Penn State – Rutgers
September 19, 2015

Opening Statement
“I want to thank you for being here, I want to thank our fans for being here, like I tell the recruits, it’s always 80 degrees here, blue skies, not a cloud in the sky. We’ve had three weeks now with unbelievable weather for our games and our guys handled it really well. The environment was unbelievable. I was told that before the game even started. This is one of the main reasons that make Penn State so special, the type of support we get from this community and I want to thank everybody.

Some great things: Akeel Lynch with his fifth 100-yard game. When you think about it, now we’ve had two weeks in a row where we haven’t given up a sack, we’ve been able to run the ball. That defense was number one in the conference, in rushing; giving up 39 yards a game and rushed for over 300 yards. I think Saquon Barkley has brought something to our offense, he and Akeel are a nice one-two punch right now and I’m really proud of our offensive line and Herb Hand, just staying patient and working hard and persevering. I think we’re just managing the game much better. Three weeks in a row now I think our special teams are just playing at a really high level, their returner was a threat. I’m really proud specifically of Chris Gulla, who didn’t find out he was starting until this Friday. We talk to our guys all the time about preparing as if you’re the starter, and he did that. I was sitting in my office on Friday morning and I see a ball flying through the air. He’s out there on his own, punting on the field. It’s just an example of a guy who kept preparing and waiting for his number to be called and did a great job, I’m very proud of him. I thought our defense once again played well, made them earn it. I thought we called a good game from that perspective instead of worrying about statistics. We played cover too and were able to stop the run and stop big plays. I thought we managed the game with really good offense, defense and special teams from that perspective.

Some really good things, our attendance was awesome, 103,323. I thought the Stripe Out for the first time doing it was special. We’re one of the few fan bases that can pull that off, a White Out and now a Stripe Out and I hope that becomes a yearly tradition.”

Q: When you said Saquon Barkley has brought something to your offense, what exactly is something?
A: I think to be a running back; it’s all about breaking tackles and making people miss. Obviously pass protection and things like that, but to me a running back has got to bring that to the table. Offensive line, tight end and coaches are going to try to get the running back into the position to be one-on-one, and the running back must win more than 50% of those one-on-one situations and he’s been able to do that. I think him and Akeel [Lynch] are able to do some really nice things. It’s exciting to think about all the young players playing for us, being led by all the veteran players we have. I’m just excited that we’re getting better. It’s about getting better every single day, every single week, and I’ve seen signs of that. We’ve got a lot of things we can still clean up. I think early on in the game we hurt ourselves with penalties. I think our Jersey guys were a little juiced up; Angelo Mangiro had two penalties in his first two drives. I think they were a little juiced up, but once they settled down, they were good. To me, that’s the frustrating thing as a coach, but also the exciting thing as a coach. We have to get those things cleaned up and once we do, we’ve got the chance to do some nice things.

Q: It seemed like your O-line was playing with a lot of confidence, unlike we’ve really seen. How important is that to the kind of development of that group?
A: I think that’s what it is for us. We have the ability on the O-line to play with confidence. Also, when running backs start making people miss breaking tackles and making great plays, it inspires them. No different than a good kick-off returner or punt returner. I think it’s a combination of those things. Plus, the better we run the ball and make some big plays in the running game, the less chaos we get. When we can’t run the ball and we are predictable in throwing, we get chaos constantly. The running game is going to help us in protection, get more base looks and all of those things. So we’re going to continue to work on it and I thought we managed the game much better in all three phases.
Q: Saquon [Barkley] was originally a Rutgers commit. What do you recall about his recruitment?
A: I’m not sure about that. I know when we got here he was committed to another school. The good thing is our staff has a lot of relationships in this state. I think Saquon as well as [Adam] Brenemen, as well as … I could name a bunch of guys, are great examples of why if you have the chance to stay home and play for your state school, why wouldn’t you? We got the chance to develop a relationship with Saquon’s coaches, his family. And I think once Saquon got around our staff and our players, Penn State sells Penn State. We’re happy he’s with us, and we’re going to continue to do that, develop the guys we have on our roster and continue to recruit hard in this footprint.

Q: James, when you look at the punting decision with Chris Gulla what made you make that decision? Was it made on Friday or did you just tell him on Friday? And sort of what went into that change?
A: Well, to be honest with you, Daniel’s been punting more consistently all camp. The last couple weeks, probably last three weeks, Gulla’s really come on and made it more competitive. At the end of the day, you got to be able to do it in the game as well. And that wasn’t consistently happening at this point. So I thought, if you had to say who the game ball goes to, everybody’s going to say Saquon Barkley, or Akeel Lynch, or some of our defensive players that made some big plays, but I would say it goes to Gulla. Their return guy has three returns for touchdowns this year. He was able to swing field position; he was able to pivot back deep. So, that’s exciting for us, we’re going to build on that. And if you remember last year, early in the season Gulla started out real strong, and then he hit some rough spots. Then Daniel [Pasquariello] came in and did some decent things, then he hit some rough spots. Consistency is the name of the game in every position, but definitely at punter.

Q: We spoke earlier about the offensive line’s improved confidence. Where do you think Christian Hackenberg’s confidence is? It looked like he struggled a little bit tonight.
A: No, I think he’s managing the game really well. He made some great checks at the line of scrimmage to get us into runs and certain looks against their blitz looks that we had worked all week long. Two out of three of our games have been in pretty interesting weather conditions. The plan was to run the ball any way he managed to gain. It became even more a part of that when the weather conditions got how they got. And again once we continue to gain more experience and confidence up front, we all know we’ve seen it in the bowl game and we’ve seen it at times what Jordan can do when we protect him. That will come over time and pretty soon we’ll have a balanced offense that’s able to do both really effectively.

Q: James you said earlier about the young players mixing in and you guys got Grant Haley back tonight. We saw John Reed hit his first career interception. When you look at the secondary guys, a lot of guys are sophomores or younger. What is there to like about that when there’s so much youth, and we saw Christian Campbell coming in?
A: And even the sophomores are true sophomores too. Talking about guys that are still 19 years old. You know, it’s exciting. But also shows you though, this is a physical game. We played three tough games. You get guys who get banged up and bruised. You got to have depth. That’s what we’re still trying to develop. You’ve heard me say the last couple of weeks we’ve got better practice depth. We’re still trying to improve in our game depth. You saw that with Manny and Coop and those guys on the field getting some reps today. We were able to get Trace McSorley in the game. Torrence Brown, redshirt freshman gets a sack I think tonight. So, to me it’s exciting. I hope our fan base and people realize how many young guys are playing and the excitement for our future. When I talk about the future, I’m talking about the near future. I’m talking about the rest of this season and moving forward. I want to thank the older guys for their leadership. They’ve been really, really good with those young guys. The way we do it here at Penn State, taking those guys under their wing and teaching them what it means to be a Penn State player.

Q: You talked about the Jersey guys being hyped up for this game. On defense you have a lot of guys with Jersey ties who made big plays for you. How did you feel about them coming in, did you think they were a little extra amped up for tonight?
A: As you know we approach it the same every single week, but if you’re from Jersey, and you’re playing Rutgers, it’s going to be a little different for you. Their parents are living in that community and they’re going to hear about it, things like that. So, it’s a little bit different, but we try to keep our approach the same week-in and week-out. I thought it was really significant getting Brandon Bell back this week. His leadership on the field was important. Getting him back this week and being able to help those young guys and our communication and other things is exciting. I think the Jersey guys played well, will continue to play well. I thought [Angelo Mangiro] played well, I thought [Austin Johnson] played well. I could name a bunch of guys, as you guys know that area is going to be very, very important for us, always has been. Thanks a lot guys, really appreciate you being here.

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