I missed the final 5 minutes of the press conference.
1. Do you think your team needs to beat MSU to consider this a successful season?
Joe wouldn't put it that way. They're going to play a very good Michigan State team. They lost to three really good Big Ten teams by a small combined margin. Joe wants the team to play well, but to say the season will be epitomized by the result of one game is too much. There are a lot of kids coming back from this Penn State team and getting better, Hopefully, they'll play well. Whether it will be well enough to win remains to be seen.
2. How is your knee and have you decided to coach beyond your current contract?
The knee is fine. Physically, Joe is fine. Joe has to think about Michigan State, not what he's going to do after his contract is up. He has to make sure they get the right people in the right places against Michigan State.
3. Royster's status?
Joe thinks he's going to be ok. It's not as severe as they thought it was on Saturday. It's not a high ankle sprain. The coaches will push him at practice today.
4. Have Tony Davis' lingering health problems been an issue for the defense?
They lost a couple of really solid kids for the year. Hayes was getting really good and Still was going to be an impact freshman. The defensive coaches have done a really good job. They have had injury issues, but everyone has those at this point in the season. Michigan State has as much talent as anyone Penn State has played this year, so they will present a tough challenge for the defense.
5. How have you adjusted your practice schedule to account for the lack of a bye week?
They've practiced less this year than in many years because the team is young. Joe wants to make sure the young guys can balance practice time with their academics. It's a problem. 12 straight games...when you have an older, more experienced team, it's not quite a problem. You don't need as many repetitions for an older team. It's something that hopefully the coaches have addressed the practice schedule so that the team can play well this week.
6. Sean Lee has said he will return next year. Have you spoken with him about his pro potential and what goes into the advice you give players who are considering turning pro early?
Joe hasn't spoken with Sean, but if a player comes to Joe and says he is thinking about it, they sit down and talk about it. Joe would make some calls to get an idea of where the player will be drafted. He prefers for his players to have a four-year college experience and get their degree. Ki-Jana Carter had it. Todd Blackledge had it. He told them both to go. Lavar Arrington came to Joe and said he wanted to leave after his third season. Joe told him his fundamentals were terrible and that if he tried jumping over people in the NFL, he's never be able to have children. Lavar told him that staying would cost him $20 million, so Joe said to go.
Each situation is different.
7. How much has Brent Carter practiced this year at running back and could he be used in an emergency situation?
He played defense because Joe didn't want him to waste his redshirt freshman season as a fourth-string tailback. So, they put him at safety until depth issues forced them to put him back on offense. They decided to redshirt Green, so Carter was needed at running back. He hasn't practiced there as much as you'd like but he's going to be a good tailback. He could also be a good strong safety though.
8. What can you do to prevent the defense from coming out flat against MSU like they did against Temple?
The defense knows they didn't play as well as they should have in the first half. However, upon looking at the tapes, Joe thinks the defense may have been tired. They did shut Temple out. Joe encourages the players. He's not going to yell and scream at them. When the offensive line had a couple of bad games, he didn't yell at them like a madman. He found ways to get them better and they have gotten better. It's the same idea.
9. Does the public perception that you coddle Anthony Morelli go against the fact that privately you're tough on your quarterbacks?
That public perception may not be correct. He has always been tough on his quarterbacks. If they can't take his criticism, they're too thin-skinned. Joe has a great relationship with Anthony. He looks at his players like they're his own kids. Sometimes, he has to kick them in the rear, other times he has to lift them up. Joe likes Anthony. He shows up every day ready to practice. Every once in a while, he doesn't like some things that Morelli does, but he wishes that people would realize how good a quarterback he has been. He's thrown for more than 2,000 yards twice now. He has made some mistakes, but those mistakes were made against some of the best teams in the conference.
10. A New Year's Day bowl game isn't a certainty even with a win. Have you heard anything about your bowl prospects?
Joe hasn't heard anything. He's only concentrating on Michigan State.
11. What about Spartan Stadium makes it difficult for your team to play there?
All of the Big Ten stadiums are tough to play in. Michigan State has a great tradition. Their 1964-65 teams are as good as any teams Joe has ever seen or coached against. They had 4 or 5 first-round draft picks. Those teams gave Penn State a real licking. They've had some great coaches. George Perles is a coach that Joe respects as much as anyone in the profession. They have good athletes, great fan support. That's a tough combination. The Big Ten crowds are big time crowds.
12. Talk about Rodney Kinlaw's emergence in his final season.
It's a tribute to Rodney and to Galen Hall who coached some great running backs at Oklahoma and Florida. He stayed with it. He's worked hard. He didn't quit on himself. He came to practice every day, trying to get better. He's very coachable and that's a tribute to him. It's always good to see a kid do as well as Rodney has done.
13. Comment on Anthony Scirrotto's play.
He's one of the better defensive players in the Big Ten. He's had a black cloud hanging over his head this season, but he's been able to leave that off the practice field and be a leader for this team.
14. Talk about Jeremy Boone's performance.
Jeremy was a walk-on and they recruited a scholarship punter because they weren't sure if Boone was going to be consistent enough to handle the job, but Larry Johnson did a good job working with him and now he's a very good college kicker.
15. What gives you the impression that the media has been tough on Morelli?
There's a lot of pressure on him in the media. When he makes mistakes, he gets crucified. Simple as that.
16. How have McCormack and Poti handled the transition from junior college to this level?
McCormack is doing all right. He's a good kid. Poti needs to be a little more aggressive, but they've both done well.