Coach Paterno Press Conference

Transcript of Joe Paterno's Tuesday Press Conference following the game against Northwestern.

What was it like to be the second most-famous person on campus yesterday?

I was trying to get over to see Michael Jordan. Johnny Bach, the assistant coach of the Wizards called and I was going to try to get over and at least say "hello". I have never met Michael Jordan. John said to go over that they were practicing from 10:00-11:00 yesterday morning. I said, "let me see if I can get over there." I knew I couldn't go to the game because we would be on the field until about 6:30 p.m., then talk to the staff and then get ready for today's practice. Getting stuck in the mud in Chicago and having to stay overnight caused me to get way behind. I have only looked at one-quarter of our game with Northwestern. Ordinarily, on Saturday night and early Sunday morning I do that. Then we had a 2 1/2 hour power blackout in our building on Sunday so we were way, way behind. So there was just no way I could get over to say "hello" to him. Everybody in town was excited to have him here.

What differences do you see in your two quarterbacks? Is Matt Senneca still the starter?

As I said, I have not even looked at the tapes of the last week's game. I can't tell you that Matt did a fine job. They are not letting him do anything, except, maybe, throw the ball yesterday. We are not sure how much he can to today. He had a concussion. Not a severe one. I think you guys think I am trying to be evasive about that question, but I am not. I think both of them have done well. I think Zack Mills really did an outstanding, extraordinary job to come in there right off the bench in that kind of a clutch situation and get done what he got done. We wouldn't have been in that position if Matt hadn't played a strong game. Obviously, that is not a problem that I think about much because it is not a problem. I don't know why you guys always keep bringing it up. I guess, maybe, you have nothing else to write about.

Do you plan on playing Zack Mills much on Saturday vs. Ohio State?

I wish I knew where you guys were coming from. We have two good quarterbacks and a third kid, Michael Robinson, who is a good quarterback. We have a good quarterback situation. I am not sure what I am going to do today with the quarterbacks. I don't know what I am going to do tomorrow. It is not a big deal for me. We go out and they all get their turns. Robinson doesn't get as many turns as the other two kids, but the other two kids get equal turns if they are healthy. I go from there. We go play the football game and I am comfortable with both of them. You guys would make a big deal out of something. I don't particularly want to get involved in it.

What does the Power-I do for you in turns of how it influences your system?

I don't think it does a lot for us. I think it was something that we needed. We needed some kind of a change of pace. I think that Eddie Drummond needed to get into the football game and have a little success. Eddie Drummond has a lot of ability and it helped to get him involved in the game. It also gave us an opportunity at times to play Larry Johnson, Omar Easy and Eric McCoo in the same backfield at times. You would like to make sure they get their hands on the football. We, obviously, have not been making a lot of big plays on the outside with our receivers. It gave us a chance to try and pack it up a little bit and try to do a couple of things with a guy that can be a good runner. Eddie is not, obviously, a power runner. It gave us a little change of pace. It is a gimmick. We can't live with it. It is a gimmick and it helped us get by one football game. What happens with Ohio State will be entirely different.

How much can you expect to use the Power-I? Can you keep it in your gameplan for the rest of the year?

Again, Ohio State is an entirely different team than Northwestern. Northwestern having practiced against themselves and after having watched Ohio State beat Northwestern, we felt there were some things we could do with the running game against Northwestern copy-catting a little bit of what Ohio State had done. Ohio State practices against the running game and is very, very tough against the run. We are in a little different situation. I would not want to mislead you, but I would tell you that, maybe, it will not be a very prevalent part of our offense. It may or may not, I don't know. I have to look at a couple more tapes of Ohio State before we even go onto the practice field. I have a 1:30 p.m. meeting with the staff and we will try to make some definitive decisions as to exactly what our game plan should be. We took it very easy on the squad yesterday. Some of our kids played as much as 94 plays vs. Northwestern. That was a long football game. Almost all of the defensive kids that were in the game played up in the 70's. Almost all of the offensive kids played up in the 90's. That takes an awful lot out of you in a very competitive, emotional football game like that. We have got to maintain the same kind of intensity emotionally against Ohio State. We really have got to try to just go out there and go over the things that we knew we were going to do in the basics and worked on the kicking game yesterday. Early this afternoon we will finalize our offensive and defensive schemes because it isn't only a different team offensively, but it is also a different team defensively. They are a good football team on both sides of the football, but defensively they have two or three guys that are as good as anybody in the country in Mike Doss and Joe Cooper. They have other players that are good, but don't jump at you or are in a position to affect you as much as those guys do.

What kind of role do you envision from Eddie Drummond?

Again, I keep going back to the same thing. I am just trying to get this football team a little bit better and see what we can do against Ohio State. We didn't do much on the practice field yesterday. We will sit down this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. before we go to our practice field at 4:00 p.m. and we will decide what we will do with Eddie. I am certain he will play at wideout. How much he will play at running back is debatable.

How disappointed will you be Saturday if the kids don't come out with the same confidence as they did in the last game?

This is a lousy press conference because I can't tell you what level we played at because I haven't seen the tapes. I haven't seen T.V. tapes or coaching tapes. I only saw the first quarter. I don't know what to expect. I would hope as I said to everybody after the game that they would feel better about themselves and that they would feel that they can go out there and get in a good, tough football game and make some plays. I would hope that would continue through with Ohio State. Ohio State is a good football team and we may play better and not do as well. I am not so sure that there were a couple of games that we played earlier in the year that we didn't play, maybe, as well as we did against Northwestern, but we didn't make a couple of plays in the clutch. We didn't make dumb mistakes. We made the one play on the roughing the kicker that hurt us, but other than that we didn't have any turnovers. David Royer, who has not gotten much credit, did a great job punting. He did a super job punting. Robbie Gould did the things he had to do in the kicking game until I started to coach him and told him to power-kick it at the end of the game. There are things there that are really very hopeful. I think we underestimate how hard we played and how well we executed some things earlier in the year, but how dumb we were. If we have gotten the dumbness out of us and we play as hard, we will be competitive against Ohio State. Whether we can beat Ohio State or not is very, very debatable.


How much more difficult will OSU be to run against than Northwestern?

They will be much more difficult. They are used to practicing against the run. Wisconsin in the second half ran against them. If Ohio State doesn't fumble that snap from center, I don't think Wisconsin beats Ohio State. They gave them a chance to get that score before the half and then they came out and ran the ball well. In the game with UCLA with that great back out there, DeShaun Foster, they were in there right to the end with UCLA, which turned out to be one of the better football teams in the country. They will be tough.

Has Shawn Mayer surprised you at how he has come back? Are you pleased with his performance?

Before he got hurt, we have always been very high on Shawn. We lost him last year, which was in some ways a setback for us. I think he is doing very well. I am pleased with him. I think we are asking him to do an awful lot of tough things and he has almost 100 percent risen to the occasion to do it.

When you recruited Zack Mills, did you plan on playing him this early in his career?

We knew we had to get a quarterback who was going to play. As you know, we were very disappointed…we thought we were going to get Chris Simms, which really handicapped our recruiting that year because we were after Rex Grossman, the kid at Florida and we thought we had a shot at him. Young Eli Manning we had at camp. When Chris backed out of that thing we tried to recover and get a kid out of North Carolina who ended up going to Wake Forest. When we recruited, we were after Jeff Smoker, Zack and Zac Wasserman. Those were the three kids that we said we would focus in on. The first two that said they would come, would come. I thought all three of them were very comparable. I looked at all of them and a couple of other kids around the country, which we really didn't have a shot at getting. Jeff Smoker, who I think is doing a great job with Michigan State, did not want to commit that early and Wasserman and Mills did. We, from the beginning, felt that these three kids were all very, very fine prospects. Whether I thought he was going to be as good, who knows. You never know. If I were a recruiting guru, I could tell you, but I am not a recruiting guru. I am just a coach and not very smart about recruits. I could not tell you whether I thought he was going to be great. All we can do is identify people who we think have a chance to be good and then go after them.

How were you able to keep this team believing in themselves these past couple of weeks?

Well, I think they know I believe in them. We worked hard on the field with them, urging that there were little things that were killing them and that they were capable of beating anybody we had played on the schedule up until the time we played Northwestern, outside of, maybe, Miami at that stage of the game. We were, maybe, not quite ready for somebody as experienced and as good as the Miami team was starting out with a lot of new kids. I don't t know whether it was that tough. Most of these kids who came here were really outstanding high school players. I think they were embarrassed that things weren't going better for them. I think all they needed was somebody to reaffirm that they were good. We are not there yet. I told them that yesterday. I said, "Look, we are a long way off from being a real good football team, but we are getting better and if you continue to get better you will win a couple of more games." I don't think it was that tough. They wanted to be good. They are a good bunch of people who work hard. They have some pride and when you have that, you have a chance to overcome some adversity.

Talk a little bit about how much Bryant Johnson has meant to the team this year.

I have said from day one that we have to get some big plays out of our wideouts. I have said that from day one. When we start to get some big plays out of our wideouts, we will be a pretty good offensive football team. Everybody wanted to zero in on the quarterbacks and the offensive line and everything. I kept saying and I think that is what is happening, we have to get somebody else as a wideout to come up with some big plays. I think Tony Johnson is close to it. I think Eddie Drummond will be close to it when he gets a little bit more confidence in himself as far as a wideout. I think Tony Johnson has to make fewer mistakes. He is learning and is a true sophomore. There are a couple of young kids who have a chance to make some plays. The way the game is being played today, you take the wideouts out of the game and pack up the inside, nobody is going anywhere. Look at Michigan, which I think is a really good football team. You take Marquise Walker off of that football team and I am not so sure how good they are. He makes plays, throws touchdown passes and runs punts back. You need a couple of those players. We have not been able to get those kinds of plays out of people. I think Eric McCoo now has made a couple of plays. Eddie Drummond has made some plays with his hands on the ball. Bryant Johnson is making some plays. I think all of those things when you get into a football game get behind and have some things go bad for you and yet still be able to have confidence to come back. You don't come back unless you are on your own 10-yard line. Somebody has got to make a 20-yard play. There are very few drives that you can make from your own 10-yard line to the other guy's place without that 17, 18, 20-yard play somewhere in there that you have to make.

With higher scoring in Big Ten games, are more coaches putting their better athletes on the offensive side of the ball?

I don't think so. I think that recruiting people for offense or for defense because there are some great athletes on defense. Mike Doss is a great football player and a great athlete. Their two corners, Cie Grant and Derek Ross, are great athletes who are new and earlier in the year were a little bit tentative who have gotten better, better and better. They played really well against San Diego State. You go out and do what you have to do with your football team. You have to start with defense. I don't care what, you can take Oklahoma or the best teams in the country last year and the whole bit. Oklahoma beats Texas 14-3 and they don't have an offensive touchdown. They intercept a pass, block kicks and cause turnovers. That is the other problem we have had. We have a horrible turnover ratio. We got the one turnover in the ballgame on Saturday, which was a big, big play. If we don't get that one where Bruce Branch goes in there strips that ball, they have the ball on the four or five-yard line and we were probably out of the ballgame. Turnovers have been big and we are minus five or minus six. We haven't had beans in turnovers. That has been part of our problem. You still win with defense, kicking and then whatever you can get out of your offense.

What made Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant so good?

He had a great presence about himself and he was a heck of a football coach. He was a great competitor. He was great with people. I think he was a great motivator. I think he had some things going for him that all of us have had going for us when you win games. At one time, I thought Bryant was the best defensive coach in the country. If you looked at our 1978 game in the National Championship, you would see two of the five or six best defensive college teams that ever played that day. Maybe I think he was such a great coach because I think the same way he did. I think that he had great kicking, great defense and did enough offensively that they could win. They wear you down. He was
in a class by himself. There are four or five guys that I have seen coaching in college that I think are in a class by themselves. A guy that nobody every mentions much is Ara Parseghian. Bud Wilkinson would be a third. Frank Leahn, I didn't coach against or see much of. They are all heads and shoulders above the rest of us. They were in a consistent period and their innovation. They are the kind of people who left their programs. Bryant had it all.

Does it surprise you that Eddie Drummond was having confidence problems considering he's played so many games?

It is hard to get inside kids minds. He dropped a couple of passes. Then he was anxious to make big plays and didn't concentrate on catching the ball. He is not a kid who has bad hands. He can be a fine receiver. He is a different type of kid than a Bryant Johnson. That is why we will have a great combination eventually. Bryant is the smooth, tall and lanky kind of guy that can turn you. Eddie will beat you with speed and make the quick cuts. With his quick feet he will scare you to death. I want him to understand how good he can be with a little bit more concentration and not worry about making big plays. If you worry about making five and six yards and catching the football, good thing happen to you. It is when you are trying to make big things happen that get you in trouble. When I say we have to make big plays, you have to make big plays when the opportunity presents itself. You can't try to create the opportunity. The pattern and flow of the game and what the opponent does gives you an opportunity, but when you get that opportunity, you have to take advantage of it.

What is Larry Johnson's status?

I think he is going to be all right. He didn't do anything yesterday, but I am hoping he is going to be all right today. It is an ankle sprain, but there are different ones now. Now we have lower ankle sprains, high ankle sprains and middle ankle sprains.

How are you planning on using E.Z. Smith and John Wilson?

I wouldn't think that we are going to use John Wilson. I would love not to use E.Z. Smith, but I think we are going to have to. He is a backup guard behind Tyler Lenda.

How did you evaluate things before instant video replay and the technology of today?

I usually see the tapes when we are here. We had 16-millimeter films. We would get a copy of the film, hopefully, on a Sunday, but we would only get one copy. It was too expensive to make other copies. It would cost you a couple of hundred dollars to make a copy. You would have one copy and pass it around. The offense would have it and then the defense would have it. I would sit in with them and then when they were through, I would take it home. Now we get the tapes and with all of the fancy computers and everything else they kick out 10 or 12 copies right away. I get my copies usually about 1:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I'll go to sleep for a little bit and then I get up and look at it so I can get that behind me. In the morning, they will have all of the third down plays on one tape, all coming out plays on one tape for everybody, what they do against the Power-I if somebody has used it against them. In the old days we did it pretty much the same way it is just that you didn't have as much information. That is why the job is a little tougher right now. You have so much more information than you used to have. So does the other guy so you have to look at it because if you don't look at it and the other guy is looking at it, you can figure he is going to know something you don't know.

Sam Ruhe started vs. Northwestern. Has he pulled in front of Michael Haynes?

Haynes didn't have a particularly good game against Michigan, but Michael played well vs. Northwestern. I talked to the staff this morning about personnel and Larry Johnson felt that Michael played a heck of a football game.

Did you notice a different attitude among your players after the win?

It was a little different in the lockerroom after the game. I was only with them yesterday. I think, obviously, the win is going to do an awful lot of good for them. That is just a little bit of a start. We have a lot of things that we have to do better. You are never as good as you think you are when you win and you are never as bad as you think you are when you lose. I know you guys have heard me say that a thousand times, but it is true. I think we have a long way to go. I am reluctant to make that kind of a statement until I really have taken a better look at the tape. I think that they understand that. I think they look at Ohio State and realize that they are looking at a good athlete in every position.

What do you think you can do better?

Everything. I think, maybe, the only thing we can't do much better is the kicking game outside of eliminating me from making decisions on kickoffs. I thought David Royer did a great job.

Could you have envisioned this team winning a shoot-out?

I think I made it quite clear to you guys that I thought we were pretty good and all we needed was a couple of things to happen and for some people to make some plays. Did I ever say one time that I didn't think we were going to be a decent football team? I thought, "sure we can win a shoot-out." Whether we could win it last week or whenever you need some luck too. Northwestern played well. They had the one turnover, which hurt them. There were very few penalties in the game. I think we had four and they had three, four or five. It was a well played football game. I don't know whether I thought of it as a "shoot-out". I didn't think of it that way. I didn't think we could beat Northwestern shutting them out.

Are you concerned about the slow starts early on in the game?

Yes. Anytime we don't do some things well I am concerned about it whether it is early or late. For me to blame the team for it or to figure out that there is some reason for it might be that it is just circumstances or a combination of a lot of different things. I have not thought of it that way, except that I know we have made a lot of dumb mistakes early in the game. With Michigan, we started out dropping the first three balls. They were all good well-conceived plays and were all well executed by the quarterback and the receivers, but they don't do the easy things. Then in another game, it is something else. That is sometimes just coincidence so you have to be careful that you don't generalize on that. Obviously, you are right on your observation that we haven't scored in the first quarter. I can't argue with that.

What kind of role do you see David Kimball having with Robbie Gould playing well?

Well, Dave has to fight his way back. Dave is certainly in the same class as Robbie
Gould. That will be an on-going battle all year. I think they are both competing in practice each week, which is a good situation.

It has got to mean a lot to have the potential to get the record at home, what does that mean to you?

I am always lost as to how to express my feelings because they always sound so contrived after I say them. If I say to you, "I don't care about the record," you are going to say, "he is full of horse manure." It is also disrespectful for all of the things that have happened here at Penn State since I have been here. The kids who have made it possible for me to win a game whether it is this week, next week or three years from now. I think it is a little disrespectful to the kids to say, "I think to win the game whenever it happens is great for Penn State." It is great for Penn State football. That is fine. As far as any kind of an ego trip, if tomorrow the doctor says, "you have to give up football," I give it up. It really wouldn't bother me. I can only say it so many times and try to say it as sincerely as I can that it is the last thing I want to be thinking about this week. We have to focus in on a good Ohio State football team. We have to work to get our backsides better. These are two good tough football teams and let's get it done and forget about all of the other stuff that goes with it.

What is the biggest difference between Ohio State University under Coach Jim Tressel now than Coach Cooper before?

Not really a lot. Jim Tressel, at one time, was on the Ohio State staff and knows what Ohio State football is all about. I think Jim is doing a good job. I have always had a tremendous amount of admiration for Jim. In fact, as I have told him and a lot of people, Lee Tressel is one of the great coaches that ever coached. I remember being in a clinic with Jimmy's dad. I think Jimmy might have been 11 or 12. I think he was in a clinic in Ohio and in the audience at that time. I have talked to Jim through the years and watched him when he was at Youngstown. I am a close, personal friend of Glen Mason's. I have known Glen longer and I was hoping that Glen would have gotten the Ohio State job because he was an Ohio State graduate, but when Jimmy got it, I thought they made a great choice. Jim has done a great job there and not only on the football field. He has done a tremendous job in that state. He has done all of the right things. I don't see much difference. They play good hard-nosed football. They have played some good football teams. When you go out to UCLA and hang in there as long as they did, you are a pretty good football team. You beat a Northwestern team. They have Wisconsin hanging on as I said, and Wisconsin is a pretty good team. I don't think there is much difference.

Why don't you think John Bach didn't work out coaching basketball at Penn State?

That is a tough question. I don't know. Penn State is not an easy place to coach for basketball because of the fact that there is no natural recruiting area. It is not like Michigan can go into Detroit. Central Pennsylvania turns up one big time basketball player every
couple of years. You go into Philadelphia and there is Villanova, LaSalle, the Big East and Seton Hall. We didn't have the arena we have now. I am not so sure we had the kind of commitment that was made when we decided to have a better basketball program. We certainly were not able to recruit some of the kids that we have gotten the last couple of years. Jerry Dunn has done a good job. I think it was a very, very difficult job at the time. Particularly, because we wanted to move up to a particular level. If you look back, John had a pretty decent record. We are still struggling a little bit to make a presence in Philadelphia. We finally made a presence in Pittsburgh. We got the kid out of Pittsburgh who is coming in as a freshman, Daren Tielsch.

How would you assess yourself among the great coaches?

I told you guys that story about, I looked in the mirror one day and I said to my wife, "how many great coaches do you think there are?" She said, "One less than you think." I put myself in that one less than you think.


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