Penn State’s James Franklin on Noah Cain’s Michigan workload, Michigan State’s trick plays
STATE COLLEGE — Spartan Stadium has not been kind to James Franklin during his time at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are 0-2 against Michigan State in East Lansing, losing 55-16 in 2015 and 27-24 two years ago in the infamous weather-delay game (3.5 hours). But this is a different PSU team and the sixth-ranked Lions (7-0, 4-0) are looking to make it through October with an unbeaten record.
Franklin, in his sixth year at Penn State, held his weekly news briefing with the media Tuesday afternoon inside Beaver Stadium. Here are some of the key takeaways …
* The Lions are preparing for some Michigan State trickery. The Spartans rallied to beat PSU 21-17 last season and a Michigan State first-half touchdown drive was greatly aided by a 26-yard run by Connor Heyward with a fake punt and a 36-yard option pass from Heyward to wideout Cam Chambers two plays later. Franklin said his Lions will prepare for fake punts, onside kicks, fake field goals, etc.
“They just always seem to have something in their package,” Franklin said, adding, “we need to spend time on all of those looks this week.”
* Penn State Players of the Week for the Michigan game included some new faces. Wideout KJ Hamler (two touchdowns), the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, was named PSU Offensive Player of the Week along with veteran guard Steven Gonzalez. The defensive winners were outside linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields. The Lions’ coaches picked speedy coverage specialist Dan Chisena as the top special teams player after he logged two tackles vs. the Wolverines.
* Franklin offered up a detailed explanation why talented true freshman back Noah Cain saw limited action (five carries, 19 yards) vs. Michigan. PSU continues to rotate Cain, Devyn Ford, Journey Brown and Ricky Slade into the feature back role. Cain had run for 100-plus yards in the Lions’ two games prior to Michigan.
“Yeah, there’s always things that you (media) guys are missing and that’s no disrespect to you guys,” Franklin said. “But we’re out at practice and in meetings for 16-plus hours a day, and out at practice and watching everything, and you guys get 20 minutes a week to watch practice and just the games. There’s a thousand points that go into decision-making.
Nitt Clips: Watch James Franklin’s Tuesday press conference https://t.co/utUd2TyMDS
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“But we have four backs that we really like and we’ll continue to play those guys. We’re very pleased with know a. Actually, (I) had dinner with Noah (Monday) night. My wife was busting his chops. He’s been great. He’s been really good. We’re as pleased with him as you guys are, and we’re as pleased with him as the fans are, as well, but we also have a lot of confidence in those three other guys, as well.”
* Special teams penalties now have Franklin’s full attention. Penn State had a 100-yard kickoff return by KJ Hamler against Michigan wiped out by a holding penalty.
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“I think the biggest thing we have to do is eliminate the penalties on special teams,” Franklin said. “We’ve had too many penalties on special teams. You know, that — obviously the penalty on Saturday, we had a kickoff return or for a touchdown on a double-team. You don’t need to hold on a double-team. We didn’t have the guy blocked, anyway. Wasn’t going to make the tackle. We’ve just got to be smart because those penalties are impactful.”