How much improvement did you see from your guys up front in that Indiana game?
“I saw a lot of improvement. It was good. We still need to play better offensively and the guys up front, but when you rush for 271 yards there’s a lot of positivity. Guys are moving guys off the ball and protection was better, so it was a step forward as we prepare against Penn State this week.”
How much improvement have you seen out of Mike Onwenu?
“A lot, a lot of improvement. You can see that he’s moving his feet, he’s understanding it, he’s finishing. He could finish a little bit better, like all of them can, everybody on the offense. But you can see it. Light bulb’s going on, which is neat. He’s playing good football—really good football.”
How did Juwann Bushell-Beatty do in his first full contest?
“Juwann did a nice job. He competed well. There’s some thing we’ve got to clean up but he did a nice job for his first start here. He had a false start there at one point in time in the game but for the most part his protection was good. We’ve just got to clean up some of the run blocking things, but it was real positive.”
[After THE JUMP: Tim Drevno, an American Legion baseball field, a water pump, and a metaphor for the offense]
With the development of the offensive line as a whole, where does it need to continue to improve as a unit?
“I think sustaining drives in terms of not having a run-through like we did, like tackles for losses. You don’t want that. Guys just can’t run through; that’s unacceptable. That little second last strain on the pass-pro or picking up something that somebody’s not getting nicked or hit or dumped—I mean, those are the things you want to eliminate when it’s flawless when you’re up there up front. You’re running the ball efficiently at all times; you’re gaining ground forward, not backwards; ball carrier isn’t getting tackled in the backfield or a guy’s coming off and hitting the quarterback or somebody’s late or missing a free runner on a game or a blitz or what have you or just a regular 3-technique or 5-technique coming. Those are the things that when you see that, that’s the consistency that you want.”
When you’re having troubles with that kind of consistency, what kind of difficulties does that make for you as a play-caller? And I know you guys split up duties.
“That doesn’t affect me. I have a short-term memory. I look at what they’re doing; that’s not going to try to talk me out of doing something. Unfortunately, sometimes they’ll get ya. They’re gonna get ya, but you can’t become paralyzed as a play-caller— ‘Oh, I can’t go back to that’—because then before you know it you look at your whole call sheet and you’re going what can you run? You don’t want to get into that. That’s not how you want to operate.”
So you have to stick with your--
“Original plan, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, yeah.”
Can you guys be a better screen team than you’ve shown?
“I think yeah, I think everybody could be. There’s a lot of things we need to do better but it’s just—you know, different defenses present different things, and sometimes maybe screens or maybe the go route or maybe an off-tackle play, whatever that is, maybe that’s not what needs to happen in the game. There’s other things that might be better as we break them down and see them.”
I wasn’t talking about play-calling as much as when you have those opportunities it seems you’re just a hair off here or there, like the Karan Higdon play, for example, last week.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of things we broke down in. It wasn’t just that one. There’s a lot of things. Yeah, anybody can look at it and go, ‘Hey, that play failed. Why?’ You can go through the tape. There’s a lot of other things that guys did.”
What jumps out about Penn State’s defense on film?
“Very well coached. They like to pressure. I think their front is a very good front. The linebackers are very good. Secondary: very good change of direction. Really play very well in man coverage. They’re the ninth-ranked team in the nation defensively, so they’re doing a nice job there, and coach Pry is a very good defensive coordinator and they’re playing at a high level.”
I know you guys are mixing in a lot of zone and a lot of gap stuff and you want to do both, but have you gotten a sense of what this line does best? Do you feel like you’re closer to that in terms of scheme?
“No, you’re always trying to develop more things and different types of schemes, and again, you might see that on film in different games or whatever but when you face a new defense there’s different things you want to do to attack that defense. So, you might branch out. You might go somewhere else to try and create a play or create more yards on the field.”
You said the offensive line made some strides. Are they getting closer to that where the foundational stuff is there and they know what they’re doing on certain things?
“Yeah, absolutely, and you see it the same way I do: you can see that they’re making developments, they’re making strides, they’re better. And each game they’ve gotten better. It’s like the whole offense.
“I mean, I’ll tell you a story. When I started out in this profession in 1993 I married my wife Shannon and I took her to Bozeman, Montana. My first job was a graduate assistant at Cal State Fullerton, but in the summer of 1993 we went to Montana State. She enrolled in school there, we were living in married student housing, I was making $12,000, we’re living in a 600 square foot little home on campus in married student housing and get this: the washer was in the bathroom, the dryer was in the bedroom.
“But that next summer I got a job as a groundskeeper for the American Legion team, the Bozeman Bucks, which up there in that area American Legion baseball is huge. I mean, everybody goes out. It’s pretty cool stuff. Cliff Hysell was the head coach there at Montana State. So, it was a chance for me to make $6,000 for the summer and I was fired up and the first day I showed up on the job the guy, the head of the Bozeman Bucks, wrote me a check for $3,000. I was like, Wow, this is big time.
“But there’s one day I was out there—I had to mow as a groundskeeper—and I got out there and didn’t bring any water. It was hot; up in that Big Sky area, 95 degrees, it can be hot, sunny, blue sky. So I had to mow the field. It’s like 380 feet to deep center field, but it was a motorized mower. You with me? You pull it—rrrrrrrrr. It wasn’t one you ride around, like the beautiful ones. They didn’t have it in the budget. Maybe they paid me too much, I don’t know.
“But I didn’t have any water, but there was a water well out back. You guys know what a water well is? A water pump? Okay, so the water pump, I didn’t have any water so I went out the back gates, tired, hot, pushing, and you gotta empty the bag, right? Carry over to the dumpster, pmmmff. I mean, there’s a lot of maneuvering going on. It was good, I really enjoyed it. Very therapeutic. Very therapeutic.
“So I went back to the back there to get some water because I was thirsty, so I started pumping and I started getting five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten—come on, is it gonna give? Come on, let’s go. It’s gonna give. Let’s go, come on. So I get to like twenty, twenty-five, I don’t remember the number, so I turn back around and walk through the fence and go back to mow. And this whole time I’m thinking, If I went one more pump, is this thing gonna give? Just one more pump. So I mowed some more, went out back, get to fifty. Fifty-five. Sixty. Come on, man, you gotta give. Come on, give it. You know what I’m saying, give it. Nothing. But still in my mind, I’m thinking, would it give?
“Go back and mow some more. Get back out there. Seventy-five. Eighty. BAM! Water comes out. Wow, this is great! I’m thirsty, it’s quenching the thirst. I feel great. But the one thing I really learned from that whole experience was you gotta keep pumping before it’s gonna give, and I really believe offensively, it’s gonna give.
“You look at some passes we missed deep or getting tackled in the backfield or big runs—we are on a path for great things to happen. We’ve just got to keep pumping, and we’re doing that as an offensive coaching staff to finish. We’re on our way, but I thought I’d share that story with you. It was a good story, right? It’s something that I’ve learned as a coach or just as a father: you’ve got to keep pumping.
“I chase perfection every day. I walk in here every day: how great can I be? I’m going to fail. I’m a human being, but I’m gonna learn from my mistakes, I’m going to become a better teacher, I’m going to be a better father, a better husband by experiences that I experience throughout daily life. That’s something I apply in the coaching profession and as a husband and a father.”
Jim talked about the need to get open receivers—
“You don’t like the story?”
“You’re jumpin’ around!”
How close is it?
“Very close, very close. We’ve got to make plays out there. Everybody’s got to make plays. The offensive line, the right tackle, the tight end, the receiver, the fullback, halfback, receiver, the quarterback—whoever it is, this game’s about making plays. You all have seen that. You see it every day. It’s about making plays.”
We saw Kareem [Walker] have a nice run. What does Kareem have to do to earn some more carries, and I know Karan [Higdon] has something to do with that.
“Yeah, Kareem did a nice job. Just keep working, keep competing every day, keep running the playbook. That was nice to see him [inaudible]. That was cool.”
How far has he come since the first day he got here?
“A long ways. A long ways, and they all have. You come here as a true freshman, there’s steps to take but he’s done a real nice job. Keeps getting better.”
How much longer until you get water out of that well do you think? You don’t set a timetable, but do you feel like the water’s inching up?
“Absolutely it is. Absolutely it is.”
How close are you?
“We’re very close. Very close. Very close. I believe it every day. You gotta have faith. If you don’t have faith, you’re going the wrong direction. I have tremendous faith in this team offensively and the coaches.”
Jim keeps talking about precision football and it’s a really hard time to get there but everybody has messed up. Are you getting a sense that the screw-ups are fewer and fewer?
“Yeah, absolutely. Every day we’re getting better. Every day. And you saw that in the last game. We’re making strides. We chase perfection. It’s getting closer.”
This is a fanbase question: they want to know why Brandon Peters isn’t the one pumping the well. What does he have to do to get—
“Everybody goes up and pumps the well every day.”
What would he have to do to put himself in position for playing time?
“Just keep doing what we’re doing like everybody. We throw the balls out there every day and challenge our quarterback, but just like a receiver or an O-lineman or a quarterback or what have you, just keep working every day.”