Five takeaways from James Franklin’s weekly press conference:
1. The R word: Franklin was meticulous in avoiding the now-tedious discussion of whether this week’s opponent, Pittsburgh, is a rival. But in describing the game, he pretty much defined the word rival.
“Do we understand that this is a big game to the media and to the fans and to the lettermen and college football?” Franklin said. “Yeah. We are not burying our heads in the sand. We understand the significance and the impact of this game, but our approach does not change.’’
In fact, Franklin was as adamant as he’s ever been in calling for a loud, rabid fanatical crowd at Beaver Stadium Saturday.
“We need that thing to be busting at the seams,’’ he said. “I think we've had has high as 110 (thousand). We need that on Saturday, and we need the players on the field to feel that 110,000. I want everybody in the state to feel that 110,000.
“We need that stadium rocking on Saturday at (noon) like no stadium has ever rocked before. That’s my challenge.’’
2. On the non-rivalry rivalry’s future: The current series with Pitt ends Saturday. Given Penn State’s scheduling model - nine conference games, one non-con game against a power-five opponent and that one already scheduled through 2025 - the teams won’t play in the foreseeable future.
“One of the things that no one's really discussed is they play eight conference games,’’ Franklin said. “We play nine. I think if everybody was on a level playing field, if everybody was playing eight games or everybody was playing nine games, or even everybody was playing ten games, that would help.’’
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Franklin left the door open, though.
“I could see us possibly maybe doing a neutral site game with them,’’ he said. “We're open to having discussions. But it's got to equally make sense for both parties. We're open to talking about all different concepts and options. (Deputy AD) Scott Sidwell is in the back and his phone is open for conversations.’’
3. The communications gap: Safety John Petrishen transferred from Penn State to Pitt in August, just as preseason practice was beginning. Franklin said he immediately changed all his team’s signals for communicating from the sideline to the field.
“We had to get with our guys and come up with either new signals or multiple signals for everything that we do,’’ he said.
“The fact that we did it right away, we've had plenty of time to get it done and now our guys are comfortable. We've already done it the first two weeks, so that helps.”
4. Adjustability: Buffalo led Penn State 10-7 at halftime last week. Adjustments to what the Bulls were doing made at halftime were apparently critical to the Nittany Lions winning the second half, 38-3.
Franklin said after the game that ideally, those tweaks should be made during the game, on the sidelines, but a young team makes that difficult.
“I probably need to do a better job of articulating this: It's not just the coaches,’’ he said.
“The first thing is getting feedback from the players. As players get older, the more accurate information you get. Right now with Michal Menet, when he comes to the sideline, he can tell us exactly what's happening and it aligns with exactly what they are telling us if the booth, because sometimes what we are hearing in the booth isn't exactly happening.’’
Further, it’s about the players, “being able to digest that information and translate it on the field when the JumboTrons are going and the noise is going and the play is going, and there's noise and fans and stuff everywhere.
“It may be better (to) have all of them bring their cell phones and do it that way because they are not used to eye-to-eye contact and conversations.’’
5. Finegan update: Buffalo punter Evan Finegan didn’t go home with his teammates after Saturday’s game.
Finegan suffered a gruesome leg injury when Penn State’s Journey Brown tipped a third-quarter punt and collided with Finegan. Finegan acknowledged, via Twitter early Sunday morning, that he had broken his tibia and fibula.
He had surgery at Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College Sunday, and returned to Buffalo Tuesday.
He was visited Monday by Franklin, Penn State punter Blake Gillikin and kickers Jake Pinegar and Jordan Stout.
“That kicker/specialist/long snapper community is tight,’’ Franklin said. “They all know each other.’’
“I want to thank the entire Penn State community for taking me in as their own. Thank you @coachjfranklin for the support from your family and team,” Finegan wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
“Also I want to thank the Penn State specialists for constantly checking in on me. I appreciate the sincere concern.”