After his eighth loss to Ohio State in nine tries, Penn State head coach James Franklin stepped onto the podium full of things to remember.
“You have to give credit to Ohio State, a really talented team. I thought we played our tail,” Franklin said in his opening statement. “Obviously in the first half we were able to overcome the turnovers , stay in the game and fight. But you can’t turn the ball that many times against this type of opponent and think you’re going to succeed.
Franklin went on to say, “There are a ton of things we can be proud of, but there are just as many things we need to fix tomorrow. There are obviously a lot of corrections to be made. »
After a fumble and three interceptions by Nittany Lion quarterback Sean Clifford led to a trio of touchdowns for Ohio State, Franklin clearly made rotational margin a critical theme in his team’s performance.
“For me, the game starts and ends with turnovers,” Franklin said. “You can’t give this type of team a short field that many times and get it right, that’s going to make it really tough.”
On Clifford in particular, Franklin made sure to highlight the positives he saw in his starting signal, but made sure to keep the results in perspective. In doing so, the Penn State head coach also alluded to the impact Zach Harrison and JT Tuimoloau had on Clifford saying, “I thought (Clifford) was playing brave and making big plays, but obviously you can’t have the turnovers… around really long athletic defensive ends, you gotta find a throwing lane.
However, even with the turnovers, Franklin recognized that the Nittany Lions’ path to victory was going to require risk taking to produce a competitive offense.
“We knew that type of opponent that we were going to have to score points on,” Franklin explained. “They’re explosive on the attacking side of the ball, they’re explosive on the defensive side of the ball – played hard but made too many critical errors.”
Perhaps the most notable high-stakes moments came in Franklin’s aggressive decision-making in fourth down situations. Penn State converted three of its four tries to fourth down in that game. When asked what cultivated that mindset, Franklin explained, “Going into this season, we wanted to be aggressive on fourth down. When entering this game, you look [Ohio State’s] game last week, we knew we were going to have to score some points against these guys – take risks, take risks.
“Obviously the three we converted were big and got us scoring points, scoring touchdowns, we’re going to have to take some of those risks,” Franklin continued. “But again, the margin of error against these types of opponents is very small.”
The Nittany Lions had success throughout the game with new approaches on offense, particularly a shallow T formation that the team often relied on in short-range situations. Franklin explained that this was always going to be a crucial part of Penn State’s game plan when he said, “Some of the things we did with a view to change in terms of rosters and staff groups, I think, helped us. It gave them pause, they weren’t as confident with our formations and what we were going to miss from our formations. It was a good change and it allowed us to move the ball, we moved the ball quite effectively against this team.
Particularly in the first half, the Nittany Lions did a much better job than the Buckeyes of executing swinging screen passes to the edges that kept the Ohio State defense spread out.
“When you’re playing this type of defense with this type of pass rush, you have to do certain things to help your offensive line and your quarterback,” Franklin noted. “Changing up the pace…obviously with that type of pass rush you have to keep them with different looks and schemes, keep them on their toes and on their heels with those things to be concerned about as well.”
“You can’t turn the ball over against this type of opponent so many times and think you’re going to succeed.”— James Franklin, on the biggest difference between Ohio State and Penn State
As for the performance of his defense, Franklin refused to blame that side of football for the loss given the difficult situations the takeaways often put them in.
“I thought we played our tails, especially with a bunch of short pitches,” Franklin pointed out. “I think they had the only practice right after we went down and got back into the lead, they had the only long practice they put together where they went up to tempo a couple of times. But for as many short pitches as they had tonight, they played very well.
Of course, Franklin would have been remiss to dismiss the performance of one particular Ohio State receiver who dominated the afternoon.
“The only guy we’ve struggled with is Marvin Harrison (Jr.). He’s obviously a really good player and they’ve gone to him time and time again,” Franklin relented. “But overall we played very well.”
Harrison Jr. finished the day with 10 receptions for 185 yards. Despite failing to find the end zone for just the third time in eight games this season, the Buckeyes standout scored several big wins and first downs to save Ohio State from some series and fragile offensive situations throughout the contest.
Later in the press conference, Franklin was asked about the perceived discrepancy between Ohio and Michigan State’s programs compared to Penn State, to which he replied, “They have good football teams. and we played very well today against Ohio State. I was lucky to win the game, I made too many mistakes in critical moments, which you can’t do against a top team like that.
Regarding the rest of the Nittany Lions schedule, Franklin said, “Losses are tough, it’s our job as coaches and their job as players to bounce back.”
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