Despite the fact that only four wins stand between the Nittany Lions and a bowl game since the NCAA lifted the sanctions yesterday, Coach Franklin says the team is still taking the season one game at a time. Up next: Rutgers.
Some of you over in Jersey may view Saturday’s game at Rutgers as a rivalry match-up, but Coach Franklin made it clear that the team’s mindset for this game is no different than their mindset for the previous games: "Again, I just want to make sure everybody is clear: Our approach to this game is going to be exactly the same as it was for Central Florida, exactly the same way it was for Akron. It will not change. We are just as motivated in this game as we were for Akron and we are just as motivated for this game as we were for Central Florida. Our approach will not change."
COACH FRANKLIN: We did not win the turnover battle. Akron won the turnover battle which is an area we are going to have to get cleaned up.
We did win the penalty battle. Dropped all the way down to three penalties in the game, but we are going to have to do a better job of protecting the football.
Overall, I think we have to do a better job of having 100 percent focus and 100 percent effort on every single play. What's happening, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, it's one guy, and it's not the same guy. It's one guy, one play and one guy the next play that's not doing his job and we have to get that cleaned up.
Offensively, we are going to have to develop a more consistent running game. I'm not telling you guys anything you don't know. We are going to have to keep doing that and we are going to keep investing in that every single day. That will happen.
We are going to have to score touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals. We have to consistently protect the quarterback. We've done a pretty good job of that. I think Hack's (Christian Hackenberg) mobility has been helpful but we have to consistently do a good job of that and protecting the football.
Defensively, continue to not give up big plays, stopping the run has been huge for us in making teams one dimensional.
On the Lifted Sanctions:
COACH FRANKLIN: We are very, very appreciative of the opportunity that we have that the NCAA and the Big Ten and that Penn State administration worked so hard to make happen. We are very appreciative of that opportunity. It's amazing how many people texted me and emailed me last night and said, "how awesome that you're bowl eligible."
We're not bowl eligible. We have an opportunity to go to a bowl game. We need to make sure that we can take care of our business this week, which is Rutgers, and that's really what I'd like to talk about.
Q. Can you just describe the atmosphere and emotions in that team meeting room yesterday?
COACH FRANKLIN: t was obviously pretty cool. The thing that probably I'm a little disappointed with, but there's no reason fighting it anymore, it's just how our society is, that I found out and the players found out pretty much on social media. That's just kind of how it is nowadays.
Tried to get a mass text out to the team as soon as I possibly could, but they were already kind of finding out. So I just kind of reinforced what they already knew. I think obviously it was received extremely well and the guys are excited.
But my message to you is the same message that I have to them is that this is great and now there's nothing being held back from them in terms of opportunities. They have the ability to chase their dreams now.
But we are going to go back to our same approach, which is one play at a time, one game at a time, one practice at a time. So that's been kind of our focus, and I think it was received really well. We did bring the 49 guys on the team that stayed, up front and the rest of the team gave them a standing ovation and told them how much they mean to them and how much we are all in debt to them and how much respect the university, the alumni, the community has for them; and that they are going to play for them, because they were here for this program and this university when we needed them the most. So that was probably one thing that did happen.
Q. You weren't here through a lot of what's happened since 2011, but those 49 guys you had stand up in the room yesterday, can you talk about from your position what those guys mean to you and how special they are and that type of thing?
COACH FRANKLIN: You could even mention some of the recruits. I know reading a lot of stuff, Hackenberg and (Adam) Breneman are two guys that kind of held the recruiting class together, as well, so you could mention those guys.
I don't think there's any doubt that those 49 guys who were part of the program when it happened that stayed will forever be remembered as kind of the foundation for our present and as the foundation for our future and that they sacrificed and that they didn't take a shortcut, which is what we're talking to our guys all the time about, is that there are no shortcuts in life.
Those guys are a perfect example of that, and I think they are also an example if you just work hard and you keep a positive attitude and you persevere, that good things will happen. That's what I'm more happy about than anything is that those 49 guys can be rewarded for their commitment and for their sacrifice to this community and to this university.
Q. I don't know if you had a chance to see the scene last night downtown; what was your reaction to seeing all of that, if you saw it?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, first of all, we were game planning. We were in what we call our submarine. So we were watching film and coming up with game plans and tendencies and down and distance situations and things like that.
But I was aware of what was going on and I think it's great to have excitement and enthusiasm and I think it's great that it shows how much people care. I think it's part of the education process, as well, because you can go out and you can enjoy yourself with others. We just have to do it the right way. We've just got to make sure that nobody is injured and we've got to make sure that nothing is damaged and that people are being respectful.
But there is enthusiasm and there is excitement and there is tremendous pride in this school and part of the healing that's taking place and moving forward. I think this is part of it.
So, whenever you're dealing with a large group of college students and they are excited, you just always are hopeful that they are doing it the right way. From most of the things that I've read, it was that.
Q. I know you and the team look at this as one day at a time but the students at the school are so excited looking at the whole big picture of the bowl games. Seems like overnight, Penn State, the pride, the image, everything's back. Can you comment on that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I actually believe that that's always been there. That's one of the things that I said early on in my time at Penn State, because I had spent very little time here to be honest with you, but I have worked at nine different institutions and that's the thing that really jumps out to me is the pride in Penn State is unbelievable, the pride on this campus, the pride in the community.
Even when you're somewhere else, you're in another community, you're in another airport, and you are wearing something with Penn State on it, and they scream out "We are!" And you scream back, "Penn State!"
It's a really special thing and I think it's one of the things that differentiate us. When we have the largest active alumni base in the country, it's special. I think last night was an opportunity for maybe that pride to explode and that excitement to explode because again I think it's part of the feeling. It's part of us moving forward.
I think it's always been there, I do. I think it's always been there but instead of talking about it in your room with your roommate, people wanted to scream and holler. And again, I think that's okay as long as it's done in the right way and it's constructive and it's not disrespectful and nobody gets hurt and nothing gets damaged.
One Game at a Time:
Q. You're a self-professed emotional guy. Wanted to ask you about your approach to tempering player's emotions now that the Rutgers game might have additional meaning and that you might, and that you are eligible, or that you have an opportunity to be eligible for a Bowl game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yes, sir. I think our approach, I think sometimes people feel that our message in front of the media is different than our message to the team. Our message is consistent because I know our players read everything.
So same thing that I'm conveying to you, I'm conveying to our players. This game is no more important than what Central Florida was. This game is no more important than what Akron was. We approach every single game one game at a time and that's the most important game on our schedule because it's the only game on our schedule and that's how we approach it. So it won't change anything.
We just approach it the same way and I think that helps us. That helps us prepare consistently. That helps us to play consistently. That was something I never understood as an assistant. Coaches would always say that but then the next thing they would say was, "well, this game is going to be important; if we win this one, the next one is going to be even bigger" or, "this one is more important because it's conference" or whatever.
We don't believe that. We are going to approach every single game as if it's the most important game and make sure our preparation is like that. That's going to be our method and that's going to be our plan from here going forward.
Q. You talked about the approach this week not changing from previous weeks. Specifically to the defense, can you talk about your defensive philosophy and how the players have taken to that philosophy thus far?
COACH FRANKLIN: Like I said early on, I felt defensively our depth was really good and especially at some key positions, like the defensive line. I also knew that based on what we do defensively would be helpful, as well, because we're aggressive and that's how I want to play in all three phases -- offense, defense, special teams -- in every area of our program, we want to be aggressive.
I think they are enjoying it. I think the other thing is maybe it's a little bit different than what we have done in the past and they are excited about it. So I think that factors in. I'm a big believer that scheming and X's and O's and all those things are important, but I think morale is more important and chemistry.
I think those things are really important. And I think our defense is enjoying playing this style of defense right now and they are flying around and having fun. I think we have got a really good staff in all three areas, offense, defense and special teams. I think our guys are having fun and starting to build confidence. Our philosophy is always to make people one dimensional, stop the run and be able to pressure the decision maker. So far, we've done a pretty good job of that.
Q. You alluded to the running game and said you felt some guys were trying to do a little too much, departing from the play to maybe get a couple extra yards. After you looked at film of the game, could you expand on what you saw and what you're hoping to do with improving the running game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, and I think that's pretty common. What happens is you have a landmark on a play in a running game as a running back or as an offensive lineman, and maybe you're supposed to be doubleteaming and working up to the linebacker.
Well now, you just try to destroy the defensive lineman. You never come off on the linebacker because you're getting frustrated, or you didn't do your job. Whereas a running back, you're supposed to chase your landmark, which is the outside hip of the guard, and press it and trust that the linemen are going to do their job and then make your cut and make your decision.
And things aren't going well and they are all good athletes and they are all great players and in high school, they were able to just kind of make some plays happen that weren't necessarily drawn up by the coaches. But at this level, the athletes are too good, the schemes are too sophisticated and players and scheme are more disciplined. They just have to stick with it.
No different about what I talk about perseverance in other areas, it's the same thing on the football field. You keep doing your job, you keep a really good attitude and keep working hard and good things will happen, and the film showed that.
We have got great kids here, and the best part is they are coachable. They watch the film, which we all have to do in life is, you make the mistake, you own up to it, you man up to it, you get it corrected and you move forward. That same thing on the football field, watching film, that's the same thing in life, and I think our guys understand that.
So because of that, we are able to get it corrected. Where the problem comes is when people or players rationalize and make excuses, and that's frustrating because then you never have an opportunity to solve the problem or fix it or grow or evolve. And that's what we are all trying to do, including myself, every single day.