|JoePa: Cleanup duty over, but Penn State still learning after loss to Ohio State|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2007 12:19|
Coach Joe Paterno believes his squad has learned enough of a lesson off the field that the Nittany Lions no longer have stadium cleanup duty.
Over the summer, an angry JoePa ordered the entire team to pick up trash in the student section on Sunday mornings at Beaver Stadium after several players were implicated in an off-campus fight in April.
That chore apparently ended after the fifth home game of the season, the Oct. 13 win over Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) were back to their regular Sunday routines this week after the 37-17 loss to the Buckeyes.
``I didn't do that necessarily to punish them. I did that because I felt they ought to have some idea that as a team there's got to be somebody saying, 'Hey, no, we don't want to do that,''' Paterno said Tuesday. ``I really wanted them to appreciate the fact that they have the best of all worlds. They've got a free education, people who know who they are.''
Coaches, including Paterno, picked up trash, too.
``I think it was good for our kids to realize how fortunate we have it,'' Paterno said. ``I think what we wanted to do, we did, and I think that's enough.''
On the field, the education process is ongoing after Saturday's 20-point loss - Penn State's worst defeat at home since a 20-0 loss to Michigan six years ago.
The defense took a pounding against the Buckeyes after allowing season highs in points and yardage (453). The Nittany Lions allowed three passing touchdowns for the second straight week, casting doubt on a secondary thought to be one of the best in the country at the start of the season.
Paterno defended his players, and directed much of the blame to the coaching staff.
For instance, cornerbacks Justin King and Lydell Sargeant often played back in zone coverage, as is typical in Penn State's scheme, though the Nittany Lions couldn't keep up with Ohio State's success underneath.
The secondary got beat deep, too.
``We kind of put our corners in a tough situation. We really did. We didn't change up enough maybe. The kids themselves worked and played hard,'' Paterno said.
JoePa thought Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and his staff outperformed Penn State before retreating a bit. ``They didn't outcoach us,'' Paterno said immediately afterward. ``But they did a couple things really well.''
Injuries and non-football issues, such as the April fight and the suspension of running back Austin Scott, who was charged with rape, have been distractions, though Paterno said they're not excuses for the loss.
``I'm really disappointed in me maybe. I haven't done a couple of things to turn the tide of the game,'' Paterno said. ``But I think the kids have measured up to everything they've been expected to.''
He's been pleased so far with practice for this weekend's home finale against Purdue (7-2, 3-2). On Monday, Paterno didn't say a word to the team, but watched his players closely and liked how they responded. Besides regaining their swagger, the team is also getting an emotional lift preparing for Senior Day.
Senior linebacker Dan Connor, who is five tackles shy of breaking Paul Posluszny's school career tackles record (372), is determined to get the Nittany Lions to a nice bowl. A BCS bowl is out of the picture, though a New Year's Day game like the Outback Bowl may still be in the cards, especially if Penn State wins its last three regular-season games.
``That's kind of the focus of the team now,'' Connor said. ``We're not going to get a shot at the national championship, but at the same time we can make something out of this season.''