Paterno: Lousy way for Penn State to win
UNIVERSITY PARK -- Joe Paterno was a man of few words Saturday, with "lousy" his clear favorite.
"We were lousy," Paterno said of the Penn State offense after the Nittany Lions survived Illinois, 26-12, on the strength of a defensive touchdown, a safety, and a return of a late onside kick for a touchdown.
Illinois (2-6, 1-3) outgained Penn State (5-3, 3-2) on the ground, 202-40, and overall, 358-184. The Illini led, 9-3, at the half, and generally took it to the home folks, limiting the festive mood for a homecoming crowd of 108,112.
"We didn't win that game today. Illinois lost it," Paterno said. "Illinois gave us a couple of easy ones. We didn't go out there and beat Illinois. Our defense kept us in the game until Illinois made a couple of mistakes."
Paterno was not in a mood to expand on why the Penn State offense can't seem to move the ball, or protect its quarterback, having surrendered two sacks this game after giving up seven the week before to Michigan.
"We were just lousy, OK?" Paterno said. "We were lousy today.
"We were lousy, OK• What else can I say?"
Offered the possibility that defenses were throwing surprises at the offense, Paterno dismissed that out of hand.
"No. We're just lousy. Can I get that across. It's spelled l-o-u-s-y."
There was no rationalization about three losses to opponents ranked in the top 5. There were no odes to the general toughness of the Big Ten.
Paterno had seen a weak effort, one that had him challenging the defense at halftime to make big plays and score points to bail out the team.
"Hearing it from him, when he came in and said you guys are going to have to make the play to win the game, that really hit home," linebacker Paul Posluszny said.
Illinois had missed first-half opportunities to build a bigger lead, settling for three field goals to one for the Nittany Lions.
The Penn State offense produced its lone touchdown drive using a short field a couple of possessions after the first of two Anthony Scirrotto interceptions.
Anthony Morelli, playing after being knocked out of the Michigan game in the third quarter by a concussion, hit tight end Kevin Darling with a 3-yard touchdown pass at 7:33 of the third quarter to cap a 34-yard drive, and the Kevin Kelly PAT put Penn State up, 10-9.
Posluszny gave the Nittany Lions some breathing room on the next possession, stripping quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams and forcing a fumble that Tony Davis returned 6 yards for the team's first defensive touchdown of the season.
Illinois managed a fourth-quarter field goal, but Dan Connor tackled Williams for a safety late in the fourth quarter, and Scirrotto returned an onside kick attempt 29 yards for a touchdown to allow the Nittany Lions to escape with a win.
After the game, left tackle and team captain Levi Brown had a meeting with his linemates.
"I didn't feel that most guys out there, even myself, were making the second effort to get on blocks and things like that," Brown said. "We can't do that if we want to win games."
But Brown had a cryptic rejoinder to a question recalling seven quarterback sacks allowed against Michigan the previous game.
"Offensive line didn't give up seven sacks last week," he said. "You can say that. But we all know that more goes into it than just offensive line play and things like that."
But Paterno, saying Morelli had played OK, put the onus on the offensive line.
"It's tough that he can't get any rhythm because we're so inconsistent up front," he said. "Pass protection. Running game. Until we get better up front, I don't care who he is, we're not going to be real good."