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James Franklin Press Conference: Akron

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Week 2. Football is finally returning to Happy Valley.

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Franklin and his Nittany Lions brought a win back to the United States and are looking ahead to the home opener against Akron this week.  Franklin said the team is healthy and didn’t have any trouble adjusting back into the schedule after traveling.  He admitted that the offensive line needs to improve on run blocking so the offense is able to balance the run game and the pass game, and that will be a focus in practice this week.

Recap:

COACH FRANKLIN: No. 1, we lost the turnover battle and we lost the penalty battle, which are two things that are going to be a major point of emphasis for us this week; 75 percent of college football teams will beat themselves with those two statistics.  We want to get those things cleaned up.

What we were able to do, which was also a big factor, was explosive plays.  We were able to get a lot of explosive plays for our offense.  Our defense, we didn't meet our goal.  I think if we had done that, then I would have thought we would have played lights out on defense.  We need to get those things cleaned up.

Overall, we did what we had to do to win the game.  We had that ingredient.  The guys knew how to get it done.  We basically controlled the game for the most part and then lost the lead late in the game.  A lot of teams can't rebound from that and our guys were able to do that.

I think in the end, we have got to protect the ball on offense and we have got to take the ball away more on defense.

Offensively, we have to score when we get in the red zone, although I thought (Sam) Ficken did a great job for us, and our scoring in the red zone was 100 percent.  We were five for five but only one for four when it comes to touchdowns, which is what we want to be able to do.  Defensively, eliminate big plays and cause more takeaways like we talked about.  Special teams, we have to eliminate the penalties.

Offense:

Q.  What sort of progress do you think your offensive line has made since camp broke and actually had some time to play together as a unit?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I think they made real progress.  I really do.

Obviously, we need to do a better job of being able to impose our will in the running game and be able to dictate the game from that standpoint.  We weren't able to do that consistently on Saturday, and for our development as a team and as an offense specifically, we are going to have to do that.  That's going to help the receivers out and that's going to help everybody and we feel like we have got good running backs.

So, our tight ends and our Oline collectively together, being able to finish blocks, being able to sustain blocks, and then our communication, making sure we are on the same page and who we are working to and things like that is important.

There's some flashes of good things on the tape but we have got to be able to finish better.  We have to be able to finish better.  I think one of the things we talk about all the time is winning minimizes the issue.

Losing magnifies the issues, but either way, the issues are still there, and we have to resolve them.  I was pleased with them overall.  I think the amount of times that we threw the ball, we were able to protect Hack (Christian Hackenberg) pretty well.  Hack was able to use his mobility and help us out there a little bit, as well.  I thought we had a good plan moving in the pocket and things like that, but I thought they played pretty well.

Q.  When you talked about the inability to impose your will with the running game, was that more a function of what more of what UCF was doing or scenarios you have to tighten up or a combination?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I think like most things in life, it's a combination.  UCF is a good football team.  They are well coached when it comes to techniques and fundamentals and schemes.

And I think for us, it's finishing.  It's finishing blocks.  It's making sure our communication, that we are all on the same page.  But more than anything, it's sustaining it; it's finishing.  When you think you've blocked long enough, block longer to the echo of the whistle, those types of things.

So we are going to work hard on them this week and we are going to continue to invest in the running game, and hopefully that will pay dividends on Saturday.  Because our focus, and has been since we have been together as a staff, is just making sure that we improve each week.  That's our goal; to make sure that we are improving collectively and we are improving individually and if you do that, then you'll like the results.

But there's no doubt about it that we have got to get our running game going to be the type of offense and be the type of team that we want to be.

Q.  The fact that your offense produced over 500 yards but only two touchdowns, could you explain the mix of gratification and frustration you felt given those outputs?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I think it goes back to what I said earlier, is we have to do a better job of scoring in the red zone.  We lost one possession down there where there was an interference call that we weren't able to get any points with.

But I think it just strictly comes down to being able to be more effective in the red zone.  Whenever you're able to run the ball in the red zone, it's going to make you a lot more effective because your playbook decreases.  You obviously don't have as much field to work with so your shots and things like that go away.

But, again, the most important thing is that we found a way to win.  We were able to get points.  We were five for five in scoring in the red zone but there's no doubt about it, we have got to do a better job of scoring touchdowns to maximize our opportunities.

Q.  You brought up the 50/50 ball, something that DaeSean Hamilton and Geno both mentioned after the game.  Can you evaluate those two guys how they have approached that, and maybe areas that they can improve that particular area of the game?

COACH FRANKLIN:  Well, I think in the game, they both did extremely well there.  Going up and attacking the ball, with that mentality, usually one of two things will happen:  You'll either make the catch or you'll get the interference call.  That's got to be a wide receiver or a tight end's mentality; that every time the ball is in the air, they are either going to come down with it or it's going to be a pass interference call, or both: they are going to come down with it with a pass interference call.  I think in the game they have done a great job of that.

We have to learn how to practice more consistently.  That's one of the things that's going to be a discussion today in our team meeting is the practices are designed to get them ready for the game in everything we do.  Typically the practices are about the length of the game.

We want them to physically understand how they are going to be able to sustain for that amount of time physically but also mentally; can you focus for three hours; can you focus for two and a half hours or however long we are out there.  That's where we have to do a better job.  The more consistent we are in practice, the more consistent we'll be in games, as well.  I thought they did a really nice job of that in the games.

Q.  Looking to have balance in the offense, will that come with more success from the run?

COACH FRANKLIN:  Well, we want to be balanced, and when I say balanced, that doesn't mean that we are going to run for 300 yards and pass for 300 yards.  That means we have the ability to do either one.

To me, what I would love is if the thing that's going to give you the best chance to win is running the ball 70 times, we want to be able to do that.  If the next week the thing that's going to give us the best chance to win is throwing the ball 70 times, we want to have the ability to do that.

So balance doesn't mean at the end of the game we are going to be 50/50 in our stats.  It means that in any given down and distance situation or area on the field, the defense has to defend both knowing that we have the ability to do it, whether that's long yardage situations or short yardage situations or whether that's with bad weather conditions or good weather conditions; that we have to have the ability to do that.

So I think more than anything in that first game, we did what we were going to be able to do to be successful, which we were having more success throwing the ball so, we are going to continue to do that.

There's going to be other games where hopefully we're going to invest all our time and efforts in running the ball, and that's kind of what we're looking for when it comes to balance if that makes sense.

Defense:

Q.  I know Anthony Zettel had a great day from inside, but how do you think Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan did?

COACH FRANKLIN:  Both guys both played well.  You look at the pressures and the sacks and how many hits we were able to get on the quarterback from our Dline, and our linebackers and the way we were able to stop the run, I think that's probably the thing because probably most impressed with those guys is how physical they were in the running game.

Obviously you would always love to get more sacks and create more pressures.  I thought they both did extremely well and we want to build on that and go from there.

But I was pleased with both those guys.  I thought (Carl) Nassib was another guy that did some nice things for us in the running game and in the passing game.

Standing Out:

Q.  When did you first start to notice DaeSean Hamilton asserting himself in practices?

COACH FRANKLIN:  If you look at him he's a big, physical, an impressive looking athlete.  He's very, very smart.  Runs the offense extremely well and obviously with going out and playing the way he did on Saturday, I think has a chance to build on his confidence and his execution.

So, I was pleased with him.  It's nice when you have a guy on either side, Geno did some really nice things, as well, and it can be challenging if you have got one guy that everybody is focused on, when you can have somebody on either side that people have to deal with, it's going to make both of them that much more effective.

And I think it's going to give Hack more options and it's also going to help in his development, because we all know last year, I think, what, 70 percent or higher of the offense, especially in the passing game was (Allen) Robinson.  So having multiple threats with our wide receivers and our tight ends, I think is critical.

See you Saturday, Happy Valley!