Paterno: Too early to panic on kicking game

Penn State coach Joe Paterno said Thursday night it’s “a little bit too early for us to panic” about his team’s woeful kicking game but suggested that a re-examination about what the Nittany Lions are doing with the kicking might be in order.

Speaking on the weekly Penn State football radio show, the coach said the kickers need to be more consistent and gain some confidence.

“We’ve just got keep working on it,” he said. “If we don’t get some results pretty quick, then I think we’ve really got to take a good look at how we’re doing some things, and who’s kicking and how we’re kicking, just take a look at the whole situation.”

The Nittany Lions are 1-for-6 on field goal attempts through three games, with Evan Lewis making just one of five and freshman Sam Ficken having his only try blocked last week against Temple. The Lions also had a punt blocked by the Owls.

Asked by a listener if he would consider using a punter who kicks rugby style, Paterno hinted he might.

“I think if we can’t get the kicking game settled down, we’ve got to start to look around for other ways to kick it,” he said. “The problem we have is that the kids we have kicking the football really have good legs but they’re so inconsistent, they hurt themselves. They don’t seem to have the kind of confidence that they can go out there and kick every kick exactly the same way.

“You hate to give up on them because basically they could be good kickers. But if we don’t get better pretty quick, then I think we’re going to have to try some of the things suggested by (the listener), because there are people doing it and doing it well.”

Paterno said he didn’t think the Penn State offense was “not that bad, really” and played tough defenses in Alabama and Temple.

“We haven’t really come to the front and felt comfortable that we can dominate,” he said. “Having said that, and people hate to hear me put it this way, but Temple is a good football team. They’re a good defensive football team, and I don’t think I have to say any more how good Alabama is. I think we will get better and I think we will pick it up.”

Paterno said he hoped the play of the Nittany Lions in the fourth quarter of their win over Temple will carry over to Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan at Beaver Stadium.

“Hopefully, we’ll have that kind of momentum and we’ll realize what we’ve got to do to be a good football team,” he said. “We were a decent football team in the fourth quarter and we’ve got to pick it up from there.”

In another segment of the radio show, wide receivers coach Mike McQueary said sophomore wide receiver Curtis Drake, the former West Catholic star who did not suit up last week because of soreness in his twice-broken left leg, practiced “a couple of days” this week.

“He is progressing,” McQueary said. “We’re trying to be careful with him. It’s kind of a day-to-day thing, so we’ll see.”

McQueary also said that true freshman Bill Belton, of Winslow Township High in South Jersey, is coming along nicely.

“He has great lower-body strength,” the coach said. “He has really, really natural gifted hands. He has a good feel for football and has good vision.”

--Joe Juliano