Paterno: ‘I didn’t know exactly how to handle it’

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In the weeks since the still-stunning dismissal was made official, supporters and detractors alike have been clamoring for deposed head coach Joe Paterno to give his side of the story, to begin to explain why he took the tack he did when he was first made aware of one of his trusted former assistants allegedly sodomizing a boy in football building shower.

For the first time since being fired Nov. 9, the legendary head coach has done just that.  Somewhat.  Sorta.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with the Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins, Paterno, with his attorney in the room, addressed a wide range of issues and questions, from the aftermath of his ouster to his treatment for lung cancer to, yes, Jerry Sandusky.

The central question, though, the one that nearly everyone has on their mind, is a simple one: why?  Why did Paterno, after turning over information he had received from a grad assistant —  Mike McQueary, the Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach who has been a central figure in the case against Sandusky — that Sandusky was naked in a shower with a 10-year-old boy in 2002, do the bare minimum as legally required by law?  Why did Paterno, the most powerful man at Penn State University regardless of title, not follow-up after handing the information over to his athletic director and president?

Nine years later, it appears Paterno is still struggling to answer those questions in his own head.

“I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.”

Paterno went on to at least attempt to further explain to Jenkins why he didn’t pursue the matter further after handing over McQueary and his information to athletic director Tim Curley and another high-ranking university official.

Paterno’s portrait of himself is of an old-world man profoundly confused by what McQueary told him, and who was hesitant to make follow-up calls because he did not want to be seen as trying to exert any influence for or against Sandusky. “I didn’t know which way to go,” he said. “And rather than get in there and make a mistake . . .”

He reiterated that McQueary was unclear with him about the nature of what he saw — and added that even if McQueary had been more graphic, he’s not sure he would have comprehended it.

“You know, he didn’t want to get specific,” Paterno said. “And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”

Paterno also hit on other topics…

  • On his firing: “Whether it’s fair I don’t know, but they do it. You would think I ran the show here.”  That statement comes courtesy of a man who, legend has it, chased Curley and then-president Graham Spanier out of his house several years ago when the two came to fire him.  he was not fired.
  • On how Sandusky was allowed to engage in his alleged deviant acts with young boys while going undetected: “I wish I knew. I don’t know the answer to that. It’s hard.”  The premise of the question is absurd, of course, as several high-ranking members of the university were made aware of allegations involving Sandusky dating as far back as 1998.
  • Paterno and his wife were in their nightclothes getting ready for bed on the night of Nov. 9 when there was a knock on the door.  On the other side of the door was a university employee bearing a piece of paper and a name on it.  Paterno dialed the number and the voice on the other end, vice trustees chairman John Surma, telling him “[i]n the best interests of the university, you are terminated.”  Paterno’s irate wife Sue called the number back. “After 61 years he deserved better. He deserved better.”
  • On why he waited until this interview, which was conducted Thursday and Friday, to speak out publicly: “I wanted everybody to settle down.”
  • Paterno said he had “no inkling” that Sandusky might be a pedophile, and described their relationship as “professional, not social” due to the fact that his former assistant “was a lot younger than me.”
  • Paterno said he told Sandusky that he couldn’t spend the time with his children’s charity — The Second Mile, which he allegedly used as a “recruiting ground” for victims — if he wanted to also become a head coach.  Paterno maintained that Sandusky retired in 1998 after being told he would not become Paterno’s successor at Penn State.  Sandusky was urged by Paterno to take the 30-year retirement package being offered by the school.
  • Paterno claims he was unaware of an incident in 1998 in which Sandusky allegedly molested a boy in a shower.  Curley as well as police were aware of the incident, and it was investigated before it was decided charges would not be pursued.  “You know it wasn’t like it was something everybody in the building knew about,” Paterno said of the 1998 incident. “Nobody knew about it.”
  • Paterno would not pass judgment on Sandusky’s guilt or innocence. “I think we got to wait and see what happens. The courts are taking care of it, the legal system is taking care of it.” If Sandusky is found guilty?  “I’m sick about it.”

Other than being his first post-firing interview, Jenkins’ exceptionally written piece did not, as somewhat expected, plow much new ground.  Perhaps the most fascinating — and sad on multiple levels — aspect of the interview was the conversation turning to the victims of Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse and Paterno and his wife personalizing it into what their reactions would’ve been if it had involved a member of their own family.

The Paternos say they think about the real potential victims every time they look at their own children. “I got three boys and two girls,” Paterno said. “It’s sickening.” His knee-jerk response is to go back to Flatbush. “Violence is not the way to handle it,” he said. “But for me, I’d get a bunch of guys and say let’s go punch somebody in the nose.” Sue Paterno is more blunt. “If someone touched my child, there wouldn’t be a trial, I would have killed them,” she said. “That would be my attitude, because you have destroyed someone for life.”

In other words, if Paterno had received the same information he did in 2002, but “10-year-old boy” was replaced with “great-grandson”, jeopardizing university procedures would have been the last thing on the former coach’s mind and someone would have paid for whatever happened in that on-campus shower.  Instead, the bare minimum was done for somebody’s else’s child.

It has been stated multiple times in the past couple of months that Paterno has been wanting to get his side of the story out, that he wanted to address the situation in his own words.  To some degree, he did just that, although if someone were a supporter or a detractor coming in, that’s likely where they still stand upon finishing the interview.

For me, it merely served as yet another reminder of how sad and disturbing and disgusting this whole sordid situation remains.  And how it could’ve been stopped in 2002, sparing several innocent victims from the actions of an alleged pedophile.

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Marshall pushes bowl winning streak to six in escaping with win over Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

Associated Press
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The Streak lives.  Barely.

Marshall (8-5) came into Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl having won five straight bowl games.  Exiting Albuquerque, Marshall will head back to Huntington armed with a six-game postseason winning streak as they escaped with a 31-28 win over Colorado State (7-6).

The first half was all about the passing of quarterback Chase Litton.  The second half was all about the running game — with a little Litton sprinkled in as well.

Up 21-14 at halftime, Tyler King outran the CSU defense to score on a 90-yard touchdown run very early in the third quarter to give MU a 28-14 lead that had the feeling of putting the game out of reach.  King finished the win with 106 yards rushing, one of two Thundering Herd running backs to top the 100-yard mark as Keion Davis chipped in with a team-high 141 yards.  Davis himself scored on a 68-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Herd its halftime lead.

After throwing for 177 in the first half, Litton finished with 262 through the air.  Tyre Brady, who caught six passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, was named the Player of the Game.

Entering the fourth quarter, MU held what walked, talked and looked like an extremely comfortable 31-14 lead.  CSU, however, cut the lead to 31-28 midway through the quarter on a pair of Nick Stevens touchdowns (one passing, one rushing).  Getting the ball back with just over six minutes remaining and pinned back on their own 16-yard line, the Rams, who caught a break when a fumble recovered by the Herd was negated by defensive holding, couldn’t reach midfield on their last drive as their hopes for a come-from-behind win were extinguished after turning the ball over on downs.

(That Michael Gallup catch to briefly extend that last drive, though.  Wow.)

While Marshall extended its winning streak — Doc Holliday is 5-0 as head coach — Colorado State extended a skein in the opposite direction as the Rams have now lost four bowl games in a row.

FCS title game set: defending champ James Madison vs. five-time champ North Dakota State

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If everyone is being honest with themselves, and aside from the opposing fans, this is the matchup we were all looking for.

Friday night, No. 2 North Dakota State (13-1) routed No. 6 Sam Houston State (12-2) 55-13 to claim one spot in the 2017 FCS championship game.  One day later, top seed James Madison (14-0) easily took care of business against No. 5 South Dakota State (11-3), claiming the other spot with a methodical 51-16 semifinal woodshedding.

The top two seeds in this years tournament will now square off Jan. 6 in Frisco, Tex., for the 2017 FCS championship.

James Madison is the reigning national champion, claiming the school’s second-ever title with a 28-14 win over Youngstown State last season.  North Dakota State, meanwhile, will be looking to get back to the trophy mountaintop after they won a record five straight championships from 2011-15.

The Bison will likely be shorthanded for that contest, however, as their two starting cornerbacks — Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush — suffered knee injuries in the semifinal win while their second-leading rusher, Ty Brooks, suffered a shoulder injury.  Despite the game being nearly three weeks away, all three are expected to be sidelined for the contest.

Oregon rolls snake eyes in Mario Cristobal’s Las Vegas Bowl debut

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With Justin Hebert in the lineup, Oregon’s offense was one of the best in college football, racking up 50 points and 580 yards per game. The Ducks had Hebert in the lineup on Saturday, but the Oregon attack looked nothing like it had under Willie Taggart in Mario Cristobal‘s head coaching debut.

Oregon committed four turnovers, was doubled up on first downs, was out-gained by nearly 200 yards, did not cross the 50-yard line until more than midway through the third quarter and its offense did not score until the fourth quarter in a deceptively-close 38-28 loss to No. 25 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and hopped on the Ducks from the jump. The Broncos’ defense posted a three-and-out to open the game, then rolled down the field, going 67 yards in 13 plays and concluding with a nifty 1-yard Ryan Wolpin run.

Boise State forced another three-and-out on Oregon’s next possession and again moved into scoring territory when the Ducks scored their best play of the game, as cornerback Arrion Springs baited Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien into throwing an end zone interception.

It didn’t matter, though, because Oregon running back Tony Brooks-James was forced into a fumble by the Broncos’ Leighton Vander Esch, and Rypien erased his mistake with a 26-yard scoring strike to Cedrick Wilson

The first quarter closed with another minus-territory fumble, as this time Hebert lost the ball as he was being sacked at his own 21 but Boise State could not capitalize when Haden Hoggarth missed a 42-yard field goal.

After another Oregon punt, Hoggarth pushed Boise’s lead to 17-0 by converting a 39-yard field goal at the 8:59 mark of the second quarter.

Hebert followed up his fumble with two consecutive interceptions, with the second pick being returned 53 yards for a touchdown by Kekaula Kaniho, pushing the lead to 24-0 with 5:11 left in the first half.

Boise State had a chance to close the half with a 31-0 lead, but instead let Oregon back in the game with two disastrous plays inside the final minute. First, a Statue of Liberty play backfired when Rypien’s exchange bounced off Alexander Mattison‘s face mask and Oregon’s Troy Dye picked it up and raced 86 yards for the Ducks’ first touchdown with 37 ticks left in the half. Then, after a 67-yard completion to Wilson, Rypien’s pass into the end zone was intercepted and returned for a 100-yard touchdown by Oregon’s Tyree Robinson with seven seconds left, giving Oregon 14 defensive points in a 30-second span.

The Broncos accepted the ball to open the second half and managed to complete this drive, moving 75 yards in a dozen plays, finding pay dirt on a 13-yard strike from Rypien to Alec Dhaenens to push their advantage to 31-14. The score remained there for the next quarter as the teams traded punts on six consecutive possessions until Oregon’s offense finally affected the score with an Oregon-esque 8-play, 78-yard drive that spanned less than two minutes. Hebert hit Brenden Schooler for a 24-yard score to bring the Ducks within 10 with 10:07 to play, then took over at his own 42 just over a minute later with a chance to pull his club within three, but he was sacked for a loss of 10 yards on a third down from the Boise State 42, forcing a punt. 

Boise State used the extra chance to put the game out of reach, slicing 86 yards in 11 plays, punctuated by another 1-yard Wolpin run with 2:22 to play. Hebert pulled Oregon back within 10 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd with 1:12 left, but the Ducks could not recover the ensuing onside kick. He finished the game an up-and-down 26-of-36 for 233 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions, one fumble, and four sacks. Even with those four sacks, Hebert rushed nine times for a team-leading 16 yards, as the Ducks were out-gained 112-52 on the ground.

Rypien completed 21-of-38 throws for 362 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and Wilson caught 10 passes for 221 yards and one score.

The win pushed Boise State to 4-0 in the Las Vegas Bowl, the best mark by any team in the history of the 26-year-old game, and to 3-0 all-time against Oregon. It also gave Boise State its 11th season of 11-plus wins over the last 16 years. This marked the sixth time Boise State has closed one of those 11-plus win seasons with a bowl victory over a Power 5 opponent, and the first since Bryan Harsin closed a 12-2 debut season of 2014 with a 38-30 Fiesta Bowl win over Arizona. That number trails only Ohio State for the most in FBS since 2002.

Oregon, meanwhile, concluded its season of multiple changes at 7-6. Saturday’s loss was not without precedent, though. Cristobal became the second consecutive coach to lose his debut in the Las Vegas Bowl, joining Major Applewhite, who dropped his Houston debut in a 34-10 rout to San Diego State last season. There was also another Oregon coach who began his tenure with an inauspicious loss to Boise State. He coaches at UCLA now.

Slumbering offenses awaken as Marshall takes halftime lead on Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

Gildan New Mexico Bowl
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If you’re a fan of defensive football, you were loving the Gildan New Mexico Bowl — until the second quarter happened.

After a first quarter completely dominated by both defenses, the two combatants traded offensive jabs in the second as Marshall (7-5) took a 21-14 lead on Colorado State (7-5) into the halftime locker room.  And what a second quarter it was as the two teams combined for three lead changes and a pair of ties.

Very early in the period, Thundering Herd quarterback Chase Litton threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Tyre Brady to account for the first score of the half.  On the ensuing possession, a Detrich Clark five-yard touchdown catch from Nick Stevens capped 15-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 7-all.  The possession after that, Litton tossed his second touchdown pass, hitting Ryan Yurachek from 15 yards out for MU’s second lead of the contest.  The possession after that, Stevens called his own number and scored on a nine-yard run to knot the score once again. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but, on the possession after that, Keion Davis rumbled 68 yards yards for a touchdown to hand the lad back to the Herd.

Litton finished the half with 185 yards passing, 136 of which went to Brady.  Stevens, meanwhile, passed for 128 yards.

On the running side of the ledger, Davis had 85 yards on the ground on just six carries.

Thanks to special teams, the Herd, looking to win its sixth straight bowl game, could’ve taken a two-touchdown lead into halftime as Hyleck Foster returned a punt 83 yards for a score early in the first quarter.  However, he was penalized for an illegal fair-catch signal and the touchdown was taken off the board.

While the Herd is looking to extend a winning streak, the Rams are looking to snap its three-game bowl losing streak.  Their last postseason win? The 2013 New Mexico Bowl

Colorado State will get the ball on offense to start the second half.