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Penn State Football: Paterno Doesn’t Like Bye Week – and His Recent Record Shows Why

by on November 01, 2011 2:25 PM

The Penn State football team, hard on the heels of its last-second, snowy 10-7 victory over Illinois last weekend, has this Saturday off.

Joe Paterno isn’t too happy about that.

And for good reason.

“I don’t particularly like bye weeks at any time because I think you get out of the routine,” said Paterno, who became Division I’s winningest coach on Saturday, with 409 victories.

Penn State’s recent record bears out the 84-year-old coach’s trepidation.

2000-2010: 9-7

Since 2000, the Nittany Lions are just 5-4 in regular season games played after one or two weeks off. And just four of nine of those games were vs. opponents ranked in the Top 25 -- Nos. 8, 16, 22 and 25, against whom PSU was 2-2.

By comparison, from 1993 – when Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference – until 1999, the Nittany Lions were 9-3 in regular season games played after at least one week off. (PSU was 4-3 vs. ranked teams.)

Paterno has traditionally done well with the extra preparation time. But the skid in the 2000s extended to bowl game performance, too – even though the Nittany Lions usually have had an extra month of practice time. Since 2000, they are 4-3 in postseason bowls – including 3-2 vs. ranked bowl opponents.

All told, for games following off-weeks and in bowl contests, Penn State is just 9-7, a .563 winning percentage, since 2000.

1993-1999: 15-4

From 1993-1999, Penn State was 6-1 in bowl games, and 15-4 overall in games following off-weeks and in bowl games combined – a stellar .789 winning percentage.

Paterno, no doubt, hopes to turn back the clock.

Penn State is on a roll, winning its last seven games, and is tied with Oregon for the seventh-longest current unbeaten streak in major college football. The Lions are 5-0 in the Big Ten and atop the Leaders Division with the conference’s best record. Remaining are regular season games at home against Nebraska (Nov. 12) and away at Ohio State (Nov. 19) and Wisconsin (Nov. 26).

The Nittany Lions have some momentum.

“We were very fortunate against Illinois. That darn ball bounced off the goal post when it could have bounced any other way (and) it would have been overtime,” said Paterno. "...I would probably have rather just come off that, with the enthusiasm and excitement it created in the fans and have played another home game."

But if the Nittany Lions were to have an off-week, Paterno said now is a good time for his team, which has meetings and flu shots scheduled for Tuesday, before beginning regular drills on Wednesday.

 “I guess if you have to, this is as good a time as any to have it,” he said.

NOVEMBER: 22-18

Compounding the Nittany Lions’ recent history of off-week woes, they are just 22-18 in their last 40 games in November – again, a time of the year when Paterno’s teams have excelled in the earlier stages of his 46-year head coaching career.

REDD NEEDS REST

One Nittany Lion who can use the time off is sophomore running back Silas Redd, who has been suffering from shoulder “stingers.” In October, when Penn State won its first five conference games, Redd ran the ball for 36 percent of the team’s overall plays.

In those five games, Redd carried the ball 133 times for 703 yards. He ran 29 times for 129 yards against Indiana, 28-142 vs. Iowa, 28-131 vs. Purdue, 18-164 vs. Northwestern and 30-137 against Illinois last Saturday in the snow.

His five straight rushing games over 100 yards is only surpassed at Penn State by Curtis Enis (eight, 1997), Ki-Jana Carter (seven, 1994) and Blair Thomas (six, 1989). Also at five are Curt Warner (1981), John Cappelletti (1973) and Lenny Moore (1954). Good company, indeed.

Nationally, there’s almost no back in major college football that has had the workload the 5-foot-10, 201-pound Redd has. No wonder his shoulder hurts. 

Overall, Redd ranks No. 16 in the nation in total rushing yards, with 1,006. His 195 carries are the fifth-most among running backs for 120 BCS teams.

Still, Paterno was measured in his praise of Redd on Tuesday.

“He’s worked hard to overcome some of the things that he didn't do well when he came here” said Paterno, referencing Redd's blocking and holding onto the football. “...Obviously he can run with the football. I think he has come a long way.

"He still has a ways to go, but he's playing solid. He's made the most of the time when he's had some opportunities."

Redd better rest up. Even bigger opportunities are ahead, beginning on Nov. 12 against Nebraska.

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