Q: You have really struggled on the road the last few years. Is there anything you have tried to focus on to improve that?
(As the question was being asked, Kirk shifted a little bit). You know, those are your words, not mine. I would not agree with that statement. I think, and I am a little behind when I look at my stats, but I think we are about 10-6 on the road the last 16 outings. I think that is correct, don't rip me if that is not right. The last three years, I am sure that includes 2002 and we did pretty well on the road that year. I am not sure I buy that theory, and I am including bowl games, too. At least the ones that we won.
If you are going to have a good football team, you are going to have to win on the road. That is just part of the deal. It's a challenge, and we have had success with it. I told the guys on Sunday that there is nothing magical about it. It's not like there is anything magic. I gave an example in 2001 when we lost at Wisconsin.
I heard some conversation that maybe it was the bus ride that we took up there, having stopped and had a mean and got to Madison a little late. We went to Northwestern the next week with basically the same routine. We drove over on a bus, stopped and had a meal, got to the hotel about the same time and we played an entirely different game than we did the week before. So in my mind it gets down to preparation and how we perform, not so much how you get to the game and what time you get there. That is all irrelevant to me.
Q: You have not fared too badly in front of 100,000 seat stadiums in recent years (Kirk joked that they have not done so well in Columbus). Is it an ‘us against them' mentality?
When you look at road games, you can say, ‘geez, this is going to be tough.' Or you can say, ‘what a great challenge.' I think competitors rise to challenges. It's like having injuries. We can sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can find a way to get something done. I think that is the approach we have to take, but it's easier said than done; I am not going to lie to you about that. Our last trip over there, we got off to a fast start, which you would love to do on the road. But when they came, pardon the pun, roaring back, it got a little tough, it really did. We let their fans get into the game. That was a tough, tough environment. It's a factor, no question about it. Our guys will have to be sharp if we are going to execute over there.
Q: You are somewhat deep and talented at receiver this year. Do you still throw somebody in there to replace Calvin, or at least have somebody ready?
You hate to see anybody miss time, but the good news is that we have Matt Melloy back, he is full speed after the bye week. James Townsend would be the next guy at five, and the six possibly Herb Grigsby. We typically like to have at least five guys ready to go in a ball game at that position.
Q: Do you view Coach Paterno as a mentor and what is your reaction to those that say the game has passed him by?
The second part…that is a ridiculous statement in my mind. I can say that from personal experience from coaching, seeing his teams and being on the same field as he is, going to league meetings; it's really a ludicrous statement.
I have said this before, but there are world leaders that are in their 70's and 80's. That is a far more important job than being a football coach. But being around him, he is an inspiration to everyone in our conference. We are all lucky to have a chance to sit in on meetings with him, and see some of his insight.
As far as him being a mentor, probably more so as an example. I think he is not only one of the greatest college football coaches ever, but one of the greatest college coaches. You look at John Wooden, Joe Paterno, Bear Bryant; to me, Mike Krzyzewszki is in that group. With all do respect to everyone else, as I am probably leaving some excellent people out, but those are just outstanding people. And growing up in that part of the country; I kind of knew in high school what I wanted to do, and to have first hand exposure to a guy like Coach Paterno every day, in the papers and on TV. Same thing with Chuck Knoll. How lucky was I to be growing up in that part of the country at that time period. So it was a really good experience for me.
Q: Are you concerned about Penn State's pass defense?
Yeah, they are playing excellent defense. The one thing that has been consistent for them this year, in my mind…the most important stat for me is points per game, and they are giving up 16 points per game, which means they are playing excellent defense. When you turn the film on, you see that they are good. They have what you need. They have a very good front, a very experienced and talented, with the same on the back end. The only weakness they may have, if you want to call it a weakness, is that they are playing a couple of young linebackers. But those are guys that we would have loved to have on our football team, I can assure you. They are good. What they lack in experience, they make up for in attitude and aggressiveness. To me, they have all the pieces. And they are doing a good job of getting guys in positions to make plays. I think coaching is the strength of their team.
They are a little like us in that their fronts are like ours. From a fan's standpoint, it's not blitz-o-rama every time they line up; they don't do it that way. They play good, solid, hard-nosed defense. They make you beat them, and that is hard to do because they have good players, a great scheme and they play hard.
Q: They have a new offensive coordinator. Do you see any differences in them?
Not radically. A lot of the same things we have seen over the years, they are doing. Frank Gantner is an excellent football coach, and Galen Hall is a great football coach, too. They are on the same page and doing things pretty well. When you have a veteran quarterback, and I assume Michael Robinson will be back, too, so that gives them one more weapon in their arsenal, as he is a playmaker. They have some dangerous players.