Coach Franklin's five takeaways from the season opener
When Coach James Franklin took the podium during Tuesday’s press conference, common themes that kept coming through were the trust he has in his team to correct mistakes, the pride he feels in their successes and the faith he has in you, the Penn State fan base. Keep reading to find out how all three will play an integral role over the rest of the season.
Trust #9: There was 1:39 left in the fourth quarter when Penn State got the ball near midfield. It only took 57 seconds for Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions to score on that drive, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler. Hamler’s touchdown was the first by a Penn State freshman in a season opener since Geno Lewis in 2013. McSorley’s touchdown to Hamler was one of McSorley’s three scores on the day, and he added two rushing touchdowns and finished the game with 283 total yards. “We have a lot of confidence at the end of games when the ball is in Trace McSorley’s hands,” Coach Franklin said during his weekly press conference. McSorley is now two rushing touchdowns, 859 passing yards and 145 completions away from holding Penn State quarterback records in each respective category.
Efficient Scoring in the Red Zone: The Nittany Lions were efficient against the Mountaineers, scoring touchdowns each time the lions got the ball inside the Appalachian State 20 yard-line. “We were great in the red zone,” Franklin said. “Why? Because we could run the ball.” Penn State totaled 204 rushing yards against Appalachian State, with McSorley, Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade totaling 183 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground combined. Franklin emphasized the importance of winning the battle in the trenches, saying that it “starts upfront with both offense and defense.”
Learning from Mistakes: Franklin admitted that his team needs to work on consistency, stressing the importance of staying disciplined on kickoff coverage and special teams in general, while also working to eliminate 3-and-outs. Although the offense scored 45 points and had 434 yards on offense, Franklin knows there is always room for improvement. “Offensively we were just inconsistent,” Franklin said. “Overall we were able to find a way to win and learn from it.”
Every Game is the Super Bowl: Last week Penn State was 1-0. This week they’re 0-0—this is the mindset Coach Franklin has always preached to his players and the Penn State fan base: it’s all about taking it one game at a time. “Last week was the Super Bowl for us,” Franklin said. “This is the most important game in the universe. That’s how we approach this. It’s one game at a time and we focus on the task at hand.”
Franklin constantly talks about “any given Saturday,” a phrase connected to the notion that it doesn’t matter if you’re ranked No. 1, No. 25 or anywhere in between, because on any given Saturday teams will win, teams will get upset and teams will deal with injuries. Dealing with adversity is part of life and part of football, but with preparation, Franklin believes his team will be ready for the challenge on any given Saturday. “All wins are equal.” Franklin said. “It’s how you get there that’s different. At the end of the day we’d love for them to all be easy wins, but that’s not the case.”
5. Fan Support @ PITT: More than 105,000 people were packed into Beaver Stadium last Saturday, making it the highest attendance total for a Penn State season opener since 2008. Luckily for local Penn State fans, the drive from Beaver Stadium to Heinz Field is only a few hours—nothing a Penn State fan can’t handle! Although it’s an away game, Franklin is confident he’ll see a lot of blue and white in the stands when his team takes the field. “It’s a tough place to play.” Franklin said. “Our fans will show up strong.”
The showdown on Saturday between two of Pennsylvania’s finest collegiate football programs will be nationally televised on ABC, with kickoff at 8:00 p.m. ET.