Penn State dropped a 20-19 decision to Maryland at Beaver Stradium Saturday, marking the fourth straight loss for the Nittany Lions.
James Franklin’s team is now 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten. This after starting the season 4-0 and 1-0.
What did the first-year coach have to say to the media after the game? Check out his entire press conference in the video above.
TRANSCRIPT COURTESY OF PENN STATE
Opening Statement: Like always, I want to thank everyone for being here. Tough loss for our guys, great win for them, give them credit. Give them credit. Again, we're having an issue right now playing field position games. We're playing field position games and we're having a hard time swinging the field position on special teams. I thought our defense, obviously, overall, has played well all season and played well tonight. Obviously, holding Maryland to 1-of-14 on third down was huge. You have the lead, you want to go into four-minute offense and run the ball, that's been an issue for us all season long and it should up again tonight. Their punter was a weapon for them. They averaged 44 yards per punt; we averaged 36 yards per punt. That added up as the game went on. There's a lot of reasons, there's a lot of issues we have to get resolved. I take full responsibility. Like I told the guys in the locker room, the only way I know to get out of things like this is by working hard. So, we're going to get out there on Sunday and work hard. Tough times don't last, tough people do and we're going to work through this.
Q: James, it looked like Maryland's players didn't shake hands at the beginning of the game. What was your reaction to that? Have you ever seen that before?
A: I guess we all have a choice and option to do whatever they want to do. They decided to start the game that way. That's their prerogative. I've never been apart of that. In 20 years, I've never seen that before.
Q: Was Christian [Hackenberg] having trouble holding onto the ball for a particular reason?
A: One just came out of his hand. The other one, the running back was coming by and knocked the ball out of his hand. I think it was one, for sure. It's hard for me to say it's a problem with it just being one.
Q: With the drive at the end of the game, when you had a two-point lead, was there any thought of passing it instead of doing three straight runs there?
A: Yeah, but if we would've passed it and left time on the clock, you guys would come in asking me the same thing right there. The book says you go four minute, you try to run the ball and take as much time off the clock as you possibly can and you go from there. That's one of those that is a tough situation. Obviously after the fact, when you're not able to run the ball, get a first down and eat the clock up; we needed two first downs in that situation, then, obviously, the right answer would be to throw the ball in that situation, but we were hopeful we would be able to break one and get one out of there. We weren't able to get it done.
Q: When did you realize Donovan Smith would not be available? Can you evaluate Christian's play today?
A: We pretty much knew the likelihood of Donovan playing this week wasn't good. You're always hopeful, but we had a pretty strong indication that he probably wouldn't play. He didn't practice all week. Christian, I think the early turnover, we were moving the ball well and the early turnover, he was expecting the guy to run a go and he ran a post and that's what resulted in that. That was a big play in the game, early on. We were moving the ball and having some success and that swung the momentum a little bit.
Q: Can you talk about how Sam Ficken kicked the ball today and what he's come to mean to this team?
A: He's been playing extremely well. I said that to you guys in the spring. I said that to you in the summer. He's also an example of a guy who's been here; he's a senior, he's done everything right both on and off the field. He's graduated. You're talking about a veteran player, who's seen it and done it and that shows up on the field. That's why we're going to keep working hard to develop the players we have and recruit more so that we can have more senior players, like Ficken, having an impact in the game.
Q: Coach, some of the players in the egg-tossing incident did play today. How do you expect to handle that situation going forward?
A: I'll talk to the administration about it, which I already have a little bit. Obviously, I don't want our guys getting in trouble for anything. We talk about making great choices all the time. I also know that they threw eggs and it needs to be addressed and will be addressed with a lot of different things, starting tonight and throughout the week. It will be addressed with them; it will be addressed with their family. We're not going to do anything to embarrass our university or our program or anything like that. I also know they're kids and they make mistakes. There's a lot of problems going on right now in our society and in college athletics. Throwing eggs is a little farther down the totem pole, in my opinion, but it needs to be addressed and fixed and I guarantee it will be.
Q: Why does the offensive line continue to have trouble? Is it the players or coaches? What's going on?
A: It's a combination of a lot of things. We've been struggling all year long. We have depth issues and now we lose our left tackle. So that magnifies an issue that we already have. I love those guys, they are working hard, and they are getting better. We've moved some guys around. When you have to take your center and to right tackle then you have to take your right tackle to left tackle. I don't want to be repetitive, but I feel like I have to be. It's an issue, it was an issue before and we knew that last week. When you lose your starting left tackle it becomes more of an issue.
Q: Last week Christian Hackenberg had success on third and fourth and short, taking the key players to the outside, was there any thought to go outside on the last fourth down and short?
A: Yeah we didn't get the snap. There was no choice to go sideline right or left and we fumbled the snap on the last play there.
Q: The front seven up against the run game, which was very good today. How are they kind of holding up the defensive unit and how well they have played after being put in some bad spots week after week?
A: Yeah, I think they are playing well and they have handled it well. We are a team and we always will be. We're a family. You win with offense, defense, special teams and you lose with offense, defense and special teams. That's how it is. I thought we did some things that were a little bit better in the punt game today, to help flip the field and help the defense out a little bit. But, you like to get in a situation where you're not punting as much. We made some plays at difficult times, but not consistently enough. I think that's another thing that showed up tonight. We dropped some balls that we normally don't drop. Especially when we needs guys to step up. We had opportunities to make some plays, which we didn't today.
Q: Christian Hackenberg went 5-for-6 on the first drive, moving the ball effectively, and then went 8-for-21 for the rest of the first half. What did Maryland do on defense to frustrate you the rest of the game?
A: We threw an interception the second drive because we had a miscommunication between the receiver and the quarterback and then we had some dropped balls after that. We also got pressured, which he's been getting all season long.
Q: Your freshman with Grant Haley and Marcus Allen, they had a couple lapses. What do you hope these young guys can take down the road from this?
A: I want them to play with passion. I want them to play with emotion, but there still has to be poise there. I think the fact that Marcus is from Maryland and that maybe on that opening play that might have had something to do with it. We will talk about it and we will address it. Grant and the fumble was a big play in the game, but he has also made a bunch of big other plays, His coverage on punts that didn't have much hang time were big. I'm proud of those guys and we're going to focus on correcting those issues and working on our ball security and learning from those situations. They've been playing a lot of football for us and for the most part have been good as true freshman.
Q: It seemed like your guys lost their pose early in the game, maybe as a result as what happened before the game, but did you feel the need to say something at halftime to them because it seemed things quieted down in the second half.
A: Except for that opening play I don't think there was another issue with that. It was an isolated issue after the coin toss and I didn't feel like that was the case.
Q: Throughout this season you see Christian Hackenberg grow frustrated and every now and then go back and forth with John Donovan, what do you have to do to try and stem that and what is the source of that frustration and how do you try and control that?
A: I'm not sure specifically what you're talking about, but what I will tell you is he wants to be successful, and he's extremely competitive. He's getting pressured and hit a lot and you take a guy that had some successes as a true freshman and then this year we're not able to consistently protect him and run the ball. It's a fine line and I think that's a part of what makes him really good.
Q: Akeel Lynch had 21 carries to Bill Belton's eight, was that the plan coming in or was it just that Akeel was the hot guy tonight.
A: We were going to rotate those guys. We felt like Akeel was really downhill with being decisive and that's just how it worked out. It wasn't necessarily that we had a rotation that was equal between them, it just kind of worked out that way.