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.
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.
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.