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Big Ten notebook: Conference coaches seek improvement

BY SETH ROBERTS | SEPTEMBER 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Despite winning nine of 12 games, the Big Ten struggled as a whole in the third weekend of the 2011 season.

Ohio State was pounded by Miami (Fla.), to the point that the Buckeyes dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2004. For some perspective, Iowa State received more votes than the Scarlet and Gray (19 to 16).

Michigan State has All-Big Ten-caliber talent at quarterback but could only put 13 points on the board in a sloppy loss to Notre Dame — perhaps a factor of the Spartans' 29 rushing yards on 23 carries.

Northwestern lost to an Army team that had previously been defeated by Northern Illinois and San Diego State.

Even the teams that won were, for the most part, unimpressive. The vaunted Nebraska defense let Washington score 38 points. Iowa needed the biggest comeback in school history to beat Pittsburgh, a team that barely squeaked by Maine. Penn State was 1 yard away from losing to Temple for the first time since 1941.

Conference coaches addressed the weekend's events in a teleconference on Tuesday.

"I felt good about the way our defense played, and I felt we did some things offensively pretty good," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "Except for the fact that we're a little bit inconsistent, our kicking game was terrible, and we had four major penalties on big plays that were unnecessary penalties that had nothing to do with the game. They were penalties and should have been penalized, but they were stupid penalties — stupid actions by the people who were penalized."

The Nittany Lions missed all three field goals they attempted and were penalized for a total of 69 yards.

While Paterno didn't shy away from pointing out his team's deficiencies, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio declined to discuss the loss to the Fighting Irish much at all.

"We have to get back on track," he said in his opening statement. "We have to correct and be accountable for what's happened, handle the tough times our program will go through when you have a loss."

JoePa itching to be on sidelines

Paterno said he's getting closer to returning to the sidelines after spending the Nittany Lions' first three games in the press box with shoulder and pelvis injuries. The 84-year-old coach said he's able to walk without a cane — though he said he got tired after about 20 minutes before Penn State's last game and retired to the box — and said he hopes to be back closer to the action this week against Eastern Michigan.

"I think I won't know until maybe Thursday of this week," he said. "I think I'm going to do it, I think I'm going to be able to do it, but we'll see."

He said his actual coaching hasn't been affected by his location in the box, but said it's been difficult on a personal level.

"I miss it. I miss being on the sideline, I miss being able to talk to kids about different things that are going on in the ball game," he said. "[But] I don't think it's been that big a problem for the squad because the staff has been so good."

Jerry and the General

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill spent time with legendary college basketball coach Bob Knight on Monday in a meeting organized by Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Knight — and a lot of respect for anybody that has won games and is in the [Basketball] Hall of Fame," Kill said on Tuesday. "His coming by and sharing and visiting a little bit was a good uplifter and a good education. You can always learn from somebody who's been doing it a long time — it doesn't matter if it's football or basketball."

Kill, who coached his Gophers past Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 17 one week after he had a seizure on the sidelines during Minnesota's loss to New Mexico State, said he got along well with the famously fiery Knight.

"I'm a little bit old-school, and Coach Knight is old-school, so it was a pretty good conversation," he said.


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