Penn State's James Franklin Postgame vs. Indiana 11/16/19
First of all, like always, I don’t ever want to forget, thanking you guys for coming out and covering Penn State Football. I want to thank our loyal, positive fans that come out and support us. We got a great crowd and I want to make sure that we thank them and don’t take them for granted, because they have been outstanding. We had a great crowd again today. Obviously, the game was a battle, that is a good football team. You can see that they have gotten better every year. I have got a lot of respect for Coach [Tom] Allen and I think he has done a great job there. At the end of the day it came down to what we call our critical stats. We did a great job with them, we won all four of them that we talk about all the time. We won the field position battle, we won the turnover battle this week, we won the penalty battle. We only had one penalty. Again, we had been one of the most disciplined teams in the country for a long period of time and that’s showing up again. And then we won the explosive play battle which was great. So all of those things kind of jumped out to me. Journey Brown with 100 yards rushing. Sean Clifford is making plays with both his arm and his feet which has been great. Marquis Wilson has been coming in and doing some really good things. He is a guy that is really ball aware, which I think is very important for us. [Marquis Wilson] is a guy that we believe could play wide receiver or defensive back and created another fumble today. Just a bunch of good stuff going on. End of the game, obviously for our offense to go on an 18-play drive, I haven’t been around many of them. An 18-play drive at a critical point in the game. Burned timeouts, ate the clock up, finished it with a touchdown at the one-yard line that we decided to go for on fourth down after burning another 40 seconds. Up by three, a field goal would only have put us up by six, obviously a touchdown would have put them in a position to win the game. Also, they would have to go 99-yards with no timeouts. Again, it was the right decision.
Q: We talked a lot over the years about four minute drives and these exact same situations. Why was the offense effective?
A: Well I think we have improved at the offensive line and tight end positions. I think you guys have head me talk about this before. Two years ago, it was very important to me for our program, not only the offense, but for our program, that we go to have some 12 personnel in our package. And can they always put another guy in the box, yes, but it gives you a little bit more of a sophisticated running game. Some of the gap counter stuff that we are doing, still able to do some of the RPO stuff which is difficult. We also think that we have two really good tight ends, and some guys behind them. We are starting to develop that position to be a position power and the reality is it’s also what everyone really wants since I got here. It is essentially a fullback, that’s what it is. It is a fullback that you essentially can use as a lead blocker, that you can use as a second puller in your counter game, and also we have the ability to line up and play those guys like wide receivers. I think that has been big. So for us, we have more sophistication in our running game so we are able to run a more traditional four minute [drive]. I think it helps our defense as well. It helps our defense see stints from our offense that they are going to see throughout the year.
Q: Is going under center an option in the future?
A: We have kind of talked about this before. To me, the one advantage of under center, is the quarterback sneak. Besides that, you can’t make an argument. Because the reality is, when you snap the ball to the quarterback and he hands it off about three-and-a-half to four yards, or reaches back, the running back gets [the ball] at almost exactly the same distance. And by being in the gun, now the quarterback can pull it and come off the edge to keep the defense honest that way. So you lose the sneak, but you gain the quarterback on the edge as another runner. At the end of the day, the running back is getting it at the same distance he would whether the quarterback is under center or in the gun.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about KJ [Hamler] and how much does that impact your offense when he’s not out there?
A: Well first thing I’d like to say is that I’m really proud of our guys because when you lose a guy like KJ, I didn’t see any issues or concern, obviously concern for KJ because that’s our brother, but other guys stepped up. Coaches stepped up. Did it morph us a little bit? Yeah, probably, but I don’t know if it was because KJ wasn’t there or if it was because we were able to run the ball. I think the depth that we have at the running back position has been helpful, and the depth we have at the receiver position has been helpful. We didn’t have KJ for the rest of the game but we’re pretty hopeful that we’ll have him for next week.
Q: How do you improve your pass defense after seeing what happened today?
A: We got to get better, there’s no doubt about it. I will also say that team has done that to everybody. I think they’re leading the conference in passing, one of the best passing offenses in the country. They’re doing a really good job. Although they threw for that many yards, they only have 8% explosive plays. They did a really good job with that. Can we get better there? There’s no doubt about it. Obviously we’ll work on that a great deal. But again the most important stat is that we found a way to get a win.
Q: What went into choosing Cam [Brown] to lead the guys out of the tunnel on military appreciation day?
A: For us, we try to find someone who has a strong military background. Both [his] mom and dad are former military so obviously when you’re able to do that it’s special. I think Penn State does this as well as anyone. I think we had 7,500 military members with thickets to the game today. I know it’s something that we take great pride in in Pennsylvania, specifically central Pennsylvania. I know it’s something that we take great pride in on our team. Those ROTC guys came out to practice the other day which was also as well. Just proud of our guys and how they handled it.
Q: How did the Will Levis package come together?
A: It was something that we kind of had mixed in that we’ve been kind of doing throughout the year in practice. Sean [Clifford] has been a little bit nicked up so we’ve been working on it in practice in case we are in a situation where we need to play him and add some running game. The quarterback running game is really important because it allows you to gain a number back. Whether we’re using the running back as another number or whether we’re using the running back as a misdirection across the quarterback’s face, or whether we’re reading it, it allows you to get your numbers back closer to even. For us, when we’re down there it allows us to get downhill and be more south. Most importantly, we were able to wear them down as the game went on with our running game and with our tight ends. There was a lot of conversation on the headset about what to do there. One of the main reasons we’re sitting here feeling good about how the game turned out is because we executed.
Q: Is the lack of penalties something positive that came from your defense today?
A: I think in general you think about the scores of games right now and you think about what our defense has been able to do all season. 27 points is high for us but if you look at college football in general, that’s pretty good. Our discipline is something that we take a lot of pride in. I’m not really sure why there was a spike in penalties there for a couple weeks, but we’ve been one of the most disciplined teams in the country. I think there’s no doubt that that factored in today. We had the one penalty for intentional grounding, which even then, I understand why the officials made that call. It wasn’t intentional grounding and what I mean by that is, we were running an option route, the guy has the ability to run a corner route or a post. Sean [Clifford] threw the thing on time expecting the guy to run a post, he ran a corner. I also get it from an official’s perspective, he looked in the area and there was no one back there so I get it. I don’t necessarily agree with it in theory, but how it played out I get it. If you look at it like that, that’s a clean football game. We talk to our team all the time about not doing the things to get yourself beat which is turning the ball over, getting penalties, things like that, and we did a pretty good job managing those situations today.