Paterno looks for victory on the field, not on paper

By Genaro C. Armas

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Winning a game by forfeit doesn’t appeal to Joe Paterno, even if it means a victory over arch-nemesis Michigan.

So as the Big Ten sorts out whether the Wolverines should be disciplined for using an ineligible player during last month’s 14-9 win over Penn State, Paterno is concentrating on trying to win games the old-fashioned way.

“I know we got licked,” Paterno said Tuesday. “I don’t have any interest in it. We lost. That’s up to somebody else to make the decision.”

The Big Ten has said a decision on whether Michigan should face any discipline, of which, forfeiture could be an option, may take weeks.

Penn State (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) cannot wait that long to correct its offensive problems with a game against Iowa looming Saturday.

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Execution in the red zone must improve, Paterno said, after Penn State converted just 3 of 6 trips inside the 20 into scores in last week’s 27-20 loss to Illinois. That game left the Nittany Lions tied for the Big Ten basement with Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota.

Paterno was in a prickly mood with reporters at times Tuesday.

“I don’t have any problem with my football team, except for the fact that … we’ve just hurt ourselves, and we’ve played against two teams that have played well against us,” Paterno said.

He stood steadfastly behind starting quarterback Anthony Morelli, whose play has been the subject of vociferous criticism on Penn State Internet message boards.

“Morelli’s our quarterback. I wish everyone would calm down,” Paterno said. “Morelli’s our quarterback.”

Morelli threw for a career-high 298 yards and engineered some nice drives in the first half against the Illini. He also had three interceptions, including two in crucial late-game situations, along with a fumble on a fourth-and-long play that negated a potential first-down inside the 10.

Morelli, a senior captain and second-year starter, did not speak with reporters for the second straight week. He has completed 91 of 156 passes, for 1,095 yards, with 9 TDs and 4 interceptions.

“He’s been doing good. … Doing what he needs to do despite the criticism,” left tackle Gerald Cadogan said. “They like you one day, they criticize you the next day.”

Quarterback isn’t the only issue on offense.

“I think overall, he needs more help,” Paterno said. “Some people have got to make some catches in the clutch.”