Author Archives: Kraigen Rasalla

#10 Penn State is Cotton Bowl Bound

Penn State fans were hoping to be California Dreamin’. But, instead, they will settle for their third New Year’s Six Bowl appearance in four seasons. After finishing 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings, Penn State will head to Dallas to play in Cotton Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl will be played on December 28th at 12 PM on ESPN.

After an impressive(?) showing in the Big Ten Championship, #8 Wisconsin will go to the Rose Bowl to face Oregon.

Penn State will face the #17 Memphis Tigers, who won the American Athletic Conference Championship and qualifies for a NY6 bowl as the highest ranked Group of 5 team. This is Penn State’s first appearance in the Cotton Bowl since 1975, where they defeated Baylor, 41-20.

With a win in the Cotton Bowl, Penn State would win their 11th game for the third time in four seasons. In addition, it would be their second straight victory in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

What do you think of the College Football Playoff Committee’s decision? Do you like Penn State playing in the Cotton Bowl?

Penn State Extends James Franklin through 2025; Now, It Is Time to Start Appreciating Him

Rumors swirled throughout the week that James Franklin may be receiving a contract extension after his Penn State Football Team won their 10th game for the third time in four years. Those rumors came true on Friday when Penn State’s Committee on Compensation unanimously approved a new deal for the Penn State Head Football Coach. Although the official terms have not been released to the public just yet, the deal will run through the 2025 season.

This is excellent news for Penn State as they keep one of the best coaches in the country. Here is Franklin’s tweet after his extension went public:

Penn State has had quite a run under James Franklin since 2016. As you can see here, the Nittany Lions have been one of the best programs throughout the country over the last four years.

The “Underappreciated” Coach

That right there is the definition of a model of consistency. But, Senior punter Blake Gillikin has described Coach Franklin as “underappreciated” in recent talks with the media. In my opinion, he is downright disrespected by some in the Penn State fan base and quite honestly, I am sick and tired of it.

James Franklin is one of the best head coaches in the country. And that is not just my opinion. The stats back that up and national writers and analysts say the same exact thing. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic is one College Football writer who certainly understands how great of a coach Franklin is. In an article from before the 2018 season, Feldman had this to say about Franklin.

“… you’re a fool if you don’t think Franklin is one of the 10 best coaches in the sport right now. If I’m ranking the Top 5 coaches in college football right now, Franklin’s one of them.”

You can read the full article here, but a subscription to The Athletic is required.

But, that is just the opinion of one of the most respected College Football writers in the country. Unfortunately, there are some Penn State fans throughout the country who do not see James Franklin as that Top 5 coach. Here are some examples.

Since 2016, Penn State has a record of 41-11, with a winning percentage of 78.8 percent. How many Power 5 conference teams have a better winning percentage than Penn State during that span? Six, just six. Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Wisconsin. What programs around the country have we outperformed during that stretch? LSU, Washington, Michigan, and Notre Dame, just to name a few.

Yes, winning on average ten games a year is very mediocre football. What else would we expect from James Franklin and Penn State?

Yes, I hope Penn State wins the National Championship next year, too. With James Franklin as the Head Coach it is reasonable to say they have a chance every year. But, Penn State has not won a National Title since 1986. Did you run out of patience when Joe Paterno was leading Penn State to an unbeaten season in 1994 and not being named National Champions? Or losing heartbreaking games on the road in 2005 and 2008 as Penn State’s only defeats? If 2020 is finally the time to call it quits, then I am more than happy to have this “fan” find another team to cheer for when they win it all and bash them when they come up just short.

 

Sir, believe it or not, some bowl projections have Penn State going to the Rose Bowl. THE ROSE BOWL. Is that a mediocre bowl game? Penn State went to the Rose Bowl in 2016 and lost 52-49 in an all-time classic. The team that beat them had the #3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft at QB in Sam Darnold and one of the top wide receivers in the NFL today in Juju Smith-Schuster. Then in 2017, Penn State went to another New Years’ 6 Bowl in the Fiesta Bowl and won it against Washington. That is a pretty good looking participation trophy sitting in the Penn State trophy case.

I am not even sure if this is true and nor do I care enough to look it up. But, how much did this fan miss any of the players that left? I am sure he did not miss them at all. Did he miss Danny Dalton’s 0 catches for 0 yards this year for Boston College? But, I am sure he was on his feet cheering when Lamont Wade was wrecking havoc against Ohio State this year.

Players leave programs and it is not always because of the head coach. Some leave because of playing time. Danny Dalton is a good example of this, as Pat Freiermuth beat him out in 2018. Some players leave because of family matters, as well. But, yes, please blame James Franklin for an 18-22 year old college kid making a grown up decision.

Don’t Hate, Appreciate

Penn State fans: we are so lucky to have James Franklin as the Head Football Coach at Penn State. Ask Vanderbilt how lucky we are. Franklin posted back-to-back 9 win seasons at Vanderbilt before he left for Penn State. AT VANDERBILT. Before Franklin got there, the Commodores went 2-10 in the two seasons prior. And since Franklin left, they are just 27-47 with a winning percentage of 36.5 percent.

I know Penn State fans are grateful for the job Bill O’Brien did in 2012 and 2013 in keeping the program together through sanctions. But, not as many fans are grateful for the job James Franklin has done after O’Brien.

Still dealing with the NCAA sanctions, in 2014, Franklin took the eventual National Champions to double overtime at home and won the Pinstripe Bowl with 65 total scholarship players. According to Franklin, due to injuries and redshirt players, that number got down to 41 during the season. In 2015, he led them to another bowl game despite not having his program back to full scholarship numbers. Then, since 2016, all he has done is win.

  • 2016 Big Ten Title
  • Rose Bowl Appearance
  • Fiesta Bowl Victory
  • 3 undefeated seasons at home
  • 3 10-win seasons
  • 2 11-win seasons
  • 2 Top-10 AP Poll finishes

The numbers show that James Franklin is one of the top college football coaches in America. Now, that he is receiving a contract extension to stay at Penn State, it is now time to appreciate just how great of a coach he is.

 

 

 

 

News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

Can you believe it? The final regular season game of the Penn State Football season is here. The Nittany Lions will look to reach the 10-win plateau for the third time in four years when they face Rutgers on Saturday. Here are the highlights from James Franklin’s press conference ahead of the game.

Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers

Rutgers comes into this game with a 2-9 record and looking at a last place finish in the Big Ten East. Offensively, they usually line up with 3 WR, 1 TE, and 1 RB or 2 WR, 2 TE, and 1 RB. Franklin is impressed with OL Kamaal Seymour, RB Isaih Pacheco, and QB Johnny Langan.

On defense, Rutgers allows 37.5 points per game, which is 124th out of 130 teams nationally. But, nonetheless Franklin noted several players on the Scarlet Knights’ defense. DB Damon Hayes, LB Tyshon Fogg, and DL Willington Previlon are players to watch on Saturday for Rutgers.

On the Rutgers special teams, watch for their punter, Adam Korsak. Korsak is a Ray Guy Award Semi-finalist, which is an award for the best college punter. Unfortunately for Rutgers and Korsak, he has 71 punts on the season, but has an impressive average of 43.7 yards per punt.

Senior Day

With the final regular season game taking place on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, the Penn State seniors will be honored before kickoff. 16 seniors in total will be honored prior to their final home game. James Franklin thinks that they deserve the credit for the turnaround of the Penn State Football program. For their efforts, they should all receive a nice ovation on Saturday afternoon.

Sean Clifford’s Status

After sustaining an injury against Ohio State, a game in which he did not return, Sean Clifford will be a game-time decision for Saturday. Franklin could certainly see Will Levis stepping in and replacing Clifford, just as he did in Columbus. But, like former QB Trace McSorley, Franklin describes Clifford as being difficult to pull off the field.

Will Levis

Speaking of the backup QB, James Franklin shared some of the high praise he gave to Will Levis in their personal conversations. Franklin thought that the redshirt freshman’s performance on Saturday was remarkable. What stood out to James Franklin was that not only did Levis play well, but also the team played well around him. Most importantly, the team believed in Will and rallied around him to close a 21-0 deficit to 21-17.

The Most Improved Group

Sticking with the quarterbacks, James Franklin believes that this unit is the most improved group on the entire roster since the beginning of the season. He cites the question marks surrounding the position at the beginning of the year after Trace McSorley graduated. But, both Sean Clifford and most recently Will Levis have both proven to be able to fill McSorley’s shoes admirably.

Underappreciated?

Penn State punter Blake Gillikin spoke to the media recently and described his head coach as “underappreciated”. James Franklin certainly appreciates the praise from one of his senior captains, but he does not get caught up in the noise from the outside.

He looks at coaching as being tucked in a submarine where he is able to ignore much of the outside noise. He can certainly go and find the noise on social media. But, instead, he is more concerned about the players who deal with students and fans on campus every day.

Yes, Franklin admitted he does care what people think of him and his program. But, as he is getting older, James Franklin is learning to be confident that there is a lot to be proud of at Penn State and that deserves appreciation in itself.

Penn State Thanksgiving Traditions

With so many players being away from their families for Thanksgiving, the Penn State coaching staff brings players to their houses to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The most important thing for Franklin and his staff is to make their players feel at home for the holiday. Often times, families of the players will even make an appearance at Thanksgiving dinner at Franklin’s house.

James loves how his players interacts with his daughters and how they feel at home throughout the day. He noted how players don’t stop in for a plate and then go back to their dorms. They typically eat several plates, fall asleep, watch football, and make themselves at home while they are away from home.

Evaluating the Success of the Program

Many Penn State fans are passionate and expect Penn State to win every game on their schedule, which many programs cannot say their fans expect them to win every game. But, Franklin knows he draws criticism sometimes despite the success the program has had since 2016. In the end, Franklin would not trade the success of this program for anything.

As Penn State is nearing their third 10-win season in four years, with the one year they did not being a 9-win season, this is the model of success Franklin wants. He wants to be consistently great and hope things break right for him in a certain year so they can win the Big Ten and enter the College Football Playoff. Franklin prefers that success model as opposed to inconsistent seasons with a random spike of success.

Overall, James Franklin is proud of the success at Penn State, but is not satisfied with it either.

Justin Shorter

According to Pete Thamel, former 5-star recruit Justin Shorter entered the transfer portal on Tuesday. The news broke during Franklin’s press conference, so as expected, Franklin did not have much to say on the topic. But, it is something to keep an eye on the rest of the week and into the offseason.

 

 

Top Penn State Moments vs Ohio State

With Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff implications on the line on Saturday, Penn State-Ohio State is bound to have a great moment or two this Saturday. So, to get you ready for Saturday, here my top 5 moments of the Penn State-Ohio State rivalry since 2000.

Honorable Mention #1: Mike Hull Blocked Punt (2012)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R0IDgCV260

Honorable Mention #2 Alan Zemaitis Pick 6 (2003)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_UkXlt8RhI

#5: Anthony Zettel Pick 6 (2014)

Penn State came out of halftime down 17-0 against #13 Ohio State. With the Buckeyes looking to take total control of the game, Anthony Zettel dropped into coverage and picked off Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett. Zettel returned the interception for a touchdown and turned the bleachers at Beaver Stadium into a trampoline.

#4 Mark Rubin Forces Terrelle Pryor to Fumble (2008)

Like the 2014 game, Ohio State had all the momentum and the Penn State defense came up huge. With a 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter and driving down the field, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor took a QB sneak on 3rd & 1 and for some reason bounced it outside. Penn State safety Mark Rubin was there to make the stop and forced the game changing fumble in the process. Penn State recovered the fumble and won the game 13-6, keeping their undefeated season alive.

#3 Zack Mills 69 Yard Touchdown Run (2001)

Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno needed just one more win to pass Bear Bryant on the Division Coaching Wins list. But, things were looking bleak as the Nittany Lions were down 27-9 in the third quarter. But, a magical play by Penn State freshman QB Zack Mills would prove to be a magical day for JoePa as he passed the Bear and notched win #324.

 

#2 Tamba Hali’s Sack and Forced Fumble (2005)

It was the biggest game at Beaver Stadium in several seasons. It was one of the first White Outs, as well. Up 17-10 against Ohio State late in the fourth quarter, the Penn State defense needed to step up just one more time. They did just that when Tamba Hali came flying off the edge and sacked Ohio State QB Troy Smith. The hit caused Smith to fumble and flip over his head while Scott Paxson scurried to jump on the loose ball and secure Penn State’s biggest win of the 21st century to that point.

 

#1 Marcus Allen Field Goal Block (2016)

Was there any doubt? Penn State charged back to make it a 21-17 game in the fourth quarter against #2 Ohio State. Ohio State rushed their field goal unit out to try to make it a 7 point lead. But, you know what happens next. Penn State went on to pull off the upset, 24-21, won the 2016 Big Ten Championship, and earned a Rose Bowl bid. Ever since, Penn State has been one of the top programs throughout the country.

 

 

 

 

News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

It is finally here, the biggest week of the year, the highly anticipated Penn State-Ohio State matchup is coming up this Saturday. Here are some of the highlights from James Franklin’s press conference ahead of this game.

Indiana Players of the Week

The entire offensive line won Offensive Player of the Week honors this week. Micah Parsons won the award on the defensive side of the ball. Jake Pinegar won Special Teams Player of the Week.

Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State

Obviously, Penn State is very familiar with the Buckeyes as the Big Ten East foes play each other every year. The last three games have been especially close, with the scoring differential being 5 points over those three games.

First year Ohio State Head Coach, Ryan Day, calls the plays for a very explosive Ohio State offense. They line up about 75 percent of the time with 3 wide receivers, 1 running back, and 1 tight end on the field. Like the Penn State offense, the Buckeyes thrive on explosive plays in both the running and passing game.

Former Penn State commit Justin Fields leads the charge at quarterback. He has 31 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns, and just one interception in 2019. He forms a dynamic duo in the backfield with running back J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins has 1,289 rushing yards on the season, his third 1,000 yard season in three years as a Buckeye. Fields’ favorite target is wide receiver Chris Olave, who leads the team with 593 receiving yards and 9 touchdown catches.

Defensively, yes, the Buckeyes will have Heisman hopeful and potential #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Chase Young back on the field. Despite missing the last two games, Young still has 13.5 sacks this season, second most in the country by just half a sack. Schematically, look for the Buckeyes to always keep one safety in the middle of the field on defense. Other playmakers on the Ohio State defense are DB Jeff Okudah and LB Malik Harrison.

Sean Clifford

Early news of the day on Tuesday indicated that Sean Clifford received death threats after the Minnesota loss two weeks ago.

The very first question James Franklin was asked related to this situation. Franklin said his star QB did notify him of these threats. But, on the whole, Franklin described this situation and how society acts in ways like these as “concerning”.

“We’re Hopeful”

One of the biggest question marks from Saturday’s victory over Indiana was the health of star wide receiver KJ Hamler. Hamler left the game after returning a kickoff and landing awkwardly on his neck. He did not return to the game.

But, when asked about his status for this Saturday, Franklin said “we’re hopeful”.

In addition, when asked about Noah Cain, who missed each of the last two games, Franklin replied with the same answer, “we’re hopeful”. He also noted that Cain probably could play if absolutely necessary, but the depth at running back is allowing Penn State to hold off on using him until he is 100 percent.

In providing that answer, he gave some insight on how he handles injured players at Penn State. For a true freshman like Cain who may be limited in practice, it makes it more difficult on Franklin to play him without getting the reps needed in practice. But, for an experienced player like Hamler coming off injury, it is easier for Franklin to play him because he does not need as many practice reps as an inexperienced player like Cain.

Hopefully both players are back on Saturday, but the amount of time each player practices this week will be something to watch going forward.

Secondary Issues

Penn State has certainly had its issues in the secondary the last two weeks and are now going against one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Justin Fields. Franklin said his defense is having blown coverages and their opponents are not letting them get away with it. He added it seems to be a trickle down effect where one player out of position is leading to multiple players being out of position.

But, coaches, players, and especially fans should not overreact to a big time play from an opponent. If an opponent makes an over the shoulder catch with one hand and a defender draped on him, Franklin can live with that. However, he cannot continue to live with the blown coverages or not using the right fundamental techniques.

The E Word

After losing to Ohio State by 1 point last season, Franklin tossed the word “elite” around in the post game press conference when describing where he needs his program to be. More than a year later, Franklin is still very comfortable with what he said because he believes Penn State has very high standards. He believes “it’s a great thing”.

“A Heavyweight Fight”

When playing in such a highly anticipated game like this one with such great talent on both sides, James Franklin looks at strengths and weaknesses when preparing his game plan.

But, heading into Saturday, he has a prepared message for his team. He knows the Buckeyes are going to make big plays on both sides of the ball and he does not want his players to be shocked when it happens. Instead, he wants them to stay level-headed and have the ability to match them. This could mean breaking a tackle, when in the first 10 games of the season, that defender has made that tackle. Or, it could mean picking up a block that springs a big play.

Franklin is expecting some big plays to happen on Saturday for both teams, just as they have in the last three games between these top ten programs. But, overall, Franklin seems very excited for the challenge, as he said, “it’s going to be a heavyweight fight”.

 

 

News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

Coming off the loss against Minnesota, James Franklin held his weekly press conference on Tuesday. Here are some of the notable statements from the Penn State Head Coach, including a very passionate conclusion to his press conference.

Indiana, Indiana, Indiana

Indiana is a surprise team in the Big Ten, sitting at 7-2 coming into Beaver Stadium off a bye week. Franklin noted how Indiana has a very heavy southeastern presence on their roster, with many players that are from traditional SEC territory.

On offense, the Hoosiers run a spread offense than it is more passing heavy than in recent seasons. Despite losing starting QB Michael Penix Jr. for the season, veteran Peyton Ramsey has stepped in admirably. His completion percentage is sitting at 72 percent, in addition to being the team’s second leading rusher. Franklin is also impressed with junior WR from Tampa, FL Whop Philyor, RB Stevie Scott, and OL Hunter Littlejohn.

Defensively, the Hoosiers run a four down linemen style defense. Franklin added that Indiana also plays a lot of robber coverage, which is something the Nittany Lions do not typically see. He also likes what he sees on tape from DB Marcelino Ball, LB Reakwon Jones, and freshman DB Tiawan Mullen.

Red Zone and Turnover Struggles against Minnesota

James Franklin led off his press conference addressing that the Nittany Lions’ struggles with turnovers and inside the red is what ultimately led to their first loss on the season. He noted that it appeared that they lacked an urgency when they reached the red zone, which is even more significant when playing on the road where things pre-snap can take a few seconds longer.

Franklin also addressed a specific red zone trip where the Lions did not convert early in the fourth quarter down 31-19. The Nittany Lions ran three running plays and a fade route to KJ Hamler and did not come away with any points. But, Franklin said he did not think they could have done anything differently on that trip. But, at the same time, he said even if they did see something else to do to make that trip successful, he would not share that with the media anyway.

The Running Backs

Journey Brown took the bulk of the carries on Saturday as James Franklin did what he said he would do all season, which is ride the hot hand. Brown had a 45 yard touchdown run and another big 35 yard run on Saturday. But, even with his big game, Franklin and his staff will continue to prepare as if all four running backs will play each week.

One interesting note on the running backs is when Franklin discussed freshman RB Noah Cain. Cain suffered an injury against Michigan State, but following the bye week, Franklin seemed fairly confident Cain would play against Minnesota. But, Cain did not see a snap throughout the game with ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe declaring Cain only available for emergency situations.

Franklin described Cain as being “90 percent” on Saturday and that he could have played, but Franklin and his staff preferred using three players at 100 percent than Cain at 90 percent. As our podcast addressed on Sunday, it seemed that Cain’s presence in the back field could have been helpful on the red zone trip early in the fourth quarter where the Penn State offense attempted two running plays with Devyn Ford instead of hot hand Journey Brown or the pro style, downfield running style of Cain.

Sean Clifford

Obviously, when a team loses, the media turns their attention to the quarterback to see how he will rebound from the loss. This happens even more when that quarterback threw for three interceptions on Saturday.

But, Franklin is very confident in Clifford’s ability to bounce back this Saturday against Indiana. He loves the way Clifford is wired and feels he will be driven by the loss. He does not feel that Sean will change his process in preparing for this week, but he will certainly put in extra time and effort to make sure he does not feel they way he did after Saturday’s loss against Minnesota.

Franklin’s Conclusion

Typically, James Franklin makes his opening statement, answers questions from media members on conference call, and then answers questions from the media members inside the room before he walks off and a player or two step up to the microphone.

But, this week, Franklin finished his press conference addressing many of the media members and Penn State fans who question his in-game decisions.

The first specific example he addressed was when Penn State went for a two-point conversion after Nick Bowers scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to five points. Franklin said his two point chart called for it, analytics called for it, and his gut instinct called for it. His internal logic was that they were going for it because they were on the road and the team wasn’t playing well. If they pick it up, the odds of winning the game increased. If not, they would still have to overcome to points as if they kicked the extra point.

Since Penn State did not convert, many fans and media members were critical of the decision.

The other example was the decision late in the fourth quarter with Penn State down five to kick the ball deep and force Minnesota to pick up the first down to end the game. They ran a squib kick, which Minnesota bobbled, and forced the Golden Gophers to set up deep in their own territory. Penn State forced the 3 and out and burned their final two timeouts, but got the ball back with the chance to score with over two minutes left.

Since Penn State did execute, nobody questioned the decision.

Franklin’s point is that when there are decisions that have a gray area, everybody is quick to question his decision and declare their opinions of what they thought should have happened as fact. Franklin understands he is the one to receive the heat when a decision does not pan out, that is just part of the job of being a head football coach at a football power like Penn State.

But, if Penn State did get the two point conversion, would fans be up in arms about going for it? Franklin is right, nobody would question the decision.

If Penn State failed to stop Minnesota after kicking the ball deep late in the game, would Penn State fans be clamoring that Franklin should have opted for an onside kick? Franklin is right, they probably would.

Franklin is right. It is easy after seeing the results to say he made a bad decision. As a fan base, it is time to stop doing that any time Penn State does not execute because more often than not, he makes many right decisions that we forget about. And in providing this closing statement, Franklin was right again.

 

BREAKING: Penn State Lands at #4 in the First College Football Playoff Rankings

The initial College Football Playoff Rankings were unveiled on Tuesday Night. Penn State comes in at #4 with an 8-0 record on the season.

They come in behind #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, and #3 Alabama. They are ahead of defending National Champion Clemson at #5.

Meanwhile, their opponent for Saturday, undefeated Minnesota, comes in at #17. This is well below their ranking of 13 in the AP poll.

What do you think of the rankings? Is Penn State too high, too low, or right where they should be?

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