TAMPA, Fla. – Penn State coach Joe Paterno walked to the podium today for his final pre-Outback Bowl press conference looking to eliminate one area of questioning before the session formally began.
“I have no plans to retire, all right?” Paterno said with a smile. “Can we get that one out of the way?”
Much of the rest of the press conference centered on the Nittany Lions’ matchup with Florida Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. He indicated his chief concerns were the speed of the Gators and the weather forecast for the game in which temperatures are expected to be in the mid to upper 70s.
Of Florida’s speed, Paterno said, “I don’t think there’s any question that that’s going to be the biggest problem we have.
“We have to make sure we keep them where we have a shot at them, because they can run,” he said. “There’s no question their speed worries me. We’ve tried to emphasize the fact that you’ve got to have good position and don’t underestimate their ability to run away from you. And we’ve got to tackle.”
Paterno said he worried about the effect of the anticipated heat on the 300-pound linemen that will be pounding in the trenches for both teams and panting after 10 or 12 plays.
“They sound like newspaper people,” he quipped.
“It’s going to be hot,” he said. “That worries me a little bit, the heat. If it’s in the 70s, we’re going to have to play some people (on defense), particularly with the pace that Florida may give us on offense. They’re not going to be hanging around waiting for us to line up.”
Paterno also said he couldn’t tell if it would be a high-scoring game, as some have predicted.
“It depends of somebody drops the ball, turnovers,” he said. “The kicking game is a hidden element that nobody really watches. And turnovers … we were playing a pretty good game against Ohio State and we turn the ball over twice, two touchdowns. Two interceptions turn the whole football game around.
“I’m very reluctant to make predictions that way. I think you’re going to see two teams playing really hard. Hopefully it will be the kind of game people can enjoy, whether it’s close or whether it’s high-scoring.”
He said he expects Florida to be “on a mission,” playing its last game for coach Urban Meyer, who will step down after the game.
As for Penn State, he said, “I think we’re ready. Whether we’re good enough, we’ll find out.”