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Penn State Football: Joe Paterno Knows What You Know -- Indiana State Doesn’t Matter

by on August 30, 2011 9:50 PM

When Joe Paterno was being driven over to his press conference on Tuesday, he turned to Penn State’s longtime director of football operations, Tommy Venturino, and said:

“You know, it’s hard to believe I’m going to start my 62nd year coaching. And I’m still excited about it, yet I’m still nervous about it.”

It didn’t show on Tuesday. Joe won the press conference, his first victory of the 2011 regular season.

After six-plus decades at Penn State, although hobbled by injury Paterno still knows the media two-step well enough that there were only two messages he wanted to deliver during his 33-minute press conference:

1.) It doesn’t matter.

2.) Joe knows. And he's not telling.

He was successful on both counts.

It doesn’t matter on Saturday who will be Penn State’s starting quarterback, whether Joe is on the sidelines, who the kicker is or who the captains are.

It’s Indiana State, for badness sake.

The Sickamores were 6-5 last year -- beating such powerhouses as St. Joseph’s (the one that’s in Indiana), Quincy (the one that’s not Jack Klugman) and South Dakota State (the one with Mount Rushmore). In the half-decade prior to that, Indiana State won two games. In five years.

Chima Okoli could start at quarterback, Joe could watch the game eating Sue’s pasta while lounging on his McKee Street couch, DeOn’tae Pannell could handle the place-kicks and the captains could be Misters Crunch and Kangaroo.

They are all non-issues on Saturday, and that’s what Joe knows. It doesn’t matter.

He may say that “they'll be a tough opener for us.” But Joe knows better.


Paterno spent a lot of time on Tuesday side-stepping issues and dancing around questions.

Which wasn’t all that easy, considering the recovering Paterno was sitting on a stool and used a came to walk up a small ramp to the media room dais.

Actually, Joe looked great. (That such a visual report is SOP for a Paterno press conference over the past decade is telling.)

Anyway, for those who care: Paterno wore a crisp blue oxford short, checked brown sport coat and gold striped tie. His spirits were great and he was as sharp as the Joe of…er…old. As in 72 years old.

The guy is amazing. He looked nothing like a 84-year-old who was hit three weeks ago by a Porsche named Devon Smith. He did walk with the aid of a cane his left hand, a concession to the pelvic injuries he suffered.

On Tuesday, no one asked Paterno how he felt. In fact, the press conference was nine questions deep before someone – Rich Scarcella of the Reading Eagle – asked the coach if he was going to be on the sidelines.

Paterno said the odds are 50/50. His 50 says he’s on the field, everyone’s 50 says he’s not.

“That being upstairs is for the birds,” Paterno said.

Still, this is one battle Paterno is fairly certain to lose. Sidelines? It doesn’t matter. And Joe knows that. He knows how hard he will push wife Sue; Wayne Sebastinelli, the team doc and one of Joe’s closest friends; and Venturino; and his son Jay about coaching from the sidelines.

Folks in Lasch Building say he’s getting around the offices quite well. Of course, the sidelines in the heat of the game with guys literally twice the weight of Devon Smith -- he’s 157; Johnnie Troutman weighs 323 -- barreling down on you is different than walking 20 feet to see Franny Ganter or walking halfway down the hall and turning left into the coaches meeting room.

Joe knows that. He’ll be in the box on Saturday.


He knows this all is barely a dress rehearsal for Alabama. If this was Nittany Lions swimming, they wouldn’t shave. Or taper.

That’s why Two Guys will be playing quarterback. Heck, we’re lucky – actually Joe and Jay are lucky -- Newsome isn’t around and Jones needs credits and McGregor is a nice guy but not the real McG.

Otherwise, we could have been looking at Five Guys on Saturday. Who would've relished that?

No one is making Joe or Joe Jr. pick a starter. Not the players. Not the press. Not even Rob Bolden’s dad.

Against Indiana State, it doesn’t matter. In 2010, Bolden was 20 of 39 for 239 yards, two TDs and an interception in the season opener against Youngstown State (who Indiana State beat in 2010, by the way). Two weeks later, Bolden was 17 of 27 for 217 yards, with a TD and two interceptions against Kent State.

It didn’t matter. Over the second half of last season, Bolden was buried deeper on the bench than Jimmy Hoffa in the Meadowlands.

Joe knows that.

Alabama next Saturday is what matters, on the short-term. Joe knows that. Even moreso, what matters are the games after Alabama. Really.


The Nittany Lions do not need to beat Alabama (and most likely will not), only play respectably. They should be 4-1 when hosting Iowa on Oct. 10. That matters.

If the 2010 season is going to have any real meaning, they need to be at least 7-2. When they play Nebraska on Nov. 11. That matters.

By then, Paterno will be on the sidelines, McGloin or Bolden will have been the starter for nearly two months, Anthony Fera will be kicking and the captains -- likely to be announced on Thursday -- will have kept the team together.

That’s when it matters. Joe knows that. And you do too.

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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