Q. I have a two-part question. First, what are the chances of Sean Lee playing Saturday, and second, was Navorro Bowman restricted in any way during practice yesterday?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I really don’t know whether Sean is going to make it or not on Saturday. That’s a day-by-day thing. He tells us he’s going to make it, but he’s not the doctor. He’s so determined to play, but I really don’t know. He was out on the field yesterday. He didn’t do anything. When I say on the field, he was out there urging some kids on and things like that. So I don’t know.
And you talked about Bowman was the other kid, Navorro? Again, Navorro was out there, practiced yesterday for about a third of the practice. I’m anxious to see how he feels today to see whether that thing got sore or not and whether he can go a little bit more today. But you don’t want to stick him in there where he’s going to — he’s not really 100 percent, because that’s such a tough position and so many people come at you all the time when you’re the linebacker, I’d hate to have him get an injury because he can’t move as well as he should.
So I don’t really know if we’re going to have either one of them. Obviously when you prepare for a game, you know, you’ve got to say, hey, they’re not going to be here and you’ve got to get somebody else ready. But keep your fingers crossed that maybe you’re going to have one or both of them.
Q. This is a question about Daryll Clark. Do you feel he’s a little too valuable to the team to use as a running threat, or might you be inclined to use him that way now that the Big Ten season is about to start?
COACH PATERNO: Well, you know, I think we’re going to try to win the football game, and if that means we’ve got to run Clark, we’ll probably run him. But obviously the first part of your question was exactly right; he’s awfully valuable to this football team, and I don’t want to get careless and start making him a single wing tailback. He’s a quarterback, and basically that’s where he is, and we’re certainly not looking forward to running him much. But if we have to, we could run him. And I say could; that doesn’t mean we have plans to do it, because we really don’t.
Again, I’ll repeat myself, but he could help us run it. He certainly could be a shotgun quarterback, run the option, those kinds of things. But we need him more just as a pure quarterback.
Q. Joe, are you happy with how your depth at linebacker has performed with all the injuries you’ve had so far?
COACH PATERNO: Well, no, I’m worried. A lot of kids who are starting to play a little more are getting a little better, but certainly the guys who were going to be the first three linebackers, none of which we can count on. We started out with the idea of Marty would give Hull a run for the money in the middle, and Sean Lee and Bowman would be really superior outside linebackers. Now we don’t have any one of the three, Hull is in there with a couple guys who haven’t played a lot of football, and there’s an awful lot of weight put on his shoulders. So I’m not comfortable with the depth, no.
I think Stupar is a kid that can be good. He’s a little bit erratic right now. Sometimes he makes some plays, does a good job, others not so hot. Gbadyu is pretty much like Stupar. At times he looks like he’s never even — there’s not a consistent quality performance there, so Hull has got a tough job trying to keep that thing all together. He’s got to be the leader, when I don’t think he expected that he would have that kind of responsibility with Lee and Bowman around.
Q. Will Graham Zug be ready to play, and what was the extent of his injury Saturday?
COACH PATERNO: Zug will go today. I’m pretty sure Zug will be okay. He was out there yesterday. They put him in the red course, which means no contact, but Monday we don’t do much, especially in the way of contact.
But he’s got the go-ahead to do things today, so I’m pretty sure Zug will be okay.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the kickoff return game. Your returners seem to be catching the ball so close to your blockers that they’re not able to get a full head of steam. Is that a problem, or are they just being too tentative on the returns, or who is going on there?
COACH PATERNO: I think you’re all wet; you don’t know what you’re talking about to be honest with you.
Q. Could you explain maybe the problem?
COACH PATERNO: I mean, you assume that the problem is that they’re too tight to the wedge, which they’re not. That’s not an accurate observation. Our problem is a couple guys up front, way up front, who have single blocks have not made a couple of them, and some people have done a good job of kicking the ball high.
We’ll have a tough time this week against Iowa. Iowa has got a great kicking game, not only a placekicker but they’ve got a punter that I don’t think he’s had five or ten yards returned on him. He kicks it high, kicks it fast. So I think a lot of it is the other guy. But our problem with kickoff returns is just we have not made a couple blocks, and one week it’s one kid, and another week it’s another kid, and we’re still groping with trying to get the right combination. But it’s not what you thought it was.
Q. I wanted to ask you, obviously your fan base is going to be excited about Saturday night, a White Out, the revenge factor and all of that. I wondered if you have to guard against your players getting too high, too revved up for this game. Does that interfere with your focus and your poise?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t know, we’re not treating it — we got licked last year by Iowa. We played a great football game, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for them. I don’t like the word you use when you say revenge. I don’t know what revenge has got to do with it in football. It’s not like they sneaked up on us and stuck us in the back with a knife or something. They played a good football game and they beat us. I don’t think we’re going to be too fired. We’re going to play our game, and hopefully we’ll be good enough. It’s going to be a tough game. Iowa is a good football team. I think they’ve won six, seven, eight in a row, and I was nervous about going out there last year because they had lost three games by very, very close scores, and when I looked at the tapes of them I realized how good they were getting. So I think we’re in the same boat. I think this is a very fine Iowa team, extremely well-coached, play with a lot of fire and determination, and we’ve got to play well. If we’re not ready to play well, then obviously we won’t be in it. If we play as well as we can, I’m not even sure we can win then.
Q. Iowa’s quarterback never seems to get that much credit for being one of the quarterbacks in the Big Ten, but he’s been a consistent winner ever since he took over that job. What do you like about the game he plays?
COACH PATERNO: He’s a good football player. Obviously last year we learned he’s a good football player on the last drive. He’s not flashy, he’s not one of those kids that just backs in there. He pays close attention to himself when there is a lot of attention on him because he doesn’t do things — he’s very thorough. He’s a coach’s quarterback, let me put it that way. He’s a guy you’d love to coach because he knows what he’s supposed to do, knows what’s going on, takes advantage of opportunities, and he’s got some — they’ve always come up with a good running back. They lost a great running back from last year, and I thought maybe they might be a little shaky, but they’ve got a kid that just started to play a lot last week that really looks awfully good.
I think the tight end is going to be back. They’ve got big wide outs. He knows how to handle a great offensive line, best offensive line we play against. And he knows how to handle them. He didn’t have a great first half some games, but second half he comes out and he puts it all together. And that’s a credit to not only him, but to the coaching staff at Iowa.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Dennis Landolt, his work ethic and what he brings personality-wise to the offensive line?
COACH PATERNO: Well, Dennis is a good, solid tackle. He’s playing really well. He didn’t have a great game last week. He was offsides once, and I think he got a holding penalty, which is unusual for him because he’s been a very disciplined football player, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
He’s not a very emotional kid when you talk about his personality. He’s not a rah-rah guy, but he comes to work every day. When he’s on that practice field he works hard and pays attention to the little things. And that’s why it’s surprising that he would have had two penalties last week. That’s not Dennis’ style. Most of the time he’s as solid as can be. In fact, sometimes you don’t even know he’s in the football game because he doesn’t make any mistakes but he gets the job done. I think Dennis is a very good football player.
Q. I was just wondering, over the years have you found that there is a certain, I don’t know, temperament that helps make for an outstanding defensive tackle, and if so, does Jared Odrick have that in addition to his physical abilities?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think you guys got to be careful you don’t generalize the traits that make somebody pretty good. Jared is Jared; he’s a little more of a free spirit than some kids we may have had at that spot. But he’s strong, and he’s quick, and he’s a great competitor. He spends a lot of time looking at what the other guys do, their blocking schemes and things like that, so that he can take advantage of something that they may be doing that gives him a chance to maybe get a little step on somebody. But he’s really a fine football player. He and Landolt, I’ve said it before, I think are as good at their positions as anybody in the country.
Q. Going back, I guess, to 2000, you guys had a tough go with Iowa, I think 1 and 6. Is there anything about them that specifically causes those problems?
COACH PATERNO: They scored more points than we did. I mean, yeah, you guys, I don’t know, is what you said accurate? I don’t even know. You tell me.
I mean, we play each game each year, and they’ve played well against us, I guess, if they’ve beaten us that many times. I haven’t got time to look back and say, oh, boy, oh, boy, they did this, they did that. Hey, we’ve got to worry about the team they have this year and go from there.
Q. Last week some of your players were bugged by the flu, flu-like symptoms. Is that still going on? Do you think you’re over that?
COACH PATERNO: Well, again, I probably would rather have a doctor answer that. I don’t know. I don’t know how long this thing lingers or what. I know we had everybody at practice yesterday. One or two kids still had some — were a little shaky over the fact that they had had a little fever last week. There was some reaction to the fact that I made a statement about what a great job our medical people do. Somebody said, hey, they quoted you about the doctors, and you didn’t talk about the team. Well, I think the doctors every once in a while need to get a pat on the back because they work like dogs out there. And it’s not easy working with young guys who want to play and maybe don’t tell you the right story because they do want to get in there, and these people are concerned not only with winning football games, they’ve got to be concerned with the general health and the dangers that may occur if you put them in there too soon.
I think we’re all right this week. But today you could have five, six kids with the flu. That’s the way this thing is going. They might come over to practice today and might say, I don’t feel very well. And on the side of prevention, our doctors may say keep them out today. They’re the boss. What they say goes because they work awfully hard to try to have everybody ready.
So I think we’re okay, but if somebody doesn’t play Saturday, don’t say, hey, Paterno — I don’t really know. I’m assuming everybody is going to be okay as a result of the sickness. Now, whether we get somebody hurt in practice, that’s another story, because of the practice not because of the sickness.
Q. How much of the overall offense have we seen so far through three games? Are there still a lot of things in the play book that you really haven’t unveiled yet?
COACH PATERNO: Well, there are variations of things that hopefully you have if you get something that’s a little bit different. I think we have enough — obviously we haven’t run everything we have because we’ve gotten ahead and we haven’t had to do some things that I think we could probably do if the circumstances were such that we were forced into doing them. But how much, how little, I don’t know. I really couldn’t tell you.
I know there are some things we haven’t done. When we do them will depend on what the other guy does. You know, I think you made the right observation. We haven’t had to use a lot of stuff because we’ve been able to get ahead.
I was concerned about the running game and we went into the Temple game with the idea we were going to try to run the football a little bit more because we felt Temple would not play with as many guys around the football as Syracuse did, or as Akron did. You adapt. That’s a long wishy-washy answer to a question, but I don’t really know.
We’ve got stuff you haven’t seen. Now, how much, whether it’s any good — if it was really good, we probably would have used it.
Q. With Lee not practicing, who’s filling in for him, and who will fill in there if he can’t play?
COACH PATERNO: Well, we’ll play with probably Stupar, Hull and Gbadyu if Lee and Bowman can’t go.
Q. Do you feel better about your goal line offense, or are you still looking for a little bit more toughness up front?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I don’t think we’ve been really good on the goal line, no, and I don’t think any of us feel comfortable with it yet.
Now, a lot of that will get better as some of those offensive linemen get a little bit more confidence and they can handle some different things on the line. Unless you practice forever, there’s only so many things you can get good at week by week. We probably haven’t spent enough time on the goal line for us to really feel comfortable that we’re good at it.
We haven’t made some personnel switches that we could make in order to get a little bigger cast of characters in there on the goal line. I haven’t felt we needed to do that. I think we have some guys that may not be the biggest guys in the world but they’re good athletes and they can get the job done with the things we’re trying to get done on the goal line.
But I’m not comfortable with it, I really am not. We’ll get in a situation where we’ve got to put them in to win the football game, and then we’ll find out.
Q. Is it tough to find a balance between getting your starters enough work in practice and getting enough reps for the younger guys so they’re ready in case you get a couple injuries like you have had?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think we may be a little different than other people; I don’t know, that’s not fair for me to make a statement about somebody else’s coaching when I’m not sure. But we give the first group and the second group both on offense and defense just about the same amount of reps, but you never know when that second kid is going to be in there playing, and they’re in there. So we don’t say, okay, the first string offense is going to get 22 plays today, and the second string offense is going to get 24 plays. I’ll put on the sheet, we’re going to do this for 20 plays; that means 10 and 10. That’s the way we operate. So I’ve always felt there’s two good things that can happen if you do it that way; one obviously is somebody gets hurt, the other kid is ready to go; and number two, it gives the younger kids a chance to get better on it. That’s the way we operate.
Q. Real quick, is Lee’s ankle bothering him as well as his knee?
COACH PATERNO: I’m not quite sure where you’re coming from.
Q. There were a couple reports that he hurt his ankle as well as his knee on Saturday.
COACH PATERNO: I don’t know a thing about the ankle. He’s got a sprained knee right now, I know that.
Q. What do you guys need to do better on kickoff coverage?
COACH PATERNO: Well, we’ve been trying different people in there. We have to — you know, one guy breaks down one week, another guy breaks down another week, next thing you know a couple guys are coming down a little slower than the other side, so they get a chance to return it. We’ve kicked the ball off different spots trying to help the coverage. We’re not really very good covering, I realize that. But we’re aware of it.
I think we’ve got to get a couple different people in there covering kicks. But every time we start to think about that, we end up playing somebody that hasn’t played a lot of football. And anything new that happens, sometimes he’s not ready for it. I think it’s something we’ve got to get better at, no question about it. It’s one of the worst things we’re doing.
Q. I guess as a follow-up to a question you’ve already dismissed, is there a certain characteristic to Iowa’s team, what you get consistently, what you have to be ready for, that you’ve found in the series with them?
COACH PATERNO: Again, it’s so hard for me to get across. I couldn’t tell you what they did to us two years ago. I couldn’t tell you three years ago or four years ago. I honest to God couldn’t tell you. It sounds like, oh, who is he kidding? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you who played. I know the tailback last year and the quarterback. I know some of the players from last year are back this year. So I don’t know. I think they’re a well-coached team. Kirk does a heck of a job. They’re solid; they hustle; they’re strong, and they’ve been tough. Did they beat us last year the same way they beat us three years ago or four years ago? I don’t know. I really don’t.
I know what happened last year. We just didn’t make a play on the last drive, and they did. So I think they’re solid, and they play well. They play hard. They have a lot of poise. They’re highly motivated by the coaching staff, and they’re tough to beat. But I mean, that’s about all I can tell you.
Q. You seem to have a good relationship with Kirk. Wasn’t he up here this summer? And can you talk about knowing him and their staff?
COACH PATERNO: His father-in-law and I played high school football together, and his brother-in-law played for us, Kevin Hart, and Kevin’s son, who would be Kirk’s nephew, I guess, was a walk-on kid, and he just graduated for us. There’s a tie. He’s a Pennsylvania kid. I think he played at West Virginia. I think he was at Bethel Park. I’ve known him since he was a graduate assistant. I think he was a graduate assistant at West Virginia when I first met him. He was dating Jerry Hart’s daughter, and as I said, Jerry and I played high school ball together.
Q. Several guys on the roster this year, you coached their parents or their dad. Could you talk about that, what it’s like to coach a father-son combo?
COACH PATERNO: (Laughing) Well, in the first place I have to remember their names, because I call them by their old man’s name most of the time. There again, I sound evasive, but you don’t really think about that when you’re coaching them. Dads will come around once in a while, and we’ll talk a little bit, and I’ll tell them, “Hey, you’d better get that kid, he’s got to do this, he’s a great kid, try to talk that way with them.” But other than that, I don’t think you treat them much different, I really don’t.
In fact, maybe it’s even tougher for the kid. I don’t know, I really don’t. But I do know that we’ve been fortunate that I think we’ve got 10, 11 kids on this team whose fathers played for us. I couldn’t bet on the number I gave you, but I think it would be pretty close to 10 or 11.
You know, it’s nice to know that the dads had enough confidence in us that their kids would come. A lot of them were highly recruited. Some of them were not; some of them were walk-ons. But every once in a while I’ll tell one of them, “You’re as slow as your old man,” just to bring them down to earth.
Q. What are your recollections of Booker Moore, who passed away this weekend?
COACH PATERNO: Booker was a great kid. Good football player. He’s out of Flint, Michigan. I think it was Flint. I know he’s a Michigan kid. He’s a hard worker, very quiet kid, tough kid. A little bit self-effacing. You know, it’s a shame. He’s got to be in his 50s. How old was he? That’s a shame.
Q. You’ve got to wait all day on Saturday for a night game. Is there any disadvantage to playing at 8:00?
COACH PATERNO: Both of us are playing at 8:00, right? What are you going to do? There will be some football games on Saturday afternoon, I guess. I’ll sit around and watch those. The kids will probably watch some. We’ll try to pace the day so that they’re off their feet.
Biggest problem you get when you play that late is that parents and friends are in town and they have a tendency to want to hang around with the kids, and you’ve got to constantly alert the kids, “Hey, we’ve got a game to play tonight, get off your feet. Tell your folks you’ll see them after the game,” and all that kind of stuff. But other than that I don’t think there’s a real problem. As I said, we’re both playing at 8:00.
Q. What are your thoughts on the play of Jack Crawford so far?
COACH PATERNO: You know, I think he’s doing really well. I mean, I think he’s still learning. He’s going to be — I think he’s going to be really good as soon as he gets a little bit more confidence in himself.
Q. It seems there’s been a lot of changes in the atmosphere here in recent years in big games. How much of an impact do you think the White Out has? And what have you seen in terms of some of the changes in game day atmosphere?
COACH PATERNO: Well, I think it’s a great place to play a football game, whether you’re the home team or the visiting team. I’ve never really worried about when we’ve gone to certain places whether it was big crowds and things like that. I used to tell the kids all the time, “Hey, just make like they’re cheering for us. When the noise goes up, it’s for us.”
But I think having said that, to be home and to have a crowd as enthusiastic as the crowds that we have here, and to have them as loud as it has been, it’s an advantage for us. There’s something about it, the whole business about the White Out, it’s a bringing together of the whole institution, not only the undergraduate kids, but you see people out there that will be old men, maybe 60. (Laughing). It’s fun. And it’s great to be a part of it. And I think the kids feel that way about it.
We have a rally Friday night down at the rec hall, and the whole thing is something that — what do you do when you’re in college? How many things do you do where you’re involved with 110,000 people all on the same page?