Paterno won't say if kicking changes coming

Temple's Rod Streater (18) blocks a punt by Penn State's Anthony Fera in the second half of Penn State's 14-10 victory over Temple on Saturday. ( Charles Fox / Staff Photographer )

Penn State coach Joe Paterno expressed concern Tuesday about his team’s kicking through the first three games of the season but did not say if he would make any changes in who does the kicking on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions are 1 for 6 on field goals thus far and also have missed an extra point. Temple blocked a field goal – one of three misses by the Lions  – and a punt last Saturday.

“I’m very concerned about our kicking game, obviously,” Paterno said at his weekly teleconference. “We are trying to get better at it. A couple of kids do very well in practice. When they get in the ballgame, they get a little uptight or I don’t know what.

“Our kicking game needs to get better. And we’re working on it and hopefully we can improve. But the proof is in the pudding.”

Later, during his Big Ten conference call interview, Paterno said fourth-year junior Evan Lewis, who is 1-of-5 on field goals in his first three games of kicking duty, “has been excellent in practice.” The coach sees Lewis probably getting out of his slump.

“I think he’s got to have a little success in the game to get a little more confidence in himself,” Paterno said. “He can’t be worried about the bad things that can happen, just concentrate on kicking the football the way he can, and go from there.

“We’ve just got to keep working with him and teach him to understand that he is good and he’s got to have a little more confidence.”

As for sophomore Anthony Fera, who is used for punts and kickoffs and is listed as the second-team kicker, Paterno said he was “now getting back in the groove” after not practicing a lot with the team during pre-season for his off-field behavior.

“Fera has got a chance to come back now,” he said. “Fera did not practice with us in pre-season in some places because of some off-the-field antics. Hopefully he’ll start to put some of that stuff behind him and he’ll be more productive than he has been.”

However, Paterno criticized Fera for “absolute carelessness” on the punt that was blocked.

During the weekly questioning about the quarterback situation, Paterno said he was more concerned with finding a way to beat Eastern Michigan on Saturday at Beaver Stadium than finding a No. 1 quarterback in time for the Oct. 1 Big Ten opener at Indiana.

He also reiterated his desire to be fair to both quarterbacks – Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin – and to their teammates, which he says “don’t think they even know who is at quarterback” half the time.

“I talk to (the players) all the time … and I’ll say, ‘How is Mack doing or how is the other kid doing?’” he said. “I don’t get any negative feedback about either one of those kids. I watch them practice. They both practice well, hustle and plays. They do everything you ask them to do. And it’s very difficult for me to tell you so-and-so is better than the other one.

“So I don’t know maybe I’m making a mistake in not deciding. I’m not real comfortable having two quarterbacks. But I also wouldn’ t be comfortable if I did something that I felt ended up being unfair to one. So I have a dilemma.”

On other topics, Paterno said:

--He did not want to say “one way or the other” whether wide receiver and West Catholic product Curtis Drake would be playing in the foreseeable future. Drake returned from a broken left leg to play against Alabama but did not dress against Temple. “There’s some things there that still have to be resolved for me to know for sure” if Drake will play again, the coach said.

--He had talked to senior tailback Stephfon Green earlier Tuesday morning and expressed a sliver of optimism that Green, who was charged two weeks ago with purchasing alcoholic beverages for a minor, would return to the team. “I said, ‘Well, you’ve got to prove to me that you buy into the program, and the minute I’m convinced you do that, we’ll start to think about using you in the football game,’” Paterno said.

--He felt senior tight end Andrew Szczerba of Wilmington handled a tough situation as well as could be expected when he played against Temple less than 36 hours after his uncle, New Castle County police Sgt. Joseph Szczerba, was killed while chasing a suspect. “To have the tragedy they had in their family and still be able to concentrate and do a good job, I think is a credit to him and his family,” he said.

--Joe Juliano