Five takeaways from James Franklin’s weekly press conference Tuesday:
1. Having fun yet? Penn State finally won a 2020 football game Saturday. It left Franklin feeling, perhaps, more philosophical than jubilant.
“The older I get, the longer I’ve been in the profession, the wins, they’re awesome and I love them,’’ he said.
“But the losses just are really painful, … It can change quick. You can win for four seasons at a level as high as anybody in the country. And then during a season that's been challenging on our world, … It’s hard.’’
Franklin suggested some of his players didn’t want to talk to the media after the game. He insisted, of course.
“I think you know your character is really shown during times of challenge,’’ he said. “I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about the staff I learned a lot about the players. I learned a lot about the fan base.
“We have to own this season. We have to own it. But this is not the totality of who we are.’’
2. As always, COVID: Michigan has to shut down operations this week due to COVID-19 concerns, the second team that has done that immediately after playing Penn State.
Franklin and Co. are still chugging along, although vexed by false positive coronavirus tests, which Franklin said are now over 45 for the season.
Saturday’s trip to Rutgers will not involve an airplane or many of the state-government restrictions that made the Michigan trip logistically difficult.
“From what we understand, we don’t think we have those challenges in New Jersey,’’ Franklin said.
3. Depth chart update: Penn State will have more than three cornerbacks available Saturday at Rutgers, according to Franklin. Sophomore Marquis Wilson and redshirt-freshmen Joey Porter, Jr. and Daequan Hardy did all the work, and appeared to do it exceptionally well, in the Michigan game.
“We made a big deal out of in the locker room I made a big deal out of it on Sunday,’’ Franklin said. “I've been doing this a long time. I don't think I've ever been in that situation. To only have three available and those guys take all those reps and still factor in on special teams, that was big.’’
Franklin said he expects to have, “at least four and possibly five,’’ CBs available this week. Veteran Tariq Casto-Fields, injured off-and-on all year, is listed alongside Porter as the two starters.
4. Game management blues: First-and-goal at the Michigan 5 with 36 seconds left in the first half. Penn State spikes the ball - why? - on first down. Second down was a fade route, which seemingly never works. On third down, QB Sean Clifford was pressured and threw the ball away. Penn State settled for a field goal.
Franklin didn’t comment on the spike - an apparent waste of a play - except to acknowledge that Clifford was told to do it from the sideline.
He did say the offense had a lot of success with fade routes in practice and pre-season work, but admitted that, “We need to have a little more diversity, there’s no doubt about it, in the red zone.’’
5. Illegal batting revisited: Penn State got a strip-sack against Michigan, after which Penn State’s Shaka Toney batted the loose ball to keep it in bounds, and the Lions recovered it. They were penalized for “illegal batting,’’ a huge play that erased a turnover and (on a third-and-10 play) gave the Wolverines a first down.
Franklin said he sent the play, and other rules questions, to the Big Ten for clarification, something he does most weeks.
The play is apparently supposed to be legal unless the ball is clearly batted forward, to, in effect, gain yardage.
“I saw some highly qualified people all over the country saying that was not ruled correctly,’’ Franklin said. “It's been interpreted very inconsistently, (but) the way the rule reads to me is, if it's questionable, you don't call it.
“Most of the opinions that I've gotten have aligned with the way I see it, but I want to make sure I’m crystal clear from the Big Ten.’’