Paterno Big Ten Conference 10/9/01

Coach Paterno talked about the Michigan game at his weekly press conference.

How has this season been a challenge for you personally?
Obviously, it is tough to take. You have a bunch of kids that are trying hard and I think our kids have tried hard. They have played hard and just haven't been able to make some plays. They haven't done some things that you need to do in order to be able to beat some of the good teams we have played. They practice hard and have not given me any problems. I feel for them and I hate to walk off of the field getting licked when you haven't been used to it. I don't want to get used to it. Winning can be a habit and losing can be a habit. You can get accustomed to losing and I don't want to get accustomed to it. It is stressful.

Is it frustrating personally? Do you go home thinking more about football now than you did before?
I have done that for three years. I think about football all of the time right now. We are not a great football team. We knew that coming into this season. We knew that there were a lot of little things that had to fall together. You are constantly trying to figure out ways that you can jump-start the whole business. There isn't anything in my life anymore except for my family and football. I think about it all the time.

Have you talked to any of your colleagues about the challenges of this season?
No, I don't call people. I am not that kind of guy. I have been very, very pleased that a lot of people who are friends of mine have written to me and have said, "Hang in there." That has been very encouraging. People can help you to a degree, but I don't know how anybody can help me as far as the coaching of this football team.

How are you able to balance between trying to win now and playing some of the younger players?
I think that is one of the big things that we have to sit down and make a decision on. I think, maybe, the open week will help us do that. As to where can we go with one scenario and how do we go with another scenario, we are going to have to work our way through that.

Please talk about defenses in the Big Ten.
Defense, kicking and field position in the long run are going to win you more games than anything else you do. I have not looked at the Northwestern - Ohio State game yet. I would assume that having seen Ohio State against UCLA on television after one of our games that they are a very good defensive football team. Ohio State probably did a pretty good job against Northwestern. People can make plays on defense. Good kicking, not making mistakes and good field position, in the long run, are probably going to win you more games than anything else. I am not sure about that all the time. In 1994 we had a great offensive football team. I watched a little bit of the pro game last night and there is a great offensive team there that looked almost unstoppable (St. Louis Rams). I think you have to always temper any statement you make that this is the way it has to be and so forth because there are exceptions. I think Northwestern is an exception. They have a fantastic offense. I think there are a lot of good defensive football teams in this league. I think Michigan, obviously, is one of them. I thought Iowa was a good defensive football team. We will see some more, I am sure.

Is it more difficult to play good defense in the Big Ten with all of the different offenses being played?
I really haven't looked at it that way. You guys out there have a little more time to look at it. I have only looked at my own football team and the upcoming games. I thought Michigan had a good offensive football team coming into our game and a good defensive football team. I don't think we did a particularly good job offensively. I thought we did an adequate job defensively. The kicking has always got hidden elements that nobody really understands until there is a dramatic play in a kicking game that changes things around. I just don't know. You have to play out the season. I would like to be able to help you with that question, but I just don't know.

Do you plan on making any more personnel changes on offense?
Changing things doesn't help. All you are doing is taking one step forward and two steps backwards. We are trying to execute better with what we have and to improve the things we have done.

How do you go about jump starting the team at this point in the season?
I think we have to figure out a way to make some plays. We can't change the cast of characters. We have played four games and, obviously, we feel confident that these are the best people we have. What we have to do is try to figure out a way to make some things happen or get them some more confidence in themselves. We started the ball game last week where a redshirt freshman quarterback throws three perfect passes and they are all dropped by people who have all played a lot of football here at Penn State. Why does that happen? You try to discuss it. Unfortunately or fortunately, one way or the other, we are in the middle of a mid-term break so I let the kids go home. I have not seen the squad since right after the game on Saturday. Tonight they will be back for dinner and I will talk to them. We will find out a little bit more about it. We are fortunate that we don't have a game this week so we can try to analyze it a day or two and, maybe, do a couple of things a little differently as far as the way we practice and the pressure we put on kids at practice. We need to check to see which kids provide more leadership than what we have gotten. It is a fly by the seat of your pants kind of operation.

Is there anything that stands out from the encouragement you have received from colleagues?
Most of it is just people saying, "Joe, hang in there." They are friends, some of which I have been friends with for a long, long time in and out of coaching.

Have you given yourself some time away from football over the last few days?
No, I wouldn't do that now. I don't think that would be fair to the team or to the staff. My job right now is to do the best I can to help us be a better football team. That is what I am spending all of my time doing right now.

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