In 2017, after a goofy, weather-delayed, season-crushing, 27-24 loss at Michigan State, James Franklin delivered the “submarine speech.’’
His emerging program, he said, was new to national rankings and high stakes, and “We’re not mature enough to handle it.’’
“Turn off your phone,’’ he told his players, “Turn off the Internet. Don’t buy newspapers. Turn off ESPN. Turn off the Big Ten Network.
“Focus on the things in our locker room. Focus on the relationships in our locker room, the game film, the practice film. ... You get into the submarine and you shut everything else out.’’
That loss came the week after a one-point loss at Ohio State. In 2018, Penn State lost again to the Buckeyes, again by a single point. If anything, Franklin’s postgame message was even more emotional, and focused on his belief that the program had, “gotten comfortable with being great.’’
That’s great as less than elite.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The 12-point lead Minnesota held with less than four minutes left was dow…
“I’m going to make sure everybody in the program, myself included, is uncomfortable from now on,’’ he said. “If you guys thought I was a psychopath before, you have no idea.’’
Michigan State was again next on the schedule. A mediocre Michigan State team, in Happy Valley this time, after a Penn State bye week.
The Lions had their, “best practice in four years,’’ Franklin said that week.
Then they lost. Again. In the final minute. To a mediocre, punchless team.
“Obviously, you’re going to question, did we recover emotionally,’’ Franklin said afterward. “I didn’t see that during the week.’’
The search for answers continues, after Penn State’s 31-26 loss at Minnesota Saturday. But Franklin, raspy-voiced and subdued, seemed to have decided that these moments are not the time for grand statements of purpose.
“One of the things I’m trying to do a better job of, as I grow and mature professionally, is (not going) into the locker room after tough losses and point out mistakes,’’ he said. “It’s not the time for that.’’
Franklin said several players apologized to him in the locker room. Understandably, that’s not what he wanted to hear.
“Take a deep breath and allow this feeling,’’ he told them. “Don’t block it.
“We need to use this emotion for fuel, and then it’s very important that we put it to bed and move on.’’
Minnesota is far from mediocre. It is also, it says here, far from Ohio State. Penn State had some limitations exposed Saturday, especially defensively.
The high aspirations for this season are still formally on the table: Win out, including wins over Ohio State and (probably) Minnesota, and the Lions would likely be in the playoff. As a practical matter, there’s no sense in talking about that, and no point in Franklin and his troops even thinking about it.
They won’t maximize 2020 unless they maximize the rest of 2019.
This is where being, “1-0 this week,’’ becomes more than just Twitter fodder.
“I think maybe, early on, guys were saying, ‘1-0,’ but not really living it and believing it,’’ Franklin said last week. “I think our guys are now.’’
“We thought it was really corny at first,’’ Blake Gillikin, the superb senior punter, admitted. “But, it really, really works.’’
Until you get smacked in the mouth, everything does.