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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Michigan State Week

A week after a crushing loss to the Buckeyes, James Franklin and Co. must travel to face the Spartans

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Statement

  • Learned a painful lesson this weekend, and need a killer’s mentality. The environment and the speed of their offense factored in.
  • Need to get better with sudden change defense - when the opponent has seized momentum, the defense needs to go out and take it back.
  • Need to improve the run game, specifically the negative yardage plays. Have to get better with the RPO, and can’t try to turn every run into an 80 yard touchdown.
  • Even with talking about four minute offense, watching the game, the run game was getting tackled for loss, and when passing Trace McSorley was running for his life.
  • On defense, they didn’t get enough pressure consistently. Ohio State was able to pick up their blocks very well, the reverse of last year.
  • As coach, Franklin has to be honest with his players, but he still looks at the progress that’s been made. Two years ago they lost 38-10. Success is coming, but it takes time to build.
  • Overall on offense, they scored 38 points with no turnovers. Went 7-of-15 on third down, scored on all three red zone possessions. Need to be more explosive (YES GIMME MORE YOLO BALL).
  • Defensively, playing very well in the first and third quarters, but need to improve in second and fourth quarters.
  • Special teams really kept the team in the game, since offensively and defensively Ohio State was better.
  • On to Michigan State - the Land Grant Trophy is the most beautiful trophy in all of college football, and they want to keep it (no mention of adding LASERZZZ).
  • They run a pro-style offense, and have an aggressive front four on defense. They’re number two in punt return defense, so this game will be a challenge.


  • On what Franklin heard or saw from the players after the loss, and how well they’re preparing for Michigan State: They had a player only meeting on their own on Sunday, which Franklin had no hand in. Sunday’s practice and meetings went well, and everyone avoided being defensive about the loss.
  • On preparing for a physical Michigan State offense, after the defense was on the field for 78 snaps against Ohio State: The number of reps doesn’t necessarily matter, but the complete shift in offensive style will be an adjustment.
  • On evaluating the play of the wide receivers, specifically blocking and getting separation: Saturday they may not have done as well blocking as they have in the past, but overall doing well with it. Can always improve both aspects, but overall feel good.
  • On Penn State changing their identity against Ohio State, and preventing that in the future: They’re a pass-to-run offense, in which you pass to open the run game. But if your pass game is misfiring, you don’t use up enough clock in a four-minute situation. In reality, neither the run nor the pass were particularly effective, which causes a drop in confidence.
  • On having to rely on young pass rushers going forward: Have to continue developing the young guys while getting the veterans back. Flexibility up front is key to mix and match players.
  • On defenses figuring out how to stop Saquon Barkley, and whether Ohio State did anything different than Michigan: Doesn’t think everyone has figured it out, just that they’ve played lots of teams that are good against the run. Have to get Barkley the ball different ways, and have McSorley pick up the slack in the pass game.
  • On defenses getting into the backfield quickly, and that it’s not just offensive linemen being beat, but a lot of combined factors: Have to change tempo and alignment to be in the best position for success as possible.
  • On the sudden change defense, and how they can learn to overcome that: When opposing teams get the momentum, often times they want to take a shot downfield, so you have to be ready for it. They’ve been good at emphasizing these things in practice.
  • On fan perception that Barkley is getting the ball from a standstill, rather than moving forward at the hand off: They’re doing it exactly the same way they’ve done it for the past two years with one of the most explosive offenses in the country - in fact, they’ve been faster at it this year. They’re 16-2 in their last 18 games, and have lost by a combined 4 points in those two losses (sensing some salt here).
  • On the offensive line in the fourth quarter, after Ryan Bates went out with an injury: The individual players are doing well, and improving. Ohio State has one of the best defensive lines in the country, so that magnifies some errors. Just have to stick to the system and trust the process (cue Sixers fans). The coaches see the same issues the fans and media do, and they’re working to fix them (more saltiness).
  • On being more aggressive on offense, and whether the first and goal from the seven drive was on Franklin’s mind: You take what the defense gives you - they had a fade call to Gesicki, but he had two defenders over him, so they ran the ball instead. Franklin’s comment about aggressiveness was about later drives, not that one. Very easy to second guess after the fact, but Joe Moorhead is one of the best signal callers in the country, and Franklin isn’t doubting him.
  • On end-of-game situations, and this being perhaps a repeat of a certain game: They had lots of discussions about four-minute offense because of the Rose Bowl, but they’re not going to change their identity.
  • On Shaka Toney developing from a pass-rush defensive end, to a three-down defensive end: That doesn’t just happen in a few weeks, and is currently more of a situational defensive end. Excited about his future, but it’s a process.
  • On Michigan State’s stout rush defense: The Big Ten in general does that, and that’s why they’ve been a good passing offense, and have gotten explosive plays. Have to be patient with the run game, and cut down on the negative plays.
  • On whether Franklin will take his kids trick-or-treating: No, because there are too many demands during the season. They do a mini trick-or-treat with the coaches and their kids on Monday, and Franklin will try to make it to the school’s Halloween parade, but it’s tough.
  • On finding a new left tackle in a similar fashion as last year: Haven’t determined that anyone is being replaced yet, but are confident that they have the players to be successful on Saturday.
  • On Troy Apke having a good game, while the rest of the secondary did not: Apke is Steady Eddie, and has progressed up the ladder from special teams, to role player on defense, to starter, and now to leader. The rest of the secondary has been playing well, but the lack of pass rush caused the secondary to suffer. Lots of older and younger guys in the backfield they feel good about.
  • On the previously mentioned fade to Gesicki that they checked out of because of what the defense was showing, and whether defenses are starting to force the offense back into its weaknesses: Franklin doesn’t agree with the way the question was phrased (for about the third time), as they’re still scoring lots of points. The defenses are being smart by not letting the huge play beat them, and trying to avoid Barkley beating them, so perhaps they’re scoring more like 30 points per game than 40. There are obvious weak areas to improve, but they recognize them, are going to work on them, and are going to stay positive (the saltiness level is over 9,000).
  • On what makes the Land Grant Trophy the most beautiful in college football: It’s so unorthodox, and unique. It’s not normal. The game itself is important to win, but they want to hold onto the trophy (again, no mention of adding LASERZZZ).