Big Ten teleconference: Joe Paterno

Penn State coach discussed Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez, getting knocked over last week and more

Audio file 1 (6:11) -

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Could you preview Wisconsin?

"Barry and his staff do a great job… They don't beat themselves. If you want to win, you've got to go out and win it. They don't make big mistakes. They hang in there. They do everything that a well-coached football team does. They play solid defense, they hustle to the football. They are after you all the time on offense. Calhoun's a great back. A great back. They are doing a lot of good things. It's going to be a tough football game for us."

The atmosphere you had at Happy Valley for the Ohio State game seemed to be amazing… Are you expecting a similar thing with as big a game as you have this weekend?

"Well I hope we do. You never know. But I think we will. It's a big game for us, big game for Wisconsin. Big game for the Big Ten… It will be a fun environment.

"I think sometimes people misinterpret the crowd as far as whether it's home or away. I think the crowd adds to both teams and makes it exciting. I think it's going to be an exciting weekend and I hope both teams play well and whatever happens, happens."

How happy are you to see that in Alvarez's final season, he's going to go out with a pretty good team?

"I don't like to see him leave. I really don't. I think Barry's been a great, he's been an outstanding football coach in the right ways, all the right ways. He's been a credit to our game, to our profession. I think he'll… Obviously he'll be an outstanding athletic director. You hate to see people of that caliber, and he's a western Pennsylvania kid.

"I like to tease him all the time. He comes from down in a little town called Burgettstown, down in southwest Pennsylvania. I said if you didn't have that big fat rear end of yours I might have recruited you..

"And his wife. They're great people. They're really good people. I'm glad he's moving from football, as a coach, to the athletic directors job… He's been something special for college football."

Do you think watching them on tape, this year's team, does it kind of personify what all his great teams have been about there, in terms of… hard working, maybe a little bit overachieving team?

"Absolutely. Hard work and discipline. Play the game knowing what they are doing. Patience. No somebody panicking if they get a little bit behind or anything like that. I think it's a typical Barry Alvarez football team and a very, very good team."

Your team bounced back from that tough Michigan loss… Do you have a very mature team this year would you say?

"Well, I think we have good leadership, senior leadership. I think Michael Robinson, our quarterback, has been a guy that really keeps everybody together. He's made the plays that had to be made. Hung in there. So I think… I'm pleased with the fact that we were able to overcome what was not a very happy day at Michigan. And we're playing pretty well. We're not great, but we're playing well.

On Michael Robinson:

"Michael Robinson's been one of the best kids I've ever coached in the sense that he came here as a highly rated quarterback and a highly recruited quarterback. And when we delegated him to be a running back and a wideout and everything else, he hung in there with it. To see him come through as he has as a quarterback has really been a lot of fun for all of us on the staff. Michael is a wonderful young man and right now is playing really well.

"It would be tough for me to tell you there's a better quarterback around than Michael Robinson. I know there's this guy at Texas and there's guys out at Southern (California). But what Michael Robinson has brought to this football team in his senior year, his leadership and everything else, has been something special."

Did Jimmy Shaw say anything to you after accidentally knocking you over Saturday and have you ever been hit that hard in a pregame drill before?

"I said, Jimmy, you all right? I've been knocked down many times in practice. You are over there watching pass defense and some guy comes down there and knocks you on your rear end. That's all part of it. I'm fine… It was not that tough a knock down… He was probably unaware, knocked me down. I probably should have said to Jimmy, ‘Don't waste those hits on me.' He was fine."

Audio file 2 (6:04) -

Where do you get the desire, the determination to turn around a program at this point in your career?

"That's an interesting question. I've never thought of it that way. I love to coach… I'm all excited about playing this week because I'm playing a good Wisconsin team. We've got a shot at maybe winning Big Ten Championship.

"What do you do on Saturday? I think Glenn Mason or somebody said to me one time when they were talking to him playing. He said, ‘Well, what do you want me to do, cut grass on Saturday.' I love football. I love being on the sideline. I love practice. I probably like practice as much as I like anything else. The two hours that I'm on the field when we practice. I run around, I still have a little get up and go. I'm not quite as quick as I used to be. But I just enjoy it. And for me to say to you there is any one particular reason why I want to stay in it. I don't know. I just enjoy it. I'm having a lot of fun. I've always had a lot of fun coaching. Coaching has been a great joy for me. I thank the good Lord for keeping me healthy enough that I'm still doing it. And hopefully I can do it for a few more years."

Do you think Bobby Bowden has that same kind of drive and determination?

"I think Bobby does. Bobby and I have spent a little time talking. Bobby and I both are involved with the Nike people. And we go on trips. And we sit around, talk a little bit. Yeah, I think Bobby's had the same idea. What are you going to do? "Bobby Bowden's one of the great people who have ever been in this game; one of the greatest people ever been in the game of college football. Hopefully I'm close, but I'm not in his class. But we both enjoy coaching."

Joe it seems like you almost have to score 35 points a game… to win anymore… What is it with offenses these days?

"I blame it on Joe Tiller. I told Joe before the game, we played Purdue. I said, ‘You know, you're a pain in the backside. In old days I get 17 points I could win. But when you come into the league, you changed everything around.'

"I think a lot of things have happened. No. 1, guys like Joe Tiller get in the league and really when they came in a lot of people said, ‘Hey, he's not going to be able to throw the ball around here. The weather, this and that.

"And then the fact that almost everybody in the Big Ten now has great indoor facilities. So that you can practice year round indoors. And I don't organized practice. But the kids can go in there and throw the football around….

"When you look at some of the kids on Big Ten teams. You are looking at kids from Florida. You are looking at kids from Texas. They wouldn't have come to the Big Ten in the old days, probably, if there hadn't been the kind of opportunities that we know have because of the practice facilities…

"You got to be careful how you say things sometimes because… (Fisher) DeBerry got in trouble. But the black athlete has made a big difference. They've changed the whole tempo of the game. Black athletes have just done a great job as athletes and as people in turning the game around. Say whatever anybody wants to say about it, but it's a different game because of them."

Joe, I'm just curious if you could evaluate the play of your defensive line this season, and also does it stack up in any way to that unit you had in 2002 with (Anthony) Adams and (Jimmy) Kennedy and (Michael) Haynes and that bunch?

"In a lot of ways it does stack up with those guys because they play with such intensity. But physically maybe not quite as individually quite as good as that group was. You know there were two first-round draft picks and a second-round draft pick of the guys you just mentioned.

"I'm not sure we're that good physically. But they play with intensity, know what they're doing. And don't make a lot of mistakes… Larry Johnson, our defensive line coach, who I think is as good a football coach as there is around, does a great job with them. They stunt well and they change up on things and do it intelligently. I think they're comparable as a group. Now, as individuals I think that 2002 group had a lot of kids that were — you've two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick out of four guys. You got to feel like you've got a pretty good group of kids. So I don't know whether they were quite that good."


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