in particular their football program. And that’s what he’s done. That’s what he’s done.
He’s gone out and he’s got some kids that believe in what Northwestern’s all about and they’re playing awfully well. They’re playing hard. Playing tough.

Q. Joe, I was a little surprised to hear you say Odrick doesn’t get the credit he should. You were talking about leadership. Did you mean as a leader or as a player, or both?
COACH PATERNO: As a football player. I think he’s a heck of a football player. He’s a heck of a leader in practice. I think he’s a leader in the game. Makes plays when they have to be made. I just don’t think some of the kids have gotten quite the credit they should get. I don’t think Clark’s gotten anywhere near the kind of credit he should have after the season he had last year and the kind of season he’s having this year. And we’ve talked about Bowman. I think Bowman was the same way. Bowman was hurt by the fact that he didn’t play early.
But Odrick is really a big-time football player and he’s got the things that you’re suggesting in the way of leadership qualities as well.

Q. So Northwestern’s defense, is this the defense you expect to really flood the box and commit to the run like some of the other defenses you faced here, or do you think they might roll back in coverage like some other defenses have against you?
COACH PATERNO: I haven’t got the slightest idea.

Q. Wonder where you stand health-wise at right tackle and where is DeOn’tae Pannell? Is he in the mix still?
COACH PATERNO: Pannell is okay. He’s not 100 percent. But he can certainly — he can go longer without that ankle starting to bother him. He’s certainly in the mix. McCormack’s okay now. So McCormack and Poti will probably fight it out for the right tackle spot, and we’ll keep Pannell over on the left because it’s a little easier with that left ankle bumped up for him to push off his right foot when he has to pass protect on the left side.
So that’s the reason we moved him over to the left side until his ankle is 100 percent. But I think we’re moving it — I think we’ve made progress. I think we’re going to be about as healthy as we have been all year in this game. I’m not so sure about Green and that bothers me a little bit.
But other than that, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Q. Two years ago you did something that Penn State hadn’t done in almost like 20 years. Brian Norwood, I know, had a help recruiting McCormack and Poti, junior college kids. I know you preferred to bring kids out of high school. But can you kind of mention what they’ve done, have they lived up to being the first JC guys in like 20 years, and did maybe they open the door a little bit if you had a particular need at a position to maybe consider bringing in another junior college kid in the future?
COACH PATERNO: What are you talking about? What did you say about Brian Norwood? What did Brian Norwood used to do?

Q. I think he was involved with —
COACH PATERNO: I thought you were talking about one of his boys. We’ve had junior college kids before. Rich Marty came from Nashville Community College, turned out to be heck of a football player.
He has a boy playing for us, came as a walk-on and a kid as highly respected as high school linebacker as anybody in the country down from Louisiana where Rich lives down in New Orleans. And Mike, unfortunately, got hurt early in the year in preseason and hasn’t had a chance to show people how good he is. And then we had Alberto, was our place kicker, was a junior college kid. So we’ve had some junior college kids.
You’ve got to get a kid that’s a good fit for us. We’re not looking for guys that are jumping into junior colleges just because they want to stay eligible in order to get themselves ready for pro football. But we’ve got to look for kids who want to come and go to class and do a good job and Poti and McCormack have both done a good job in those areas. They’re both fine people and they’ll graduate and whether they’re good enough to be pro football players, that’s up to somebody else to make that decision, but they’re going to graduate and that to me is important.

Q. What gives you the impression that some of your guys aren’t getting the credit they deserve? You’ve often said you don’t read the paper.
COACH PATERNO: I don’t read the papers. But when somebody asks me about Odrick this or somebody about that or Clark, you know, I come to these meetings and you guys start asking me about a lot of other people and I get the feeling that just as we went into Michigan that our guys had to show, Clark had to show that he could compare to a couple of freshmen.
Whether you guys know it or not you guys have a little bit of prejudice and it shows.

Q. Quarless has had a nice year for you. Could you look back at his career; was there a point where you thought maybe he wasn’t going to be able to stick it out here given some of the issues that he had?
COACH PATERNO: Sure there was. I think we’ve gone over it about 50 times, haven’t we? Quarless was a kid that was a little spoiled, came in here. He was a gifted athlete, cut some classes, got himself in a situation in a preseason practice where he was late. But he grew up and obviously he’s doing well academically and he’s doing well on the football field.

Q. Can you talk to Graham Zug’s development and, secondly, the importance that walk-ons have had on your program?
COACH PATERNO: Walk-ons have always been a real strong part of our program. In fact, we had some bad news last week when Charlie Roslavitch, the kid from the hard core region, never played high school football. He was 145, 150 pounds when he went into the service, came out of the service was 270 pounds, walked on, made our football team. He was in that automobile accident with the two, the parents who were killed, the man lost the car, Charlie and his wife went to the hospital.
But the man with them was killed and there were two kids in the other car who survived but their parents were both killed.
So Charlie, go way back to walk-ons. They’ve been great. Now back to Zug, big walk on, strong Penn State family. If you said to me when he first came in how good is he going to be, I would say nice rangy kid, tough. Wish he had another step of speed. Let me see him for a while. And he’s gotten better and better and right now he’s doing a really good job.
Now, in all fairness to everybody concerned, Zug has been given a lot more opportunities because people are scared to death of Moye and Powell and so Zug can get in there and do some things and boy he certainly has come through for us. He’s a good football player. I like Zug for a lot of reasons. He’s a heck of a practice player and he does everything the way that you would want it done.

Q. Any prognosis on the injury of Stephfon Green and how you will handle it going forward?
COACH PATERNO: Handle what?

Q. Stephfon Green’s injury and how you might handle it?
COACH PATERNO: I thought you were talking about our punter. Well, we’ll do what we’ll do last week. We’ve got Beachum ready to play some. Carter will be another week along, and we’ve got Royster.
We put a couple formations in there where if we got in a jam we carried the ball a couple times in a single back situation. So we are trying to be ready for another injury, basically.
I think we’re okay if the guys we have all stay healthy and Carter comes along, gets a little better, physically better.
I think we’re okay. But we won’t do too much different than we did last week in that sense because of the type of plays and because of the defense we’re going to see and because of the match-ups that we may get. We may decide to emphasize one part of the game a little differently. But as far as the people who are going to be involved in it, those people will be the same guys.

Q. (Off microphone).
COACH PATERNO: You mean as far as what we’re going to do?

Q. Yes.
COACH PATERNO: Well, Royster’s been such a good football player. I’d hate to come in and say, well, we’re going to take Royster out to give somebody — if that’s what you’re driving out. I don’t know.
Sure, it’s a game-to-game situation. If we get in there where we have to throw the ball more than we’d like to, we’ve got to throw it. Now, does that mean we’re going to play with more four white-outs than we would if we were determined that we felt strongly that we should be running the ball and could run it, yeah, that will have an impact on it and it goes week-to-week.
And, again, this is Tuesday. I got the tapes Sunday and Monday from Northwestern, just to get the general feel for the football team. But for me to tell you we think we’re better here than the guy they have there, I haven’t had a chance to go over enough tape for me to tell you that.

Q. Can you talk about Kafka and the uniqueness of Northwestern’s offense that has created couple of shoot-outs in this series over the years?
COACH PATERNO: Kafka has been there for a while. He may be a fifth year kid, I’m not sure. He knows what the game is all about. And they play with a lot of no backs. When I say, they’ll play with an empty back field a lot. And it’s a short passing game and a clever passing game. They do a lot of things that are different. Maybe not as much different as how they do it. They play so fast.
They were averaging, I think, almost 90 plays a game on offense. You take — we’re averaging, if we give them maybe 68 or 70. Most people we played against — last week, I think Michigan had 70, 71 scrimmage plays. And I think we had 68, 69, something like that.
But you look at the Indiana/Northwestern breakdown, Northwestern had something like 90 something plays and Indiana had 50 — 45. I’m not sure. You look at Northwestern in a previous game, same thing, 90 some plays.
So they play very fast. They’re very, very positive about what they do. And Kafka is the guy that runs the show on it. So they’re a challenge. They’re a real challenge, because they’ve been great-late-in-the-game-play teams because they wear you down and their ability to execute when they go fast.

Q. Can you talk about Beachum? He’s played in every game since he’s been here. What kind of progress has he made and what’s the difference between the fullback and tail back for him?
COACH PATERNO: Beachum actually was a great linebacker in high school. We thought he might be a great linebacker. So he’s a good all-around — he’s a football player. I guess that sounds trite, but he’s a football player. He’s smart.
You put him at tail back, he understands what the tail back — the type of running a little bit more patient, wait for a crack. Gets the crack. Move him up to fullback. He understands it now primarily going to be a blocker. When he runs the football it’s a question of get your head down, make the three or four yards.
So he’s very adaptable. And he doesn’t make mistakes. He’s smart. He catches a ball well. He reminds me very much of a kid by the name of Joel Coles. I don’t know if any of you remember Joel. Or Mike Archie. I know you remember Mike Archie. He would be very much like those two kids, complete players. They’re tough. They can block. They catch the football. They understand the blocking scheme of the play they’re running. So he does all those things well. He’s a tough kid to keep out of there.

Q. When you have consecutive road games, is there much of an adjustment, or is that a factor in preparation when you have the second leg of a back-to-back road games?
COACH PATERNO: I think it all ties in with the whole schedule sometimes. I think you’ve got to be careful when you go on the road, and again when you play on the road.
Now, the road trips we’ve had have not been tough ones in the sense of the transportation part of it. The trip to Illinois was now or maybe in the plane, we came home in 45, 50 minutes Saturday. We went home. I’m home in my house at 9:30. And the kids, they have a chance to come home, and unwind and do a couple of things.
So it’s definite. But if you’ve got to take a long trip and you come home late, two, 3:00, or you play a night game, that makes it tougher. Makes it tougher.
But even having said that, you’ve got to be careful. The one thing I’m worried about always, particularly we’re at this stage where we haven’t had an off week, is that you’re going to — and you make sure you’re not overlooking anything how we’re concerned about the kicking game, we’re going to spend more time with the kicking game and yet we don’t want to take something away — we’ll end up with a tired football team. That’s the biggest problem, the biggest concern I have.
Get them prepared but don’t overwork them. And two games back to back have a bearing on that. On the road has a bearing on that.

Q. You’ve got to play in a lot of different weather conditions so far this season. Forecast for Saturday is supposed to be pretty windy out there. How does preparing for the game in the wind differ from, say, comparing to, or preparing for wet conditions or something like that?
COACH PATERNO: Well, again, obviously we’ve got to make an assessment before the game of the team you’re playing and what they can do, what you want to do. Saturday, a lot of the decisions we made were determined by the fact that we won the toss.
We won the toss and we deferred. I know we would have the wind at our backs in the fourth quarter. And it becomes a field position game until you’ve established if you can that you may be a little bit superior in a couple of areas.
So it’s hard for me to tell you exactly how we will react to it. It will depend on a lot of things. I got some criticism for not going for it on the fourth down, but to me that was a no-brainer.
I mean, they had wind and I didn’t want to take a chance of letting them have the ball on the 30, plus the fact their center, first string center had gone out of the game early, No. 50. I hate the shotgun inside the five-yard line. So I bet that we would hold them, they’d make a mistake or we’d make them kick it to us.
I mean, those things, you know, you try to think those things out before you get in the situations. There’s no way to know the center is going to get hurt and play a guard at center.
But those things come into — you’re walking up and down the sideline. I’m not looking at the girls in the stands. I’m freezing to death. (Laughter) And I’m trying to figure out what we’ve got to do if this happens or what are we going to do if that happens. And fortunately I’ve done enough walking up and down those sidelines, once in a while I make the right decision.
So that’s the long answer. So the wind is going to have a factor. But I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until the game starts to unwind, including the toss and the wind might be a cross-wind.
The game Saturday, the wind wasn’t quite that bad because it came at an angle. Didn’t come right down the field, came at an angle. And Boone was great, except for the kick-off, kicked that ball this way and going another way and another way.

Q. Can you attribute some of the improvement of some of your younger defensive players to the leadership of the older guys you were talking about earlier, or is it just that they’ve played seven, eight games at this point?
COACH PATERNO: Who are you talking about?

Q. Sukay or Devon Still?
COACH PATERNO: Still’s not really a young kid. He’s been around a couple of years. Sukay has been around, but he’s been hurt so much. I think Sukay’s doing well.
I wish I could get him to catch those interceptions, a couple more. I think they’ve done well, and I think Astorino has been a big help in that secondary. And I think Wallace being able to come around like he has and assume some aggressive leadership as he plays the game has been a big help and up front.
Hull doesn’t get much credit because he’s flanked by Bowman, flanked by Lee at times, and they’re probably a little better athlete than Hull, but Hull is a solid kid.
We talked about Odrick. He helps out a lot. And Ogbu. And I think the point you’re making, I would address it in the sense I think that’s when you start to get a good football team, when you get some older kids helping younger kids, they get a little more confident and somebody is patting them on the rear end when they make a play and they’re getting respect from their teammates out on the field like they’re important. I think it all comes together.

Q. Your last trip to Northwestern, you had the big drive at the end with Smolko on fourth down and the touchdown to Derrick Williams. That was early in that season. How much of a turning point do you think winning the game the way you did late helped turn around that season and maybe, even larger perspective, the 2005 season?
COACH PATERNO: I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

Q. You had fourth down and Michael Robinson hit Smolko.
COACH PATERNO: Was that at Northwestern?

Q. Yes, then you had the late touchdown.
COACH PATERNO: I’m glad Smolko caught it. I probably didn’t know he was in the game.

Q. It was early in the season.
COACH PATERNO: Geez, you guys, when I write my book I’ll put all that stuff in it. I don’t know. That’s 100 years ago to me. I don’t go to bed thinking about what we did 20 years ago. I go to bed thinking what we’ve got to do this Saturday. All right. Hope it doesn’t come down to the fourth. But it might. It might come down we’re just trying to hang on for our lives.
Indiana had that game all wrapped up, they thought, at halftime. I think it was 28-3. Am I right? 28-3. They came out; and Northwestern, I’m a little prejudice, but Northwestern’s got a bunch of kids I really like, and I really like Fitzgerald. I think he’s a heck of a coach. I don’t know a lot of his staff, but their kids play college football the way you like to see it played. They play every down. And they’re tough and smart and they adjust well, and we’re going to have a tough football game on our hands.


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Tuesday Cup of Joe: Chi-town edition

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno has concluded his weekly chit-chat with beat reporters. Here’s the info you need.

THE BIG NEWS: Running back Stephfon Green is “probably” out again this week against Northwestern.

THE BIG NEWS II: Joe says he is somewhat worried about the leadership of older players because they have had so few “big games”…but Joe says when he sees the interaction at practice and the prep for the week he thinks they can be really good sometimes. He said he felt that way going into Michigan.

THE BIG NEWS PART III: “Each game I am more worried about the kicking game,” says Joe. That coming after another punt was blocked this past weekend.

THE BIG NEWS PART IV: It’s McCormick and Poti for the RT spot, meanwhile DeOn’Tae Pannell has been moved over to LT to back up Dennis Landolt. Joe said Pannell is getting healthier and McCormick will be OK.

JOE-SPEAK: Joe said it’s a question of “IF” they can beat Northwestern, not who they have the week after. OK, sir.

JOE SPEAK II: “Haven’t got the slightest idea,” about the Northwestern defense.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Joe says Navorro Bowman is fine.
  • The team is getting to where it needs to be for the stretch run (they are getting very, very warm right now. Very warm)
  • Joe noticed Ron Vanderlinden when he was Pat Fitzgerald’s linebacker coach at Northwestern. “I wondered who was coaching the linebackers” Joe said referring to the way Fitz played.
  • Joe doesn’t think that Daryll Clark has gotten as much credit as he deserves, and he says the same for Jared Odrick and Navorro Bowman. (Isn’t it the school’s responsibility to pimp its players? There has been plenty written about all three of those guys the last two years. Put out some promotional work…trust me, everyone on the team understands there are players who are better than they are.)
  • Northwestern is somewhat of a trap game. Joe says they are totally focused on the Wildcats and not thinking of anyone else at this point.
  • About JC transfers, Joe says they look for kids who will go to class and do well there, he said both Poti and McCormick have done that, and he cited Rich Mauti as a good example of how JC transfers work.
  • Quarless was spoiled, but he is turning the corner.
  • Joe says that Zug has gotten more opportunities and has done well. Said that people are “scared to death” of Powell and Moye, leaving Zug open.
  • Mike Kafka “knows what the game is all about,” says Joe, adding he’s been there for a while.
  • Brandon Beachum understands his role and the running game. Joe added he was a great linebacker in HS. Don’t get any wise ideas old man.
  • You’ve got to be careful with back-to-back road trips. Joe said the two previous ones haven’t been as long…note that last week, the flight from State College to Detroit is very easy. Takes maybe an hour and fifteen. From here in Harrisburg its a very short trip. This is a very good point made by Joe.
  • Joe said the weather plays a role in how they assess the team they are playing and what they can do in whatever weather. (I don’t think weather played a role last week, PSU is just better)

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Clark picks up conference honor

From the Big Ten home office in Chicago, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark is your offensive player of the week.

OFFENSE:
Daryll Clark, Penn State
SR, QB, Youngstown, Ohio/Ursuline
Clark led Penn State to its first win in Ann Arbor since 1996, connecting on 16-of-27 attempts for 230 yards and matching a career high with four touchdown passes in a 35-10 victory at Michigan. The senior quarterback completed 59.3 percent of his passes with no interceptions to help the Nittany Lions post 396 yards of total offense and their most points ever at Michigan Stadium. After the Wolverines took an early 7-0 lead, Clark led PSU on a four-play, 63-yard scoring drive, capped by a 10-yard toss to Graham Zug to knot the score at 7-7. He added a 60-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless in the second quarter. After the hosts pulled within 19-10 at the half, Clark hit Zug for two more touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Ohio native’s four scoring strikes equal a career best set against Michigan State to end the 2008 regular season. He now has 17 touchdown passes this season to lead the Big Ten and rank third among all signal callers nationally. Clark garners his fourth career weekly accolade after being honored after the season opener on Sept. 6 and twice last season, on Oct. 13 and Nov. 24, 2008.
LAST PSU OFFENSIVE POW: QB Daryll Clark on Sept. 6, 2009

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PSU-Michigan postgame notes

Penn State is 47-12 (79.6) since the start of the 2005 season, the No. 9 winning percentage in the nation.

• Penn State is 6-1 on the road in the last two seasons, with its lone loss coming on a last second field goal at Iowa last season.

• Joe Paterno posted his FBS all-time leading 390th victory. The coach in his 44th season at Penn State and has a 390-128-3 (75.1) mark.

• Penn State posted its second-highest point total in the Michigan series, trailing only the 46 points posted last year at Beaver Stadium, and its most points at Michigan Stadium.

• The Nittany Lions have held six of their first eight opponents to 10 points or less for the first time since 1973.

• Penn State leads the nation in scoring defense at 8.88 ppg. Florida and Oklahoma are tied for second at 10.14 ppg.

• Penn State leads the Big Ten in all the major Big Ten defensive statistical categories:  scoring (8.88 ppg), rushing yards per game (79.7 avg.), passing yards per game (160.5 avg) and total defense (240.2 ypg), tackles for losses (70, 8.75 avg.) and sacks (26, 3.25 avg.).

• The Nittany Lion defense is ranked in the Top 10 nationally in all the major statistical categories: scoring (1st), rushing (4th), passing (9th) and total defense (3rd), as well as TFL (4th) and sacks (T 8th).

• Michigan entered the game leading the Big Ten in scoring at 37.3 ppg and was held to a season-low 10 points, 27 below its average. The Wolverines’ previous season low for scoring had been 20 points at Michigan State.

• Michigan entered the game leading the Big Ten in rushing at 235.0 ypg, but was limited to 110 yards on 40 carries (2.8 avg.). After its first possession, the Wolverines were held to 74 rushing yards the rest of the game.

• The Lions held Michigan to a season-low 250 yards, 176 yards below its season total average of 426.6 ypg.

• After Michigan’s initial drive of 70 yards, the Nittany Lions held the Wolverines to 96 yards on their next 11 possessions.

• Daryll Clark’s 10-yard TD pass to Graham Zug on the opening drive tied him with Zack Mills for the most career touchdowns responsible for at Penn State with 52. Clark later broke the mark when he completed a 60-yard TD pass to Andrew Quarless for his 53rd TD, finishing game with 55 career touchdowns responsible for (36 passing, 19 rushing).

• Daryll Clark passed Wally Richardson (4,419; 1992, 94-96) for seventh all-time at Penn State in career passing yardage, finishing the day with 4,623 yards. Todd Blackledge is sixth with 4,812 yards.

• Daryll Clark passed Todd Blackledge (341; 1980-82) to move into seventh all-time in career pass completions at Penn State with 356.  Kerry Collins is sixth with 370.

•  Clark posted his fourth career game with three or more TD passes and his third this season. Clark’s four TD passes equaled a career high, matching the four he threw in a victory over Michigan State to close the 2008 regular season. Clark has 17 TD passes this the season, tying him for eighth most all-time with Mike McQueary (1997), Zack Mills (2002) and Michael Robinson (2005). Todd Blackledge owns the Penn State record with 22 in 1982.

• Clark posted his 11th career game with 200+ passing yards tying him for third all-time at Penn State with Chuck Fusina, Tony Sacca and Anthony Morelli. Penn State is 10-1 when Clark passes for at least 200 yards.

• Clark has thrown eight touchdown passes and only one interception in the last four games, all Penn State wins.

• Clark moved into fifth place in Penn State career total offense with 5,163 yards, moving past Anthony Morelli (5,154) and Chuck Fusina (5,162). Michael Robinson is fourth at 5,168.

• Graham Zug made a career-high three touchdown catches on the day, the first Penn State player to catch three in a game since Deon Butler vs. Michigan State last season. Butler, now a member of the Seattle Seahawks, was on the sidelines for Saturday’s game at Michigan Stadium.

• Evan Royster gained 100 yards on 20 carries for his 10th career 100-yard rushing game (fourth this season). The Nittany Lions are 10-0 when Royster hits the century mark.

• Evan Royster’s 41-yard run on his first carry of the game was his longest rush this season.

• Navorro Bowman made a game-high 11 tackles for his second double figure tackle game in the five full games he has played this year He also had a sack, recovered a fumble in Penn State territory and grabbed his first interception of the season (second in career), returning it 13 yards into UM territory.

• Josh Hull made 10 tackles, including 2.5 TFL for minus-10 yards, for his sixth double figure tackle game of the season.

• Josh Hull posted his second sack of the season and Jack Crawford his fifth. Crawford also caused a third quarter fumble recovered by Navorro Bowman.

• Sean Lee made three tackles in limited duty, increasing his career tackle total to 276, good for No. 6 in school history. He moved past Brandon Short (273), Shane Conlan and John Skorupan (274). Two-time All-American Dennis Onkotz is fifth with 287 stops.

• Derek Moye posted six receptions in the first 20 minutes of play to equal a career-high for a game. He also had six catches vs. Akron and Minnesota this season.

• Brandon Beachum posted a career high in carries (7) and rushing yards (23).

• Penn State posted a safety vs. Michigan for the second straight game when a Wolverines snap went out the back of the end zone. The second quarter safety marked Penn State’s first since Jared Odrick sacked Nick Sheridan in the end zone in last year’s game at Beaver Stadium.

• Andrew Quarless’ 60-yard touchdown catch from Daryll Clark in the second quarter marked a career long for the tight end and his first touchdown of the season. It was the sixth touchdown catch of the senior’s career and marked the longest completion to a PSU tight end since Michael Robinson completed a 73-yard TD pass to Matt Kranchick vs. Wisconsin in 2003. The pass play also marked the second-longest of the season for Penn State and Clark’s fifth TD pass of 49 yards or longer on the year.

• Quarless posted a career high in receiving yardage with 91 yards on two catches.

• Chaz Powell’s 54-yard kickoff return to start the second half was the longest of the season for Penn State and set up a touchdown for a 25-10 lead.

• Penn State was 5 of 5 in the Red Zone vs. the Wolverines and is 22 of 22 inside the 20 the past six games with 17 touchdowns and five field goals. For the season, the Lions are 28 of 33 (84.8) in the Red Zone.

• Penn State posted its second scoring drive of 10:00-plus minutes this season.

• The Nittany Lions (7-1, 3-1) visit Northwestern (5-3, 2-2) on Saturday. The game will kick at 3:30 p.m. CT/4:30 p.m. ET and air on ESPN, the Penn State Sports Nework and www.GoPSUsports.com.

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