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September 11, 2008Penn State redshirt junior quarterback Daryll Clark is off to about as hot of a start as anyone in the country right now.
Clark currently weighs in at No. 14 overall in Division I football for passing efficiency, hitting 25 of his 37 pass attempts for 361 yards, three touchdowns, and a 176.3 passing efficiency rating.
Here, Clark takes some time to answer questions from the media on a teleconference.
How much fun is your team having right now?
We're keeping it really serious, but we're having a lot of fun at the same time. I think that attitude we have is because of the challenge that we have and the success that we have so far. And, just the confidence that we have in all of our leaders and captains. All the guys that we've asked to step up for us have done a good job so far. So, I guess the feeling is true and we're showing it out there on the practice field and on the game field and hopefully it continues for the remainder of the season.
Jordan Norwood isn't the biggest receiver Penn State has. What do you think it is about his style that has enabled him to last and thrive physically for four years in the Big Ten?
Well, Jordan Norwood is a very hard worker along with all of our other wideouts. Jordan is really determined to get the job done when called upon. He's very dependable and runs really good routes. He's a very elusive guy. He's not that big but when in doubt, you can throw him the ball and he can go up and get it. So far, so good with him and the rest of the guys, the offense has been clicking. Hopefully it continues.
With the defense going through some adversity on and off the field the past few weeks, how much extra impetus does that give the offense to do well to keep the pressure off of them?
We just take that responsibility upon ourselves. Even if they didn't go through as much adversity as they have been now, we have to get the job done no matter what. You have to take the pressure off those guys and make sure they have energy to go series in and series out. Make sure they have all the energy they need to continue to play for four quarters. Three and outs are not good so when we have long drives and we're able to come out with points, it just relieves the pressure on both sides, actually.
How do you feel the offense handled all of the different formations on Saturday and does that make you more dangerous as an offense when you can give the defense so many different looks at the same time?
It makes us feel good. We're very comfortable with everything we've run. It probably comes from the repetition that we had all through preseason. Everything that we ran worked pretty well against our defense. We just transferred that attitude and that execution from the practice field over to the stadium or wherever we play and so far it's been working very well. We're just going to continue to tune it up and just keep playing.
Did you have to call many audibles on Saturday?
No. We have a thing where we change protection if they bring one more person than our offensive line can handle, we change protection and maybe keep the tight end in. We only did that maybe once or twice so we didn't really have to audible.
Was there a time last winter or preseason where you didn't click with the receivers and how long did it take you to get over that situation?
Some days you come out and it's just not working for you. You just have an all-around bad day. That's all that really was. Overall, the timing was always there and after coming off a funky day, the next day would be just fine. Every player goes through it. But, there's never been a time for a week straight where the balls were terrible or we just weren't delivering the ball on time. The timing started in the winter and continued to get better throughout the offseason.
How much of the offense have we seen so far?
We've used a little bit. A lot of things we worked on, we really haven't had to use, yet. Probably because of the defense we're against, we just use things that are able to work against them and try not to get too cute.
It looks like everything anybody does against Syracuse's defense works this year. What do you see?
They're a pretty tough defense. They run a lot of different coverages so we're going to have to pay attention to the safeties and the corners and linebackers because they give you a lot of different looks. They're going to come out very, very pumped. This rivalry goes back for a long, long time. I know for a fact and coach has made it very obvious that they're going to be geared up to try to get a win on Saturday. We just have to go up, match their intensity - because it will be a hostile environment - and just execute and get the job done.
Have you been surprised at how easy everything has gone for you so far? Everyone's been talking about how calm you've been.
I'm somewhat surprised. When you have the guys that you have on the offense, it just makes the game a lot easier for you and then when you have those hogs up front protecting you, the comfort level is there. I would say somewhat surprised but very happy that everything is going the way that it is right now.
What have your conversations with Michael Robinson been like?
I talk to him once a week and we talk about pretty much everything. Sometimes we just talk about school and as far as football goes, he tells me the ups and downs that I'm possibly going to have to face and the way to face them because he's been through a whole lot. He's been through the losses, he's been through the wins where you're at your highest point. He was just telling me, if that happens to happen and a lot of people begin to turn on you, things like that, that's something you just cannot feed into and something you cannot pay attention to because they won't make a difference on whether you win the next game or not. And, film study is what we talk about. He really taught me how to watch film. He told me the things that he does. He would watch film three times over and over again after a game. The first time would just be for personal enjoyment. Then he would watch and see how aggressive a team up front is, their linebackers and their defensive line, and then he would watch the coverages to try to find holes in the coverages that they show you. That's the type of routine that I've been doing ever since he taught me that. I knew how to watch it but you've gotta watch it thoroughly to actually get something out of it. The conversations that we're having and the relationship that we've had has been pretty consistent ever since he left. He's a very, very busy guy and I thank him for taking the time out to talk to me.
When do you talk to him?
Before the game. Last week, I talked to him when we were at the hotel the night before the game for a good 15-20 minutes. And that was it. It was beneficial.
How much has what Evan Royster has accomplished made transitioning to a starter easier for you?
Evan Royster is the total package. I feel like he can do it all and he's done a very, very good job of taking some of the pressure off of me. When you have a good back back there and he's chomping yards off, you may not have to pass as much. I'm not saying that we couldn't do it if we had to but it gives the defense something else to worry about when he's back there. When you have him in, they have to worry about him a little bit. It's a relief and it makes the job a little easier for you.
How much confidence do you have in a guy like Jordan Norwood who seems like you're able to give him the benefit of the doubt when you're throwing a ball up there that he's going to be able to go up in traffic and come down with it?
Jordan is a very dependable receiver. We're very confident in him as well as the other receivers to get the job done. It was just Jordan's day. He was open nine out of ten times on Saturday. He just did a good job of catching the ball. There were a couple of passes that were low, that were behind him, but he still was able to make those catches. I'm very confident in our wideout corps. Very confident.
Are the coaches still able to pinpoint areas where the offense still needs to correct things even though its doing so well?
Oh, absolutely. Every week. No game is going to be perfect. When you watch film to critique the last game, there's places that I could have went and instead I went somewhere else. Or, we missed a block here or we cut a route short here. Things like that. You strive for perfection. There's never a game where you're absolutely perfect so they always find something to work on. That's why we have such good coaches.
What are teams doing to Deon Butler that he's only had three catches so far? What's preventing you from getting the ball to him?
It's really not much me avoiding to throw the ball to Deon, it's just that there's a lot of times when he may be double-covered or we may be working on a boot that is away from him and he might be the last read and maybe the first or second read might be open so you go there. We're going to continue to work and work. For sure, he's going to get involved in our offense, as well as Derrick Williams, it's just that for these past two weeks, there's been a lot of one-on-one coverages with Jordan Norwood and when you're one-on-one with him, most of the time he's going to be open. Just get the ball to the open guy. All the guys have done a great job. It's just about what coverages they give you. Where you go with the ball is just taking what they give you and so far, it's been Jordan on those one-on-ones.
What are your thoughts on A.Q. Shipley saying that you were a leader right away even in your first game?
Well, I appreciate A.Q. for saying that but that's something that you have to work on. Obviously, in the mindset of going into the game, that's one thing that you have to have on your mind. You have to take control of the huddle. You have to be the guy that's in charge. And, you have to show those guys that you have all the confidence in the rest of those guys out on the field with you. That's something that I practice at practice. I'm very vocal with the calls, very vocal at the line, locking eye contact with each and every guy in the huddle to let them know that the confidence is there. I'm not afraid, I'm not timid. When in doubt, we're going to get this job done and I'm there for you guys. Some people just have it but for me, I had to work on it.
When you hear the comparisons to Michael Robinson, how do they make you feel?
I feel great. Anytime you compare me to a guy that only had one year to start himself without sharing time and you lead a team to 11-1 and you were about maybe two or three seconds from going to be a national contender, and the numbers that you put up and the leadership that you had... I'll take that compliment any day. When they call me 'little Mike Rob' or something like that, I'm saying thank you all the time because he was a great player and he got it done. He was a straight-up playmaker.
Are you concerned at all about maybe getting through these first few games without facing any real adversity, playing from behind late and what do you do in practice to prepare you for that kind of a situation?
Well, they put us in certain situations like, if we're down and we have a certain amount of time left on the clock, what are we going to do? How are we going to react? Were we able to put points on the board? And, coach Joe tells us all the time that the coaches feel that we haven't faced any adversity yet so it's important that you're ready for it. I don't really want to say I'll be worried about it because it's going to happen sooner or later it's just a matter of, what are you going to do? You can't clam up or run behind the door and get scared or whatnot. You just have to face it and just get the job done.
What is your relationship with the offensive linemen and what is it like to have a veteran like Shipley with you?
He's just given me confidence that all of the offensive line is going to get the job done no matter what. Those guys have been together for a while and they have gelled. They don't have a choice but to gel. All of them are friends. I'm pretty good friends with each and every one of them as well. We laugh and we joke and I think that the relationship that I have with them is very, very healthy. There's no bad blood or anything that I have with any of them. I feel that you've gotta have the best relationship with the offensive line because those are the guys that block for you. I'm very impressed with what they've been doing so far and hopefully it continues. If I had a little extra money I'd take all those guys out to eat but my pockets are funny right now so... To award them for all the work they've been doing and they take pride in protecting me and run-blocking for all of our running backs. They're just doing a great job right now and hopefully it continues. I'm very confident that it will.
Has Michael Robinson been able to give you any direct feedback from what you've done so far?
He sent me a funny text. I don't know if it was after the game or during the game, obviously I wasn't able to see it during the game, but I had a long run that was a quarterback sweep and I got about 18-20 yards, first down. After the game I went and checked my phone and saw the missed text messages and saw he sent one and he says, 'Hey Dog, you gotta score on that quarterback sweep. If it was me, I would have scored.' It was just a funny text but he said all in all, you played a real solid game. Continue to work hard and everything will pay off. I thought it was hilarious. He could be doing anything else in the world but obviously he was tuned in, watching us play and he sent that message to me. Mike is a really cool, cool guy.
Did Joe Paterno mention when talking about Syracuse that the coach is under fire?
No, we really haven't talked about that. What he talked about is how far we go back. There's been a time when we played those guys 45 years straight and during that time, they had all these great running backs like Ernie Davis and Jim Czonka, Jim Brown and they're going to be amped up for this game. This is not going to be a cakewalk. It's going to be loud there. There's going to be a lot of people there. A lot of the returning guys, the alumni, they will be there, so it's going to be a dogfight. He's just harping on us each and every day that we don't take this game lightly. It's the first test on the road, it's going to be hostile. On the road, you have to match their intensity and execute. Practice has been well so far and we just have to continue.
Do you know about Ernie Davis and the movie?
Yes, I understand that they're going to release that movie sometime this week, which will probably be another inspirational thing for those guys up there. It's all about matching their intensity because they're going to be really amped up for this game.