Clark and the Heisman; Big Ten Picks

“My mother always told me, ‘Those who are patient will benefit in the end.’ The time is now.” – Daryll Clark, July 11, 2008

That’s a quote from the massive feature I wrote on Clark headed into last season. I’m pleased to brag I was on his bandwagon before anyone on the beat was.

Now I want to head up the campaign to get Clark to the Heisman Trophy ceremony this season.

Why you ask?

Well, if you’ve heard me talk about Clark, you know I love the kid. I love what he stands for as a hard worker, I love the fact he’s been able to overcome hardships growing up. I love his charisma and his bravado.

When he’s on the field, you have to feel something good will happen. And if you are a fan of Penn State, you have that feeling that you can’t lose with him, don’t you?

But here’s what else I love about Clark.

In 2006, just before the Outback Bowl, I stood on the beach in Tampa talking to players like Jordan Norwood and Tony Hunt with Matt Herb from Fight On State magazine and he was looking for a story.

I spotted Clark and assured Matt that he was a great quote and would be worth the ink…this after having talked to him a grand total of once, and it was media day that season.

Clark opened up to both of us that day, admittedly Matt stayed longer because, as one of the premiere writers covering Penn State, he digs. And digs, and digs. And digs.

Clark told both of us he was going to be the starting quarterback in 2007. That Anthony Morelli was on notice that he was coming for the job.

He had never taken a snap in a meaningful spot for Penn State’s team to that point.

That’s why Daryll Clark could lead my team any day of the week.

If I had a vote for the Heisman now, I’d go 1) Clausen; 2) McCoy; 3) Ingram; 4) Clark; 5) is a toss up between Tebow, Keenum, Moore. And Tebow is only there because there is no clear cut run away.

Think about those words Clark repeated from his mother. “‘Those who are patient will benefit in the end.’ The time is now.”

Clark’s time is now. It’s Saturday afternoon at 3:30 in a game that will go to about 70-percent of the country. It’s time for Galen Hall and Jay Paterno to let it all hang out with Clark. Give him the plays, cut any remaining puppet strings and let him go.

There is no high risk, high reward with Clark. 99.9% of his tenure as the starter has been all reward. He has more fight than any other quarterback that’s played for PSU outside of Mike Robinson. He is the poster child for what Penn State football is all about. Blue collar. No name on the jersey. Die for the guys you are in the huddle with.

It’s time he got his just do and the way he gets it is with his most memorable performance as a starter. Let him steal the spotlight, let him post video game numbers. Let Daryll be Daryll.

If the coaches are willing to do that, he just may end up sitting along side three or four other players for college football’s highest honor.

He should be there.

BIG TEN PICKS

Last week: 4-2. Did not see Illinois and Minnesota doing what they did.

On The Season: 51-16

THE UNDERCARD

WMU at MICHIGAN STATE, Noon, Big Ten Network

Sparty needs a boost after two brutally tough losses to Iowa and last week to Minnesota. Michigan State needs to win here and at least go 1-1 in the remaining two games to secure a bowl berth, any loss and it’s more or less over.

I think Tim Hiller, WMU quarterback will cause a problem or two. But Sparty is safe.

The Pick: Michigan State 27, WMU 20

ILLINOIS at MINNESOTA, Noon, Big Ten Network

All of a sudden the Illini shows life. It’s still too late though. And how about Minnesota with a banged up Eric Decker, who is out for the year, they get it done. That speaks to resolve.

The Pick: Minnesota 30, Illinois 19

PURDUE at MICHIGAN, Noon, Big Ten Network

I love how scrappy Purdue has been all season. But Michigan right now is ahead of them. I think the Wolverines are already looking ahead to 2010, and I mean that in a very good way.

The Pick: Michigan 28, Purdue 10

WISCONSIN at INDIANA, Noon, Big Ten Network

It has to happen somewhere for Indiana, doesn’t it? Wisconsin presents too physical a challenge for the Hoosiers and if I am Indiana, I need to run the ball more. The pistol is fun to run and watch, but it’s too one dimensional and they are paying for it late in games.

The Pick: Wisconsin 30, Indiana 20

NORTHWESTERN at IOWA, Noon, ESPN

I really want to believe that this is the week where Iowa runs out of nine lives. I really, honestly, truly want to believe that. But the problem is I have to sell myself on that idea and I can’t.

Ricky Stanzi is due for a big day on Saturday. Northwestern’s secondary can be carved up. Plus the onus is on Stanzi since the running game is in shambles.

Iowa doesn’t wow you, they don’t have a flashy offense, they just do all of the small things a team needs to do in order to, well stay perfect in this case. They will play it safe this week, get out of here with a win and prepare for what will be a chance to sew up the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth (more on that in a second).

The Pick: Iowa 28, Northwestern 13

THE MAIN EVENT

OHIO STATE at PENN STATE, 3:30, ABC

Well, here we are again. A massive game at the massive of massive college football cathedrals.

It’s going to be a perfect late fall afternoon for hitting. A perfect late fall afternoon for two rivals, the second best in the Big Ten behind Ohio State-Michigan. It’s a homecoming of sorts for one young Buckeyes quarterback and perhaps a showcase for a building legacy for another.

I am going to go ahead and assume this will be the loudest crowd Terrelle Pyror ever faces, even if the Gestapo swooped in and cut off the sales of the “Cryer” t-shirt. Pryor has never faced an animal like this unforgiving, vocally charged home turf in University Park. Not even in Ann Arbor will he ever get this type of treatment. The crowd alone wants to ruin this moment for him.

What makes this so much more intriguing is that this is the season for both teams. This, with all forgiveness to Michael Jackson, is it. A win and one stays alive for the conference crown and the BCS. A loss, hello Orlando and an overrated SEC team.

So what happens?

Well, if it’s half as good as last season’s drama and theatre (yeah I spelled it the British way, so what)…then this will be a classic.

I see punch, counter punch and I see a little more offense than others are predicting. Joe is right whichever team turns it over the least will win.

I see big games from Pyror and Clark, I see an emotionally charged defense on Penn State’s side, and here’s something else I see. Someone is going to have a huge game that you don’t expect. It could be a Stephon Morris pick, an interception return for a TD by AJ Wallace, something like that.

My money is on Jerome Hayes. No one talks about him, but he, like Clark, is the epitome of Penn State football too. Hard work. Determination. Class. Busted body parts, but pushing forward. Hayes will be your game changer.

The Pick: Penn State 24, Ohio State 20

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Nittany Lion Hotline recap

Here is your running update from Nittany Lion Hotline for Ohio State week.

YOUR HOST: The man, Steve Jones, who last week had one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard during a football broadcast, when during the problem the officials had spotting the ball, once it was announced where the ball would be placed, Steve slipped in a “we know.” You had to hear it. I howled.

PRESENTING SPONSOR: As always this season, Nittany Lion Hotline is brought to you by Sinus Buster Nasal Spray (I’ve switched back to Afrin myself, but hey, whatever clears your nose in this crappy fall weather).

THE BIG NEWS: Joe did not like the “Terrelle Cryer” t-shirt. He applauds Pryor for being a good kid. Sounds like The Godfather was the one that put the ki-bosh on the shirt. “Paulie? Oh we won’t see him no more.”

THE BIG NEWS II: Stephfon Green will be ready this week. Joe said he had a good Wednesday of practice and looked good today as well. But added if they have to play Beachum, Beachum won’t hurt them.

THE NOT BIG NEWS BUT WORTH MENTIONING NEWS: Jones reports in the first segment that the line to get into the overnight RV lot was already long today. You fans, I’ll tell ya…does anybody work on Friday’s in-state anymore? (Sidebar: I think it would be a great story to say fly to a far away state and travel into town with fans that drive a RV. Any takers? I’ll bring beer)

PLAYER GUEST: Defensive tackle Jared Odrick is up tonight. Good time as ever to pimp him.

  • Odrick says it’s easy to get pumped up for a game like Ohio State.
  • Defense has been able to get better, and he says that Odrick has this ability to feel out the blocks before they happen.
  • He prefers 3-technique.
  • No brainer that Pryor is the guy they are focusing on and that they have to play solid and sound defense vs. him.
  • Pryor is deceptively quick. “Sideline to sideline he is really fast and we know he likes to get to that sideline and get out of bounds before he cuts back.” (interesting….pinky to mouth)
  • Talking about the support the team receives, Odrick says that ON THE ROAD, at Michigan the crowd in the PSU end was so loud that Tate Forcier had trouble getting a snap off. Geesh.

JOE ARRIVAL TIME: 6:25 eastern standard time, 3:25 in California and I believe 1:25 pm in H-A-W-A-II, Joseph Vincent Paterno makes his long awaited return to the Hotline show…it’s been a long two weeks since we last heard from the coach. And in that two weeks, nothing has happened.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Darla, or as Joe calls her, ‘Darler’ calls in to say she has a bitchin’ tailgate planned this week. Joe says that he hopes the postgame tailgate is better. (I would pay straight cash homey to see Joe swing by a tailgate and shotgun a Keystone Light with some co-eds. That would be in-cred-ible)
  • Joe burns Roger from Emmaus, who tries to match X’s and O’s. Don’t challenge him, Rog. Don’t challenge him.
  • Joe is breaking down the passing game now. Z-cross, X-Y out, whatever just happened to saying “you go to the car and run a post, you go to the fire hydrant and run a comeback?
  • The two down lineman are really good for OSU per JVP.
  • “They’re a tough team to run against. This will be a good, tough football game. The guy that makes the least mistakes will probably win.”
  • Joe says if they make mistakes, they will get licked. If Ohio State makes mistakes, they will get licked. SOMEONE IS GETTING LICKED!

SEGMENT No. 2 WITH JOE

  • Al Golden’s got Temple cooking, per Joe.
  • Caller says his kid goes to PSU and saw Joe driving this summer and his son waved at Joe and Joe waved back. Joe says: “I wasn’t waving at him, I was running out of gas.”….BADA BOOM!
  • Joe pimps Daryll Clark again. (Note: more on this tomorrow, I got something planned for this here space y’all will love, and hopefully eat up about DC)

SEGMENT No. 3 WITH JOE

  • Joe says the wide receivers had great potential coming into the season, Joe adds that they haven’t exceeded expectations but they have come along faster than they thought they would. (apparently people really don’t read newspapers anymore because everyone on the beat has written this, over and over.)
  • Joe gets a call from someone who is talking about how much he means to the state of PA (Joe, not the caller), and Joe says “I’m gonna tape this conversation and give it to my wife.” BOOM. ROASTED.

FINAL SEGMENT WITH JOE

  • Joe says they practiced well this week and they did a little more than they usually do on Monday to “see where we are.”
  • Joe won’t say for sure if Ohio State is the biggest rival for PSU. He mentions Iowa and Michigan State. I’d vote for Iowa, but you have to beat the team every now and then…you know, in order for it to be a rivalry. Ohio State is definitely PSU’s biggest rival and it’s the biggest game in the Big Ten annually right now, thanks to the 2005 game.
  • Joe thinks Terrelle Pryor made a good choice in picking Ohio State for his school.
  • Joe wants the crowd to be loud “but don’t be mean spirited. I hate booing. Let’s just hope we play as well as we can play and they play as well as they can play and let’s see what happens.” Then he adds “but you can help us be better by being loud.”

Joe exits stage left.

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Tuesday Cup of Joe: Buckeyes for everyone

The Big News: Joe says if Sean Lee isn’t 100-percent, he’s very close. His stamina is getting better and gaining confidence in how hard he can go.

The Big News II: Stephfon Green practiced yesterday and Joe is eager to see how his ankle responds today in practice.

Highlights:

  • Pryor has been red hot the last couple of weeks after starting slow.
  • If you can’t slow Pryor down, you can’t be in the football game.
  • “They’ve very very good defensive football team. We’ve got to be precise. Mix up things. We can’t have foolish penalties,” says Joe about the Ohio State defense.
  • You have to look at the punters PSU has played against. Joe was again asked by YDR’s Frankie “BoJangles” Bodani about the punt return unit, which still stinks.
  • More love for Jared Odrick. “He reminds me a lot of the good ones we’ve had,”….Odrick is compared to Matt Millen, Mike Reid, Steve Smear, according to Joe.
  • Wide receiver Derek Moye is getting better all the time.
  • Joe is asked about DC and the Heisman. Joe says DC has been an outstanding performer. But Joe said he hasn’t seen enough of the other guys playing to decide on the Heisman. “Daryll Clark is one heckuva football player,” says Joe. Again he said Clark isn’t getting the attention he deserves, like Odrick.
  • Ogbu has become a surprise for Joe. He said Crawford and Bowman have been good but they knew that going into the season.
  • Joe said he watched a little IU-Iowa on Saturday and he tries to not let what else is going on in the conference become a distraction for his team or him personally.
  • Brandon Beachum has been solid in place of Stephfon Green
  • The secondary is better with Astorino at strong safety because they can get him involved in the defense more. “He can be involved in more plays and have more leadership impact.”
  • Comparing styles with Jim Tressel, Joe doesn’t want to.
  • Joe is aware of the situation if they lose to Ohio State, but he is more worried about doing the best they can vs. Ohio State.
  • Royster is “certainly a big league tailback,” says Joe.
  • Joe likes hanging with Matt Millen when he comes back to do games for ABC. Joe says that Millen has two daughters at PSU and they looked at his son in recruiting but he opted for Army.
  • Doesn’t know if this will be like last year’s game vs. Ohio State.
  • Adversity at NW helps? “Hopefully we learned from that, but I don’t know, I really don’t. I would think every game you play you learn something.”
  • Joe was asked if he should still vote, but said he was told he’s not allowed to because he voted Auburn No. 1 in 2004 and they told him he couldn’t.
  • Crawford has been a surprise because of his lack of playing time. Joe says he’s been mature, handled problems well, he’s learning and has become a very good football player.

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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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