You could tell Joe Paterno was in no mood Tuesday to discuss Penn State’s quarterback situation as soon as you heard the first question: Who do you plan to start at quarterback Saturday?
“I haven’t got the slightest idea yet, that’s why we’re practicing,” Paterno said.
Two questions later, he was asked to evaluate Matt McGloin’s performance against Northwestern.
“I told Matt he did a good job,” Paterno said.
“He did a good job.”
That was Paterno’s attitude at his weekly teleconference, which came three days after McGloin took every snap and led the Nittany Lions to a 34-24 victory over the Wildcats. In his post-game interview, Paterno said his quarterbacks would alternate starts, meaning Rob Bolden presumably will get the call in Saturday’s game against Illinois at Beaver Stadium.
In the last five games, McGloin has seen the majority of the playing time in four of them, and went the distance in the most recent one. The situation is a bit muddled, and the reasoning behind it – between Paterno and quarterbacks coach Joe Paterno – even moreso.
Though he was relatively closemouthed about the situation Tuesday, Paterno said he isn’t tired of talking about the two-quarterback system he’s clung to since the pre-season.
“If you guys want to talk about it, you can talk all you want,” he said. “I’m not talking about it. I’m not tired of talking about it. I just feel good that we are in a position we’ve had. A couple of quarterbacks, I think, in different situations can help us win a game.
“We only lost one game (Alabama) and the game we lost had nothing to do with the quarterback play. And the more you look around, the more you see two quarterbacks playing.”
Whichever quarterback plays on Saturday, when rain and snow showers are forecast with temperatures in the upper 30s, he’ll have to deal with a Fighting Illini team that Paterno calls “the best football team we’ve played outside of Alabama.” Illinois has lost back-to-back games, to Ohio State and Purdue, after a 6-0 start.
“It’s a solid football team,” he said. “I think the Purdue game was a tough game for them to recover from the Ohio State game. They were down 21-0 in the first half. But after that they understood where they were and came out and outplayed Purdue. I think they’re a good team.
“They’ve got two or three running backs; it’s tough to tell one from the other. They have great wideouts. So you look at it and you don’t just stare at any one part of their game. You’ve got to be ready for a good, sound, all-around squad. We’ve got to play a better football game than we’ve played all year.”
On other topics:
--Paterno called his continuing injuries “a pain in the neck” and added that he was a little nervous being on the practice field and “trying to find where everyone is. I don’t want to get run into again.” But he said he doesn’t think his limited movement has affected the opportunities for the Lions to improve. “It’s a little different environment than I’d like … but I think the staff has adjusted well. I think the kids have, too.”
--Paterno said he reinstated tailback Stephfon Green to the team because Green “did the things he’s supposed to do … in a very determined way. He’s wanting to help the team and he has at different spots.” Earlier Tuesday, junior fullback Michael Zordich said he was part of a senior-dominated group that had visited Paterno at his home to lobby for Green to be given a second chance.
--Paterno said wide receiver Derek Moye is likely to sit out his third game since suffering a broken bone in his foot, and that he would return after the bye for the Nov. 12 game against Nebraska if he has no setbacks.
--As for two other injuries, the coach said defensive back Malcolm Willis would be fine. Fullback Joe Suhey, who has been bothered by a stinger in his shoulder and did not play Saturday, would be able to play but will not have any contact work in practice.
--Paterno said the status of cornerback Stephon Morris, who is not injured but sat out Saturday’s game because of an undisclosed issue, is uncertain, adding, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with him.”