COURTESY OF PENN STATE'S ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Like always, I want to thank everyone for coming out and supporting us, especially over Thanksgiving break. We really appreciate that. We won the field position battle, we lost the turnover battle with the long interception. The penalty battle, we continue to play really disciplined Penn State Football. We weren’t as explosive as we needed to be and probably gave up a few too many explosive plays. We had a lot of people on the field that hadn’t been on the field for bumps and bruises and things like that. [Jayson] Oweh got his first start, Ellis [Brooks] got his first start, [Will] Levis got his first start, [Daniel] George started again, he had started previously, but not much. [Marquis] Wilson and [Joey] Porter played a bunch of football for us tonight. Those things are really valuable and we will grow from that and learn from that. Obviously Will Levis rushing for 100 yards and Journey Brown just continues to grow and get better. I know you guys are going to ask – we felt like we could have played Noah [Cain] tonight, but it he is still not 100 percent. We were afraid that if we played him tonight and he tweaked it again, then he would not be 100 percent for the bowl game. With the depth that we have at the running back position allowed us to do that with him. Journey Brown had his third career game with two or more rushing touchdowns. Blake Gillikin’s 72-yard punt was phenomenal. We had two rushers with 100 yards in a game for the first time since 2015 and Journey had three rushing touchdowns. We are pleased with the win and there are a bunch of other things that we are pleased with as well that I had some notes on, but you guys will read about them later. The coaches tomorrow will all pretty much get on the road to go recruiting. We will be out for the next couple weeks. We will find out what bowl game we will be in next week. The next team activity is a team meeting on Thursday at 3:15 so the players will be off until then and the coaches will leave first thing in the morning ripping and running all over the place. I am actually going with my family in the morning to go see Saquon [Barkley] and Grant Haley and a young man by the name of Spencer [Pulley] who played for me at Vanderbilt, so we are going to the Giants game in the afternoon and then I will go recruiting from there.
Q: You mentioned Noah [Cain] and his situation and your decision. Is that the same thing that you can say about Sean [Clifford]? Last week you said that he could’ve gone back in and today he wasn’t in uniform. What went into that decision and also how do you think Will [Levis] played?
A: Yeah, it’s hard to answer your question because there are some things that I am not comfortable talking about, but basically Sean [Clifford] could’ve played this week, but it would have changed how we treated him. Once we decided to treat him a certain way, it made him unavailable for this week, if that makes sense without getting into details. We just felt like rather than him each week gradually losing mobility, that this would give us the best chance to get him back and back 100 percent for the bowl game. Plus it gave Will [Levis] an opportunity to get out there and play. I thought last week he went into a really tough situation and battled. I thought this week early on he was pressing a little bit, not just in the pass game, but in the run game; missing some reads and things like that. But he ran the ball well. He ran the ball hard and physical again. This will be great tape for him to learn and grow from and I am really excited about him and his future, but we could have been a little bit cleaner with some things tonight.
Q: How do you balance people asking why didn’t you best Rutgers worse?
A: I get that. What I also would say is that every single one of you guys could probably look up 25 games this year that people were supposed to do something and lost. You could pick up another 25 games of people that had a tough game against an opponent, tougher than it was supposed to be. That’s not just college football, that’s pro football that’s high school football. That’s at every single level. We have a lot of respect for that program. They have given us fits for years. There’s been games where we have played well but there’s been battles. I think in a lot of ways we always get Rutgers best. I think a lot of it is there’s so much familiarity with the two programs in terms of recruiting, in terms of region and all those types of things. They played well tonight, we didn’t play as well as we could’ve. Again, I get it. I know we’re waking up tomorrow happy. We’re going to watch the film and there’s things that are going to need to get fixed and critiqued like we do every single week. Like I mentioned we had a lot of guys out of the game. Not having Yetur Gross-Matos out there, not having Sean [Clifford] out there, not having
John Reid out there. At the end of the day we found a way to get a win against a Big Ten opponent. I think that gave us 10 for the year and a chance to get 11.
Q: What kind of legacy do you think this senior class will leave?
A: It’s pretty cool sitting out there. I always try to let the guys finish on the field and make sure everybody’s in the locker room before I come and talk to the team. Watching those seniors soak Beaver Stadium in for the last time, Jan Johnson was one of the last guys walking around. Jan is a fifth-year senior, got an undergraduate degree got a master’s degree. I think he’s about three months younger than me, I think he’s like 35 years old or something like that. You think about all the things that he’s been able to do here at Penn State and it’s pretty impressive. So, watching him soak it all in walking around the stadium growing up as a Penn State kid. Then you got Blake Gilikin that didn’t know where Penn State was during the recruiting process, watching him walk around and kind of soak it all in as well. Then guys like Nick Eury who is in there full of emotion. Jake Zembiec, full of emotion. So, it’s pretty cool, it really is. We got something really special here. Our kids believe that. You see it in the locker room you feel it in the locker room. Those guys have given a lot to this community, they’ve given a lot to this university. I’m also really proud because you think of how our guys have conducted themselves off the field. You think about them in the classroom as well. We’ve had a few problems here and there but, overall, I think our Penn State people and our community is really proud of that.
Q: Was there any thought of putting Michael Shuster in on that last drive?
A: Our plan was to go “victory” and snap the ball and get all of those guys in there and end the game on those terms. There is also that fine line that we have some young players that we want to gain some experience as well. Bringing it up now that you say it, we probably should’ve. I think sometimes you have some plans but as the game goes you start thinking in another direction but we probably should’ve.
Q: What do you have to say about your name being brought up for openings at Florida State?
A: I think I addressed this earlier in the year. There is nobody that would want this not to be talked about more than me. I’m hoping this is going to be over very quickly. Like I told you, I love Penn State, I love our players. I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s a little bit the nature of college football but I love Penn State, I love our players, I love what we’re doing here. I don’t see that changing any time soon. Hopefully all this conversation will be over very shortly.
Q: What can you attribute Journey Brown’s performance in the past few games to, and what has it meant to the team?
A: I think it’s confidence. Obviously, the offensive line played a big part in that, and the tight ends. I think they played a part in it. I think the biggest thing for Journey [Brown] is the guy’s a 10.4, 300-meter guy out of high school. The guy rushed for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game in high school. It’s not like the guy lacks the ability, I just think he’s getting to the point where he’s confident with the scheme, he’s confident with his footwork, his fundamentals, and technique. He’s playing with confidence right now. The other thing I’m going to tell you is, in my 24 years I don’t think I’ve been around a kid who has overcome more adversity in his life than him. He had some more this past week. He’s a special, special kid. Huge smile on his face. Very appreciative of Penn State. He’s been phenomenal and I could not be more proud of him.