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Standards Higher Than Performance So Far

November 7, 2018

The simple question yielded a direct answer. Asked if he feels as if Penn State’s players have played and its coaches have coached to his standards this season, head coach James Franklin offered a resounding “no” Tuesday, clearly attempting to set a more no-nonsense tone days after his Nittany Lions were pounded by Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Obviously, our standards and our expectation is to win every game we play. We have not done that for a number of reasons. You can list them all out,” Franklin said. “But at the end of the day, we have not lived up to our standard, because our standard is to put ourselves in the best position to win every single game. ... We will not be satisfied until we are in that situation.” Penn State lost three of its last five as it prepares to host Wisconsin on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, and Franklin spent little of his time Tuesday sugar-coating Penn State’s problems. He said the passing game needs less drops, more accurate throws and better pass protection. He said it’s difficult to judge the development of the offensive line after playing a team like Michigan, because the line did not look like a strength in the face of the vaunted Wolverines defense. The running game, he said, “has to get going,” starting this week. However, Franklin had some moderate praise for the Nittany Lions defense. When told during a question that Penn State’s defense held Michigan to just 14 points deep into the third quarter, Franklin quickly interjected. “Really,” he said, “four quarters.” An interception return resulted in a touchdown, and another pick gave Michigan the ball deep in Penn State territory, setting up another score. “It was 14-0 and it really should have been 7-7,” Franklin said. “I think we had some opportunities to make it a very competitive game against a team on the road, and we didn’t do that. (Defensive coordinator) Brent Pry’s response and the defensive staff’s response is always going to be, ‘We didn’t do enough,’ and I get that. But I think there’s also some really good things that were in there, too.” Going young The new redshirt rule allows freshmen to play in four games without losing a redshirt season might be easier for Penn State to implement as the season winds down. Franklin planned to use a handful of freshmen for three games during the regular season, then allow them to be available for the bowl game. But that plan was thrown out with one player, receiver Jahan Dotson, who he announced would be available for the rest of the season last week. With three regular-season games left on the schedule heading into the bowl game, Franklin conceded it’s time to consider playing the freshmen who have only played in a game or two to this point. That includes receiver Justin Shorter, one of the top recruits in the nation in the 2018 recruiting class who was limited by an injury during preseason camp. “He’s looking at his college experience very similar to his high school experience, where he started out maybe a little bit slow and worked himself into being one of the best receivers in the country, if not the best receiver in the country,” Franklin said. “I think you’re going to see a similar development with him here just because of his approach and his attitude.” Making a call Wondering why Penn State called timeout with 1:01 left in the second quarter and facing a fourth-and-17 just before punting Saturday? “What happened was, it was the first time that we had good field position, and my gut was saying that we needed to do something to spark the team there and maybe take on some risk and go for it,” Franklin said. “Called the timeout and then, after doing it, realized that wasn’t the right thing to do.” In the heat of the moment, perhaps it made a touch of sense. On the previous play, Penn State faced third-and-10 from the Michigan 39. But quarterback Trace McSorley was sacked by linebacker Jordan Glasgow, knocking the Nittany Lions back to the 46. The timeout was called immediately after the play, giving Michigan in the neighborhood of 40 more seconds to work than it would have had the Nittany Lions been more aware of the down and distance. Franklin said he and the staff second-guess decisions all the time, especially when they don’t work. However, he said he didn’t foresee Penn State taking fewer gambles in stopping the clock. “We’ve made some decisions in the past that have been maybe somewhat unorthodox that have been very beneficial to our success,” he said. “But obviously, that was one that I did not handle well.” Contact the writer: dcollins@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125 @psubst on Twitter

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