STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- There was something missing at a
function on Wednesday that had been billed for days as a gabfest
between Penn State coach Joe Paterno, his players and the media
about the Orange Bowl.
The players didn't show up.
Paterno said he didn't want his team caught up in the early
hoopla over the Jan. 3 game against Florida State, which will cap
Penn State's comeback season after two straight losing years. The
coach also said he wanted his team focused on preparing for final
exams, which start Monday.
Still, the last-minute change by Paterno led to some testy
exchanges with reporters, some of whom traveled several hours to
attend Penn State's "Orange Bowl media day."
"What I've been trying to do is make sure that everybody is
staying on their studies and not getting caught up in all the
hoopla that they can't do anything about right now," Paterno said
during a news conference at Beaver Stadium.
"I'm not even sure why we are even having a press conference
now this far away from it," he added.
Paterno isn't a stranger to the hype that comes with bowl games
-- he's won 20 of them, one more than his Florida State counterpart,
Bowden leads Paterno in career victories among major college
coaches, 359 to 353, and much of the attention so far has been
focused on the sideline matchup, especially since players haven't
been made available.
Players had also been scheduled to talk with reporters this past
Sunday, after the Orange Bowl matchup was announced, but that was
canceled at the last minute, too.
Paterno this season had lobbied for more attention from the
media for some of his players, especially senior quarterback
Michael Robinson, who leads a potent offense.
"You guys didn't help me one bit with them. All I know is that
Michael Robinson is not one of the finalists for the Heisman
Award," he said.
One notable piece of news that came out of Paterno's solo act
was on receiver Derrick Williams.
He is considered "week to week" as he recovers from a broken
left arm suffered during the loss to Michigan in October. Doctors
had said the star freshman might be out three to four months.
At the end of the news conference, Paterno tried to strike a
conciliatory tone, stressing he was trying to shield his players
from big-game hype.
"So if I am a little bit protective," he said, "I would
rather be that and alienate you guys and girls than I would to get
all caught up in a whole other thing, because one thing leads to