Penn State taking opponents’ best shots, James Franklin says
STATE COLLEGE — Penn State coach James Franklin said following wins over Buffalo and Pitt that both schools had a good gameplan and mostly executed despite suffering defeats.
Following a bye week, it led to this question Tuesday from a reporter to the sixth-year leader of the Lions: Is your team executing its own plan of attack at the same level?
First, some quick background.
After the 17-10 win over Pitt, Franklin said:
“They obviously had a plan, and they did a really good job of executing that plan.”
A week prior, following the 45-13 triumph over Buffalo that included some first-half struggles, Franklin spent part of his opening statement saying this:
“You don’t win as many games as their head coach has won without having really good plans, and I thought that they had a great plan for us in the first half. I think one of the things that we have to improve on is at halftime we were able to make some really good adjustments with a young team. We have got to be able to do that throughout the game.”
Back to this week: Franklin said his team used some of its bye week focusing on areas of concern and places for improvement, but also revealed another thought about how teams are preparing to face the Lions week in and week out.
“We’ve got to the point as a program that we’re getting people’s best versions of themselves,” Franklin said.
“I think people are putting a lot into preparing for us and executing those gameplans. For us, we found a way to win. Obviously, we have got to be more consistent in all three phases. There are areas that we need to get better. There’s no doubt about it, but I am very proud of how we’re playing.”
There is no question Maryland (2-1) will be at its best for the Big Ten opener for both schools Friday night in College Park. FOX Sports One will televise the contest at 8 p.m., and it marks the biggest game of first-year head coach Mike Locksley’s tenure to date.
Penn State is listed as a 6.5-point favorite ahead of the matchup, and the extra time should have allowed the Lions to dial in their third and long defense, deep passing game, and other elements that have been hit or miss through the 3-0 start.
“Great opportunity to go on the road. I think it’s going to be a really good environment,” Franklin said. “It’s going to be a really good game. I know our guys are excited for it, so we’re excited to go play a really good opponent on the road, and a Big Ten game.”
Winning and losing will mostly be determined by whether or not the Lions hit on their keys. That list should include taking advantage of an inconsistent Maryland offensive line while trying to find a way to limit explosive running back Anthony McFarland and ensuring quarterback Josh Jackson can’t turn a quick-strike passing game into a mountain of points.
If Penn State can execute its plan better than the Terps, it should leave on the right side of the scoreboard, which is cliche but true entering conference play.
Matching Maryland’s preparation in the build-up to game day and its energy out of the gate would be a good start.
“I’m proud of how we’re playing really sound, really disciplined football, in terms of how we protect the football, penalties, how we’re playing complementary football, and again, no one unit is dominating statistically, but we’re playing really good team football,” Franklin said.
“We have to take some steps to be more dominate in all three areas, but if we can keep getting marginally better every single day, then we’ll like where we’ll be.”