Paterno hints that refs caused first-half snafu at Iowa

Posted: October 06, 2010

FOOTBALL COACHES like to categorize themselves as teachers, but at times they are students, too. Which brings us to last weekend, when certain repeat offenders again demonstrated that they have yet to achieve a passing grade in remedial clock-management.

Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge, LSU coach Les Miles, who is to conserving time what Barney Fife was to law enforcement, again appeared to flunk a test in his least-proficient course when he allowed 20 or so precious seconds to fritter away to near zero before a hurried, botched snap cost the Tigers a chance at victory against underdog Tennessee. Miles was given a miraculous reprieve when the Volunteers were flagged for having 13 defensive players on the field, which allowed LSU to score the winning touchdown after time had expired.

At Lincoln Financial Field the following afternoon, the Eagles' Andy Reid, had a similar brain cramp near the end of the first half and had to settle for a chip-shot field goal after his team was cited for delay of game coming out of a timeout. The Eagles, down 17-3, had intended to try for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line before being forced to settle for three consolation-prize points.

But Penn State icon Joe Paterno, the all-time winningest coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision, isn't supposed to be guilty of that sort of mental lapse, and neither are the members of his veteran staff responsible for calling plays and getting them relayed to the field quickly.

In Saturday night's nationally televised Big Ten Conference opener against Iowa, the Nittany Lions were behind, 17-0, but, with the ball on the Hawkeyes' 1, did not call their final timeout. Instead, they spiked the ball, which used up 3 of the 6 seconds remaining until halftime. Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden was then stopped inches short of the goal line on a keeper to the right. Had it called a timeout, Penn State conceivably could have run two plays before intermission.

So, should JoePa be sent to detention along with Miles and Big Red?

Paterno isn't averse to accepting blame when he thinks he deserves it, but he suggested that the culprit for the latest red-zone failure by the Nits, who are ranked 11th and last in the Big Ten in that category, was no one on his team.

"I don't get into whose fault that was," Paterno said yesterday during his weekly teleconference with the media. "It certainly wasn't one of the coaches' fault, or our players. We don't need to point the finger at anybody, so we'll let that go."

Well . . . maybe not entirely.

"I wanted a timeout and the guy wouldn't give it to me," Paterno said. "He said because there was a penalty involved, he didn't think I wanted a timeout. I said, 'What are you talking about? I told you I wanted a timeout. I wanted a timeout as soon as the ball was [spotted].'

"Then the wrong guy started the clock. The guy who places the ball should start the clock."

It is true Paterno attempted to call a timeout. It's also true that wide receivers coach Mike McQueary, who wears a headset and relays play calls to Paterno from press-box offensive coaches Jay Paterno and Galen Hall, frantically signaled for Bolden to spike the ball.

Ernest Hemingway once defined courage as grace under pressure. Then again, "Papa" never wrote a novel about flummoxed football coaches boiling in the red-zone cauldron.

Bottom line, someone at Penn State or with the officiating crew winds up with egg, possibly undeserved, on his face. Paterno, as might have been expected, did not name the officials who supposedly wronged his team, but among those assigned to the Iowa game were referee Todd Geerlings, line judge Jack Teitz and side judge Todd Ransom.

"We'll get the blame, but that's fine," Paterno said. "We handled it right. We knew what we were doing. Some other people didn't know what they were doing, and they're not with our team."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo were not available for comment.

Wisniewski NFF finalist

Senior guard and preseason All-America Stefen Wisniewski is among the candidates for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Scholar-Athlete Fellowship and the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy.

Wisniewski, who has a 3.91 grade point average in secondary education, would be Penn State's 16th recipient, and first since linebacker Paul Posluszny in 2006. *

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