Are you confident that Zack Mills can put the problems that he has had the last couple of games behind him?
What are your impressions of the Wisconsin defensive line?
"They are very good. The kid from Connecticut, Anttaj Hawthorne, we had visit. They have him down where he is about 310 lbs. now, but when we looked at him, he was about 350 lbs. I think they are solid and play every down. They will be tough to handle."
You talked about how valuable Michael Robinson is to your team. Can you kind of gauge the value of Jim Leonard to the Wisconsin team considering what he can do on the punt return?
"He has hurt us. He ran a punt back last year. Last year we fumbled a punt that gave them a score and he ran back a punt to beat us. I think he is a heck of a football player and a coach’s player. He is smart, aggressive and knows what he is doing all the time. I think he is a really good football player and somebody you have to contend with. You can’t get careless with him because he will make the big play. If you make a mistake, he will capitalize on it. He is a good player."
Given the last few seasons, heading into conference play this year, how do you think other teams in the Big Ten view Penn State?
"I haven’t got the slightest idea. You should ask them."
Do you think the non-conference games prepared your team for the kind of style of play you will see in the Big Ten?
"To a degree, yes. To what degree I am not sure. It gives you a chance to find out a little bit about your team. It gives you a chance to get some practice in and evaluate some people in game situations. I think the out of conference games are helpful. Boston College, in particular, on the road was a good experience for us because we were on the road against a good football team. We have got three undefeated teams we have to play in a row now, two away from home. Boston College was an undefeated team and is still undefeated and we had to play them on the road. From that end of it you get some feeling about how competitive your team is."
I know you almost went through a near tragedy with your son about 30 years ago. Since you are friends, I wondered if you had a chance to talk to Coach Bowden yet?
"No, but Sue has written to Ann and tried to express our feelings of sympathy. Whether anyone can ever do that adequately is debatable, but we certainly wanted them to know that we were thinking about them and we were sorry. I don’t know what else you can do."
I know you mentioned that Andrew Guman reminded you of his father Mike sometimes. In what ways would you say Andrew and Mike are similar and different? How would you rate Andrew’s performance so far this year?
"I think Guman has done very well. I think he had an excellent game on Saturday. He has made a lot of tackles. He has been around the football and some passes. I think Andy has done very well. I am not going to compare Andy to Mike. I wouldn’t do that."
What are your views on the way that Derek Wake has played so far? Are you satisfied or disappointed?
"I am trying to get Derek to turn it up just a little bit more. He has so much athletic ability that maybe we expect too much of him. I may not be being fair with him. I think he is a good, solid football player. I keep hoping that he may go beyond that. He has the same kind of athletic ability that some other people we have had who have turned out to be great players later on in the pros. I think he just has to get a little bit more intense consistently."
Have you made any adjustments as far as how you prepare to play a game on the road this season?
"No. We will play the same way we have always played them."
Looking at the films, what do you think of Wisconsin’s offense? I know they have scored 27 points in the last two weeks. Are they struggling as much as it appears, or is there more to it?
"I don’t know whether they are struggling or what. They have a young quarterback who is in there. They lost Anthony Davis. The other kid played against us last year. He is a big league back (Booker Stanley). He is a big, strong back who played well against us last year. We know he is a good football player. Having talked a little bit about their offense, I think it is all tied together with their kicking game and how well they play defense. They don’t take chances. This is not a football team that is going to try to beat you 45-38. They are going to play tough, are solid and a hard-hitting football team. They are going to wear you down. They have great patience. They hang onto the ball most of the time. I don’t think they are struggling offensively. They know what they are doing. They make the plays when they have to make them and they are undefeated. "
Out of all the factors in this game what do you think is going to be the key to coming out of Wisconsin with a win?
"Whoever gets the most points. They are a good, solid all-around football team. Hopefully, we are going to get a little better and hopefully hang onto the football. Obviously, if we turn it over six times we are not going to win. I just think that we have to tighten up our ship a little bit and protect the ball. We need to be consistent and not do any dumb things and play a good, hard and tough football game against a good, tough football team."
If I am counting right, this is the 12th-year of Big Ten play for you. What has changed about the league from the time you got in it until now?
"I am repeating myself, but I have said that I think it is the coaching. The coaching in this league is as good as you are going to find anywhere. There are the Joe Tiller’s and the other guys who have come into the league that are really doing a great job. When you look at the tapes of these people we are playing, they are tough. Barry Alvarez, obviously, has been a good football coach for a long time. When we go to Minnesota the next week after this, Glen Mason has done a great job. I can go right down the line. Kirk Ferentz has done a great job at Iowa. I think that two things have happened…the coaching is absolutely excellent. I used to think there were a couple of people in the league when I first got in here that we could out coach, but you can’t out coach anybody; you have to out play them. That is number one and the second thing is that I think we opened up a big area for some of these clubs to expand their recruiting. We opened up New Jersey because they now have exposure to the Big Ten and also places in New York. You look at Wisconsin and the best defensive lineman, maybe, that they have is from Connecticut. Their running back, Anthony Davis, if he is healthy, is a New Jersey kid. The fact that there was a bigger manpower poll created for their recruiting as well as the quality of the coaching."
How have expectations changed at Penn State over the past few years? Going into the Wisconsin game, are your expectations different now than they may have been in the 90’s? Also, with such a great winning tradition how do you keep expectations high after three or four losing seasons?
"I don’t think our expectations are anything different than they have been since I have been here 55 or some years ago. Our expectations are to go out and play as hard and as well as we can and hopefully win a couple of games. Every once in awhile you get a combination of people that come together and some things happen where you find yourself in a situation where there are more national opportunities. I don’t think our expectations have changed. Your memory can play games with you."
Last year you made a point to tell people who were critical of Zack Mills that he was doing a lot better job without a lot of support than people perceived. What would your assessment be of how he has played so far?
"I think Zack is fine."
You talked about the importance of special teams this year. Can you evaluate the play of your special teams through the first three games of how much they have improved since last year?
"I think we are doing a lot better. We had a couple of punt returns that had some expectations Saturday. The only thing was the one shank punt that has been a disappointment so far. Overall, I think we have improved. We have not worked against anybody as good as the kid from Wisconsin. For me to tell you that we are better or worse, I think we will have to wait and see what we do this week out at Wisconsin. Although we did a good job against a really good return guy at Boston College."
What are some of the characteristics of Paul Posluszny that make him such a good player, so young? What do you think he is capable of in the future?
"He is an athlete who is smart and is a good football player. I don’t know how to describe characteristics. A guy plays or he can’t play. He can play. I just don’t know how to answer them because I think…he is a football player. What makes a good dancer a good dancer? Paul is smart, tough and wants to be good. That sums it up."
There seem to be a lot more freshmen now across the country coming in and making an impact. What would you say the biggest difference is between kids coming out of high school now as opposed to even ten years ago? Do you like the idea of a lot of these kids coming out graduating early from high school and coming in January?
"As I have said, I am not crazy about kids coming out in January. I think I have made that fairly clear and yet playing one in Dan Connor, it is difficult for me to say, 'Hey, let’s do away with it.' When kids have talked to me about it, and there are a couple of kids out there now we are recruiting who are talking about coming out in January, I just hate to see kids give up some of their youth. It is their last year in high school and it should be such a good time and then to come and jump into big time football. If I had my way, we would have freshmen ineligible. That is the way I would look at it. Let them come in and give us eight to ten more scholarships and have freshmen ineligible. I would prefer that. Why are they coming out, why are they better and why are they more able to play? I think they all get started earlier. Television has helped those kids. They watch television games. They have better coaching and facilities in high school. All of that contributes to them as individuals being better. It goes back to when they are born. Kids are healthier today being fed better and pre-natal care and all of that stuff. Everything is kind of backed up from there. So they are all bigger and stronger. It is not a question of bringing kids in who are physically not able to handle it. I think they are. I worry about the mental part of it and the fact of depriving them of an experience in their life that they should have and are never going to have now. That is the way they want it and you have to go along with it."
Do you think the run defense this year is better suited to handle Wisconsin than they might have been last year?
"We will find out."
Do you see the start with the Big Ten as kind of another fresh start? Do you guys have any injuries from last week?
"I think we are OK injury-wise. We have one kid who has a sprained ankle and I am not so sure how serious that is. He would be a third stringer. That would not have any kind of a significant impact on the game. Starting anew…I think that is one of the advantages of being in the conference. Just looking at this thing, we are tied for first place in the conference…It gives you a little different outlook on things."
What needs to happen for Anthony Morelli to see more playing time?
"I think we have to bring him along slowly. I think Anthony has a good future. I am not concerned about how much he plays. I am just concerned that he gets enough practice time. Obviously, Michael Robinson has a chore every time he comes to practice because he has to work as a quarterback, wideout and at times a running back. The practice schedule is focused on getting Michael Robinson and Zack Mills to be able to do what they have to do and you don’t have the time to spend with Chris Ganter or Anthony. That is the biggest problem I have. As far as playing time, that doesn’t bother me much. I just think that he has to have enough reps that he can feel comfortable. That is the biggest job we have."
Did Dan Connor earn more playing time with the way he performed on Saturday? Is that difficult to balance when you have a fifth-year senior at the same position with him?
"I’ll have to talk to Ron Vanderlinden about that. I think that will depend on how they practice this week. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many plays Derek Wake played as opposed to how many Connor played. I know Connor played a lot more than I thought we were going to play him. When I stuck him in there, we were ahead 21-3 or something like that. Wake has played a lot of football. I said, “Let’s give Connor as much work as we can give him.” Honest to goodness, I have not talked to Ron about that. I don’t think we will make that decision until later in the week."
You put Scott Davis in on Saturday. Has he beaten out Charles Rush?
"Scott Davis is very close to Rush. That is one position where I think they are very close. I think Rush is better right now, but I think Scott is very, very close. When we get a chance, we play Scott. I think they are both pretty good."
You said last week that you thought some of the interceptions Zack Mills threw were maybe not his fault. Are you seeing some bad luck with him?
"Let’s get off of Zack. Zack is playing good, solid football. Last week I told you that he had some things that didn’t go his way. I am not going to get into that. I could get in here and start pointing fingers at the center, quarterback exchange and the whole bit. I think they are doing fine. They are fine. Zack is fine."
How quickly do you think that Dan Connor has grasped things compared to some freshmen you have had in the recent past?
"You have to remember that Dan was here for spring practice. So it is hard for me to tell you how quickly he has grasped compared to some other kids we have played as freshmen. He is a bright kid who is a natural football player. When I responded to the question about Paul, I think Dan has got a lot of the same qualities. He understands the game and likes the game. He is coachable. I think he has a bright future."
Barry Alvarez is both coach and athletic director. You did that once. How difficult do you think it is to hold both roles?
"I did it for two years. When I did it, we were in a little transitional situation. The reason I took it over was because, I didn’t want to take it over, I tried to get a little bit more information about what as happening. We had been to four or five straight New Year’s Day bowls as an independent and I was trying to get some facilities done and we didn’t have any money. I took over and it was a lot of late nights until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. with Bob Patterson helping me out trying to figure out how to change the structure of the budget and the whole bit. We were just starting to get into women’s sports in a significant way. I brought in Rene Portland. There still were some things that were not right. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, but that is just the way it drifted a little bit. So I took it over. I talked to Barry when he said he was going to take it over. He has a different situation. That thing is in place and the whole bit is good. I think he can do it. He is a very, very focused individual and a very well organized guy. If somebody said to me, 'Would you want to do it again?' I would tell them, 'No, I wouldn’t want to do it again.' I think Barry will do a really good job."