SCOTT COLE'S FAST WRAP
Joe Paterno 1. Minnesota has had success running the ball. Is because of the personnel, the scheme or a combination? They have one of the better offensive lines Joe has seen in college football and a great tailback. They're a heck of an offensive football team. Last year, they were almost as good, but they got some kids banged up.
The quarterback is coming along. He gets a little careless with the ball sometimes, but he's getting there. They're well-coached. Glen Mason was a line coach himself under Woody Hayes at OSU, so he has a background in running the football and getting the most out of a tailback.
2. Why has it been so hard to hold onto the football and can it be corrected? Joe thinks the fumbling is a lack of concentration. It's certainly a problem. It's amazing that they won Saturday with a -2 turnover ratio. They also lost the kicking game and weren't alert in some kicking situations.
Joe said they will look at the tapes, possibly make some personnel changes on the special teams unit and stress holding onto the ball in practice, but there's no hard and fast rule for getting players to correct that problem.
3. People still talk about the 1999 Minnesota game. What sticks with you about that game? PSU had a 16- or 17-game winning streak. They had a kid catch a Hail Mary pass to set up the winning field goal. Sure, Joe remembers that game, but not with fond memories.
4. This is the first encounter with a power running team this year. Will the change in style be difficult for the defense? Joe thinks it will. If you're a good football team, you measure up to each challenge and handle it. The team will find out just how good it is this weekend against a very tough Minnesota team.
5. Is there something that Michael Robinson is doing that leads to the fumbles? He's reckless. He wants to get every inch he can when he runs the ball. He'll get better with that.
6. Tony Hunt made a number of big plays on Saturday. Are we seeing another step in his development? He's getting better all the time. He's an awfully strong runner. He can catch the ball. He's a good blocker, especially in pass protection. Last year, he had problems hanging onto the ball, but he's improved on that this year. He's a good football player.
7. Evaluate the play of the offensive line. Joe thinks they're getting better. This week will be a challenge facing a different defensive scheme. E.Z. Smith getting back in there gives them more depth. Joe thinks Levi Brown played the best game of his PSU career on Saturday.
8. Is it a concern that the defense has been on the field so long and will now face a team that likes to run the ball down the defense's throat? Yes, it's a concern. Minnesota ran 105 plays against Purdue and Northwestern ran 95 against Penn State. They have to be careful how much they do with the defense in practice.
They can't overplay the run however. They have two good wideouts, a good tight end and a quarterback that isn't afraid to throw the ball down the field.
9. Will you change the linebacker rotation going forward? Joe doesn't see any reason to change things now. They will have to play some more people there just as they will with the down linemen to keep the players fresh.
10. What are some of the things you do in practice to limit fumbles? PSU has a takeaway period, a fumble period, a drill where the defender is instructed to pull the ball free and other drills where the defense tries to cause turnovers. It's a little different doing it in practice versus a game though.
In a game, the ball carrier may try to get an extra yard or two and get careless with the football. In Mike's case, it's not inexperience. He's carrying the ball more than he did in the past now and will continue to do so. They will work with him on protecting the ball this week.
11. Is Isaac Smolko's catch the kind of play you've been missing the last couple of years? It was a big play. Joe doesn't know if it will happen more often. Smolko's a guy that Joe has been on his back for two years. Now, he's on the verge of being a good tight end and maybe a little better than good.
It was a catch they had to have, and Mike made a good throw. Penn State is a decent team right now, but is still a work in progress. They're on the way to becoming a good football team.
12. What has been the biggest difference in the offense this year? Is it the speed on the outside, Robinson being comfortable at quarterback or a combination? Robinson is playing quarterback exclusively now. He's just starting to get the feel of things now. And they have skill on the outside. They're young and don't have much experience, but they're getting better all the time.
The offensive line is getting better, Smolko will make a difference, Hunt and Scott are good running backs. Joe is kicking himself for not getting Scott in there on Saturday. He has practiced well the past few weeks and needs to play more.
Having said that, they're not a great football team yet. They're in better shape than last year though.
13. Minnesota has opened the game with an onside kick two years in a row against PSU. Have you ever considered an onside kick on the opening kickoff? Also, why didn't you go for two on the final touchdown? Joe doesn't understand why you would go for two at that point because the lead would only have been six points and Northwestern could have won the game with a touchdown and an extra point.
The offense really wasn't thinking about scoring a touchdown on the final drive. The initial goal was to get into field-goal range. It just worked out that they were able to score the touchdown instead.
14. Update on Harrison and Auletta? Auletta will be OK this week after suffering a concussion last week. Harrison will be a few more weeks with a leg problem.
15. What did you like about your team in Saturday's game? Joe liked the way the young kids handled things. The coaches did a great job keeping the kids in the game. Joe didn't like the fact that they gave up the fake punt and the pooch kick, but the kids hung in there and won.
16. Do you have to be careful with how much you practice the defense this week? Joe already answered that. Yes, they do have to be very careful.
17. Will you work on special teams more this week in light of the mistakes last week? Not really. They were mistakes that can be rectified. People just fell asleep on those plays.
18. Can you build on the way the team won the game on Saturday? That infers something about the players Penn State has. If they had this same group last year, the team would have won more games. You learn when you win, you learn when you lose. You always learn from your mistakes. Joe prefers to learn from mistakes after a win of course.
Sometimes, you come up against some people who are better in certain spots and you can't make plays. Some people might not have realized how good Penn State's wideouts were going to be, but now things will get harder. Derrick Williams will not be allowed to run free in the secondary anymore. The wideouts are going to have to work harder to get open.
19. Have you talked to Michael individually about the turnovers? No. Joe usually mentions something to him at the beginning of practice. Mike didn't fumble the ball deliberately. He knows he made mistakes. He'll be the first guy out there trying to hold onto the ball.
20. Evaluate the play of your defense against Northwestern as well as Jordan Norwood. Paul Posluszny played a great game. Joe thought the defense played well in general aside from a couple of kids who could have played better than they did.
Jordan Norwood played well. He was a good basketball player at State College and the coaches liked his athleticism, so they offered him a scholarship.
21. Robinson's had trouble with tipped passes. What's the reason for that? There will be more and more tipped balls by linemen. It depends. When you're throwing the ball over the middle short and have inexperienced receivers, they don't look for the right slot. They have to give the quarterback a window to throw into. Northwestern's
You can handle it by rolling out and throwing it down the field. You also have to credit the Northwestern defensive line for being able to make those plays.
22. Are you still trying to decide whether to redshirt certain players, specifically Sean Lee and Jerome Hayes? Joe thought Lee got into the game on special teams against Northwestern. They took Hayes on the trip but didn't play him.
Both Lee and Hayes are outstanding prospects, but they play at positions where the team already has some depth.
23. Talk about Laurence Maroney. He's a big, strong tough back who can run inside and outside. He can catch the ball too. He caught five passes last week in addition to carrying it 43 times. He's a great player. He reminds Joe of Curtis Enis.
Charles Rush 1. How much progress has the line made and how prepared is it for the rest of the Big Ten schedule? They have made a lot of progress from South Florida to now, but there's still a lot of room for improvement.
2. How does having E.Z. Smith back help the line and what kind of physical condition is he in? Z is always in good shape. He kept himself in shape while he was away from the team. He brings experience and depth to the line. He said E.Z. is running with the first team this week.
3. Is there a different mood around the campus with a chance to go 5-0? Charles thinks people are optimistic. This is the first time since he's been at Penn State that the team has had a chance to go 5-0. They just want to keep it going.
4. Do you feel that the team got some mistakes out of the way against Northwestern? It definitely helps to win a game when you didn't play your best. They watched the game film yesterday, looked at their mistakes, and know what they need to correct for Minnesota.
5. Talk about Michael Robinson in the huddle on the last drive. Michael was calm as was everyone else in the huddle. Everyone knew what they had to do and knew they could get it done.
6. In recent years, Penn State has seen teams load up the box to stop the run. Now that you have speed at wideout, have you seen differences in the way defenses have played against you? The offense has seen a lot more three-man fronts this year. Charles isn't sure if that's due to the personality of those defenses or because of the speed Penn State has now at wideout.
7. What happened with the balls that got batted down at the line against Northwestern? The Northwestern defensive linemen are very athletic and very skilled. The offensive line has to keep the defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage more. They'll concentrate on that this week.
Paul Cronin 1. How does it work getting the call to go on the field? It's a little confusing. Most of the time, Paul doesn't know he's going to be on the field until a few seconds before the snap. He and Tyrell Sales usually stand right next to Tom Bradley on the sideline and wait for him to send them into the game.
2. Why does Minnesota run the ball so well and what's the key to stopping Maroney? They have a great offensive line and a great tailback. It's going to require solid play all around on defense, especially the defensive line. The linebackers have to keep Maroney from getting to the corner.
3. Will you be on the field less this week facing a running team? Based on talking with the coaches, Paul thinks he'll have a smaller role this week, but he will be happy with whatever role he is asked to play against Minnesota.
4. It looks like you've put on some weight according to the roster. You're listed at 223. Have the coaches asked you to gain weight? The roster is wrong. Paul weighs 216 pounds and the coaches like him at that weight.
5. Is the mood on campus different? It's different than at any time since Paul has been at Penn State. Everyone has been very supportive of the team and he hopes that the team can keep things going.
6. Talk about the move you made to outside linebacker in the spring and if that has helped you play defensive back. Paul wasn't very happy about the move at first, but working with Coach Vanderlinden and the great linebackers has really helped his game as far as tackling is concerned.
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