Penn State coach James Franklin met the media after Saturday's 34-27 win against Temple at Beaver Stadium.
See his entire press conference above.
He addresses the Nittany Lions' overall up-and-down play, some backups who came in and did terrific work, special teams highs and lows, and more.
TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED BY PENN STATE
First of all, I want to thank everybody for coming out, it was a great environment. The stripe out two years in a row now, has been a real positive for us, awesome to have that. Also, want to thank all the letterman for coming back. It was pretty cool, I think we had over 200 letterman at the game today, if not more. That’s one of the special things about Penn State, so very, very proud of that. Overall, I thought our defense played well. We have to stop turning the ball over on offense, it puts our defense in a tough spot. But, [overall] I thought our defense played well. It’s great to see so many different guys step up and make plays for us. We had a young man that was with us today, as a guest coach, named Josiah [Viera]. John Reid promised him an interception before the game, so it’s awesome for him to be able to deliver on that promise. It’s pretty special, when you get in a situation when you’re thin at linebacker, and you don’t have Nyeem Wartman-White, and you don’t have Brandon Bell, and you don’t have Jason Cabinda, who are three of the better linebackers in the Big Ten in my opinion. Then you have guys that go in there and step up, [Jake] Cooper, [Manny] Bowen, [Christian] Campbell, those guys [all had] their first starts. I’m so happy for Brandon Smith. Brandon is a guy who from the day he arrived here, all he tries to do is be the best teammate he can possibly be, he keeps getting better and better, and for him to go in and have eight tackles, be really productive, call and communicate with the defense, that was big time, so, really proud of Brandon. The other thing I would say is special teams. Our punter [Blake] Gillikin continues to do a great job for us. That has been big for us, we have to continue to build on that. The fluke play on the rugby-style punt that hit Amani [Oruwariye] in the back of the legs, that was a critical play in the game. One of those freak plays. We worked on that all week long, it was a funny bounce both on Amani [Oruwariye] and John Reid when he went to go recover it. Overall, we found a way to grind it out, and get a win against a good football team, and it’s something to build on going into next week.
Q: James, for a long time you’ve talked about the depth situation on your roster. How much did that come to fruition with guys not starting the game, and other guys having to leave the game?
A: Yes, we have to continue to work on developing depth. We have to continue to do a great job in recruiting, and then we have to do a great job of keeping guys healthy as much as we possibly can. We still have some positions, like linebacker, that we have some challenges there. Obviously whenever you lose three starters, at one point we had seven starters out on defense, if you count [Evan] Schwan, and that group as well, I think that’s seven guys that are limited in their time, but it is what it is. We just have to keep working through, keep grinding, and keep developing those guys. I loved how the defense handled it. It wasn’t one coach, it wasn’t one player that said one thing about it, it was next man up, and they went in there and battled. So, very proud of how they handled that, and it’s something we have to continue to work on.
Q: How much has Brandon [Smith] worked with the [first] team?
A: Not a whole lot. Brandon [Smith] hasn’t gotten a whole lot of work with the first team, I’m not sure if he’s had any work with the first team, to be honest with you. But, he’s a guy that, I think, is what we need to continue to build here, at Penn State, as a university and as a football program. Guys that are going to take advantage of opportunities, guys that are going to prepare for their opportunity when it comes, and take advantage of it. It was great to have him break the team down at the end of our locker-room [talk] and I also told him that he’s going out tonight to celebrate with his teammates, whether his wife likes it or not. If you don’t know Brandon [Smith] is married. I told Brandon [Smith] I wanted him to go out and enjoy himself with his teammates, his wife might be upset with me but he has earned it.
Q: James, you lost [Saquon] Barkley early in the first half with his leg. How concerned were you with that?
A: We have depth at running back, we have four guys that we feel can play at this level and be successful, and that’s a credit to them and their approach. That’s a credit to coach [Charles] Huff coaching those guys. Saquon [Barkley] could have gone back in a little earlier, but those guys were having success while they were in there. Once Saquon [Barkley] got back in there, it was great to see him spring off a big run. We have to do a better job upfront, we have to be more physical and show that every single day in practice. We had a few missed assignments but more than anything, we just have to strain and we have to create space. We will continue to see really good defensive lines, we’re going to continue to see [teams] overload the box with outside linebackers and safeties, and we have a good back, so we have to keep working for him and developing that part of our offense.
Q: What mental decision was it to get Saquon back in the game? Can you describe what you saw on his big run there towards the end of the game?
A: The decision to put him back in the game, was that he was ready. Not a whole lot more than that. He was ready and able to go back in the game, so we got him back in there. He actually could have gone in there a little bit earlier, but like I mentioned other guys were having success. We were able to get him back in, and obviously Saquon [Barkley], has the ability if we create a little bit more space, he has the ability to break tackles, and make people miss, and then he has the ability with his speed to finish runs. Not a whole lot more than that.
Q: You mention that you need to limit the turnovers and not fumble the ball. There’s been I believe three mishandled snaps now by Trace in the last two games. What have you seen that is going on with that exchange and have you talked to him about that?
A: I can remember one from today. That was a good snap that he dropped. The other one was a snap that was off to his right and the other was snapped over his head. We won’t get into that, but we have to do a better job protecting the ball there’s no doubt about it. We can’t have the fumbled snaps, we can’t have the snap off to the right, and we can’t have the snap snapped on the wrong cage over the quarterback’s head. We’re just going to keep working on it and keep emphasizing it. We can’t fumble the ball once we have the ball in our hands. And then the interception we threw if you go back and watch the TV copy, which I know you guys typically do, you’re going to see that there was an option route, you can run a corner or run a post. You know, Trace thought he was going to run a corner, threw the corner, the post was wide open for maybe a touchdown and it was an ugly interception. We got to get those things cleaned up from communication and a body language perspective.
Q: James I know you know little about the injuries, but are there any of the guys that didn’t play today are they ruled out for the year or do you expect some of those guys to come back?
A: I will have a better idea on Tuesday. It would not be appropriate for me to talk right now before the doctors have had the opportunity to visit with me and the opportunity to visit with them. As you can imagine there are a lot of different tests that have to be done. You see guys the next day and think they’re going to be fine and they are not well vice versa so we will see how this thing plays out and we will discuss it on Tuesday.
Q: James can you just take me back to the play where Nyeem got hurt. You guys went a safe there I believe, was the plan? And were you kind of saying something when you were down there it looked like quite a bit of teammates were around him and obviously he is a guy who has been here a lot of years?
A: Yeah, just making sure he was okay and there to support him.
Q: And as you kind of move forward here we’ve talked about the special teams a little bit. How do you think Joey bounced back today with kickoffs replaceable?
A: Yeah, I thought Joey is doing a nice job he had the one out of bounds. To be honest with you I would rather have the one out of bounds than one down the middle of the field when it is supposed to be to the left. 35-yard line is a lot better than putting so much stress on the other ten guys on the field and a possible big return. I am going to have that conversation with him. Overall, he is a talented kid. He needs to be more consistent, but he is a talented guy and I am proud of him. He’s embraced his role. I think it has been a good decision to have Tyler focus on field goals and have Joey focus on kickoffs. Take a little bit of responsibility and pressure off of those guys and allow them to master their craft in one area. That was positive.
Q: Coach can you just talk about Andre Robinson’s performance today and breaking through and getting that first touchdown?
A: Yeah, It’s great. It’s great to see guys like Andre Robinson, Brandon Smith and Cooper and Bowen and Campbell and Torrence Brown and all of these guys that are getting more significant time than they’ve had in the past. Andre is another guy who is a very talented guy. He is probably best friends with Saquon and Mark [Allen]. That room is very, very close. What I thought was really special is not only Andre going in and having success and getting a touchdown, but if you notice the guy who was probably more excited than anyone in the stadium was Saquon Barkley, running down the field, giving him a big hug and celebrating. That’s special. That’s special and we want to continue building on that. He’s a talented player and we want to continue to create opportunities for him not only throughout this year, but throughout his career.
Q: James, with two linebackers already out, why did you decide to put Nyeem on that punt return?
A: That is what we just discussed. Audrey just asked that. It was punt safe. Punt safe is your defense stays on the field and you just put the punt return. That’s what punt safe is, it’s just your defense stays on the field. He is not starting on any special teams, he is not on one, but when you go punt safe that’s your defense, so in case they run a fake or they line up in an offensive formation you have people out there to stop it. We’ll do it week by week whether it is 4th and 3 or less, 4th and 4 or less. I don’t think Temple ever goes punt return team. They go punt safe the whole time. Everyone has different philosophies, but that is fairly common.
Q: James, you talked last week about wanting to start better and through this week you talked about that. First in the tunnel you were shoving some guys playfully before the game. What was your mindset before the game doing that because I don’t think that you usually do that?
A: Yeah, I’m not sure. We want to start faster. I didn’t stay up last night thinking about if I was going to shove them and push them to start fast. It is just kind of what I did. Trying to have some fun with them and trying to loosen them up. I thought we did start out better. We had some turnovers that slowed us down later in the game and put our defense in tough spots but I did think we started better. I think that is something that we want to do if you look statistically its 80 percent or higher nationally if you’re winning in the first half. I think it’s 82 percent or higher in the Big Ten specifically at Penn State it is 82 percent or higher if you are winning in the first half, you typically win the game so that is an emphasis for us. We want to start out strong and then I think one of the better things we do is rush the passer. We need to be more consistent up front stopping the run and being accountable which I thought we were better at today except for a few plays and now we can get a lead and force people to throw the ball a little bit more and that’s something we do a pretty good job of, is pressuring the quarterback.