On Wednesday night, HBO ran its24/7 College Football: Penn State Nittany Lions episode that followed the program in its preparation for Purdue last weekend.
Before we dive any further, let that serve as your spoiler alert. If you wanted to watch this episode before knowing anything about it, don’t go any further. If you’ve already watched or just want some general thoughts on the episode, feel free to keep reading.
Now, before going into our thoughts on the episode, the first thing I’d like to say is that I thought this was a great episode overall and was extremely well down as always by HBO. Just tremendous work by the people at HBO sports once again. Hopefully the 24/7 College Football series is something they do beyond this season. Additionally, I would say the Unrivaled: A Penn State Football Story is a great series and is well put together, but I think this episode by HBO produced a much more intimate feel when it comes to knowing and being around the program. You really got a great feel of Franklin the family man, a few players, as well as members of the coaching staff.
Enough with that, let’s dive into our overall general thoughts from the episode.
1. I always wondered what James Franklin was behind closed doors when he’s out of the public eye and this was a great chance to find out at least partially what he’s like. That being said, I’ve come to the conclusion that Franklin is really the same person in public and out of public. He’s obviously more intense behind doors in his talk about the game but at the same point, he’s still pretty much the same guy with the use of some colorful language.
2. One of the cooler things we saw but something that wasn’t necessarily shocking is that every Monday, the entire Penn State coaching staff get to together and have a “family dinner” as they like to call it. I’m only noting this because it continues the idea that Franlkin talks about when it comes to the program being a family.
3. Clifford-Hamler relationship: There was a notable portion of the episode focused on the relationship between KJ Hamler and Sean Clifford. Their relationship goes back to middle school, so the chemistry they have is like none other, that was evident in this episode.
4. Dwight Galt and Sam Finkel have their shining moments. I’m not sure how many 62-year-old men would be willing to take their shirts off in front of 100+ college kids, some of them built like Greek gods. But Dwight Galt doesn’t care, the head strength and conditioning coach did it at the end of one of Penn State’s practices as he looked to pump up the team.
Finkel on the other hand, an intern with the program was called upon to pump the team up before a team meeting and while it was a little cringe-worthy, it sure was funny. A funny moment at the end of it as well when Franklin tells him “now go photocopy some shit.”
5. James Franklin’s love for Saquon Barkley has never been a secret and it was shown once again in the episode. The only jersey that Franklin has in his office? A signed Saquon jersey.
7. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer, or Coach “Chaos” as everyone loves to call him, rides a Harley to work every day. He has a nice bicker jacket to go along with it and looks damn good doing it. I would also say that with this episode, if you ever wondered which coach was the most colorful with his language, it’s definitely Chaos.
8. The Wild Dogs love to go to The Field every week. According to Robert Windsor, when they show up, families know to clear out as the Wild Dogs love to make some noise and eat a ton of food. Antonio Shelton followed up calling the group the “closest on the team.” Additionally, Windsor ordered three sandwiches. Rob can put away some food.
9. During one portion of the episode, Garrett Taylor and Hamler were working with assistant AD for applied health and performance science, Josh Nelson. The exercise they did consisted of jumping up and down a few times to measure their performance, but also their fatigue. The man with the highest jump at the time when they were filming? Quarterback Will Levis. We’ve heard a lot about Levis being incredibly athletic and this just further shows how athletic and freakish Levis actually is.
10. Additionally, James has a reeeeeeeaaally nice house. In his basement, the walls and shelves are decked out in Penn State memorabilia. A few cool frames such as newspaper clippings from the upset over Ohio State in 2016, a photo of him hugging Sam Ficken, among other cool memorabilia.
11. James Franklin’s personal goal is to be the first African-American head coach to win a college football national championship at the FBS level. Franklin has discussed this briefly before but it’s worth mentioning as he pointed it out once again in the episode.
12. Another cool moment and routine that was shown was at the end of every week’s walk through the day before the game, Chaos has a bucket full of dog tags with each defensive linemen’s name on them. Each player takes a dog tag from the bucket and the name they draw, is the player they’ll be playing for on game day and vice versa.
13. Ricky Rahne came off as a really likable guy in the episode to me. We don’t get to see or hear much from Rahne outside of press conferences but the closer look we got to have Rahne showed you just how passionate he is about what he does. He had an up and down first season as offensive coordinator, but through five weeks this year he’s excelled. We’ll see what he dials up this week against Iowa.
14. Franklin was just as frustrated as you were about the second half against Purdue. Obviously, there wasn’t much to show when it came to the second half against Purdue with the Nittany Lions just scoring seven points, but what they did show was a frustrated Franklin. Franklin dropped a few f-bombs in the process but at the end of the day, he was proud of his players as they showed in the locker room.
15. Obviously, HBO didn’t show or talk a ton about the fan base. They did a terrific job in really summing up what Penn State football means to the Penn State fan base and how Penn State football is one of those programs in the country where football isn’t just football, it’s a religion.