Penn State coach James Franklin met the media at Beaver Stadium for his weekly press conference Tuesday, and in this one he previewed the Nittany Lions' Saturday night showdown with No. 2 Ohio State.
See what he had to say about injuries to the PSU LB corps, playing in front of a White Out crowd Saturday, the undefeated Buckeyes and even vacationing with Urban Meyer.
COACH FRANKLIN: Videotape a little segment that we do every week down at Nittanyville which I think is awesome. I think we have a record 677 tents down there in Nittanyville which is awesome. Students here are special and we really, really appreciate them.
Obviously coming off the bye week, we've had some time to get guys a little bit extra rest. Guys were able to go home, see their family, rest up physically, rest up emotionally, rest up mentally, catch up with some academic work, as well, so all those things are important. Got some extra work with our young guys in terms of development which is going to be very, very important moving forward. And then obviously got a little bit of a head start on Ohio State. All those things are good.
Looking forward to this opportunity. Should be a great environment. I think it could be one of the better environments come Saturday night, White Out here. Got the No. 2 ranked team in the country coming into our stadium; been very, very successful. Going to be a big challenge, but I know our guys are up for it, talking to them all week about preparing hard and working hard and then playing loose on Saturday. Do everything you possibly can all week long so you can go out and play loose, and you can go out and play confident and have fun and take advantage of one of the, again, better environments in college football that will take place on Saturday.
We're going to need the fans. We're going to need the alumni. We're going to need everybody. This is a tremendous challenge we have that we're facing all together and we're going to need the stadium to be the most difficult environment in the history of college football come Saturday night.
We're looking forward to it. Our guys are excited. Obviously we practiced on Sunday. Had off on Monday like we always do and then get out on the field today. We're hoping that we may get a few guys back. We'll see how that plays out.
But this is a challenge. These guy are as talented at every position as anybody in the country. Their O-line I think is really good. Got a veteran quarterback in J.T. Barrett, who is a huge part of their running game. Real, real big part of their running game. They have got talent and speed at wide receiver.
On the defensive side of the ball, I'm amazed that I'm saying thinks name again, but Bosa as a true freshman is playing and playing really well, as well as their D-Line in general. Talented at linebacker. Talented and long and athletic in the secondary. This is an athletic team and this is a team that's got tremendous depth.
Obviously they played a heck of a game from a fan's perspective last week. Wisconsin played them extremely well and we got a chance to watch that game, as well. Obviously for our offense, there's not a whole lot of value in the tape, because two completely different styles of play, but excited. Excited for Saturday and open up to questions.
Q. How did the bye week affect the overall health of your team?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it helped a little bit. I mean, as you guys know, we've had significant amount of injuries, and specifically at some positions, I think there's a chance we could get Cabinda back this week.
Now we all have to just kind of remember, too: He hasn't played football or practiced in a long time. So to think you're just going to jump back in there after missing that amount of time, is going to be a challenge. Same thing with Brandon Bell. So we'll see and same thing with Cooper. There's a chance we could get those guys back but we'll see. We'll see how it plays out. Like I said, it's not like last week they practiced and this week we're hoping to get them back. They haven't practiced, at all.
So we'll work those guys in and see how -- see if they are ready to go and if they can go, as long as the doctors clear them, but that would be nice. That would be a nice bonus. Obviously the more Koa plays and the more Cam plays, the better; the more experience they get, the more confident that they get. But they are probably the biggest ones.
Blake Gillikin had a little something bothering him, as you guys know, two weeks ago, but it shouldn't be anything moving forward and we expect to have him back full go. As we all know, he's been a weapon for us this year so we need him back full speed.
Yeah, I think you focus on the guys that have been out but I would say just as important as the guys that have played a lot of reps, all camp, all season, and just for them to get a little bit off time off. We practiced last week but we didn't do any banging with the old guys; the young guys, we did some. Just allowing those guys to have a week where we didn't take the week off mentally but we did take the week off a little bit physically from the pounding perspective.
Q. I wanted to just ask you, you talked about it a little last week, the offensive tackle position, Andrew Nelson obviously is hurt. Could you kind of just go through maybe some strength and weaknesses for the guys you mentioned that you're looking at, Chasz Wright and Paris Palmer, who played last year, and also you mentioned the true freshman, Will Fries, I believe, a possible guy that could play. Could you talk about those three and what you liked and maybe what they need to do?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think Mann's playing really well right now so we're pleased with him. He's done a nice job for us, really all season. Like all of us, there's some times where I think he would like to have a do-over but overall, I think he's playing extremely well.
Paris has played a lot of football. Not necessarily this year but has played a lot of football for us. It's not like we're putting a guy in there that has not had experience playing big time football before. So that's a positive.
Chasz Wright is a guy we've been excited about is starting to come on, the lights come on for him. Big, strong guy as you know, 6-7, 345, 340 pounds, whatever he may be, is really starting to get some confidence and understanding of what we do and how we do things and why. And then Will Fries is a guy that we've been excited about since -- really since we signed him and since he's got on campus. He's got a lot of reps with the travel squad and with the varsity. He's ready to go if needed. We'll just see how this week plays out and who is going to give us the best chance come Saturday.
Q. Wisconsin looked to be the team that has had the most success moving the ball against Ohio State so far. What stands out to you about that, what Wisconsin was able to do on offense and can it help you preparing for this week?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I kind of mentioned that earlier. I don't know if it really does. No. 1, Wisconsin is really good on defense. We've seen that all season long from the opening week. They are really, really good on defense. So I think that helps them. It helped them kind of stay in the game and play a style of play that Wisconsin wants to play traditionally year-in and year-out.
But they are traditional pro-style, pound-you offense and then their defense is playing so well that it allows them to play that and not have to drop back and throw the ball and do things like that.
Obviously that's a different style than we're playing right now. So that film for our offense isn't overly valuable. What we do is we try to take formations and situations that are similar and break those down. But you know, when they are in 22 personnel, two backs, two tight ends and one receiver, we don't do that. So none of those plays, none of those plays and none of those formations really translate well for us.
Q. You mentioned before about the atmosphere Saturday night, the White Out and such. What kind of effect have you noticed after the fact that these White Out games have had on recruiting?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know. I think if you talk to our players, a lot of the guys on our team were at Penn State for a White Out, either for an unofficial or for an official visit at some point, whether they were sophomores.
It's interesting, I went back and looked at that Michigan, four-overtime White Out, and somebody had posted pictures of all the guys that were at that game and a bunch of guys that signed with us that are on our team. And you kind of look at them and they look like babies, it's amazing.
I think it has a factor. I don't think there's any doubt about it. But again, the most important thing for us right now is to continue to develop our guys, continue to make sure they are graduating and then go out and play well. That's the most important thing that we can do is continue to play well. The last two weeks, we've taken some really nice steps in the right direction.
This is a very talented team that we've got coming in. But I think a White Out probably exemplifies what makes this place so special. There's not too many places in the country that can fill up 107,000-seat stadium. You look, even our weekly attendance is in the Top-10 in the country. You look at the other teams in our conference and what they are averaging; so it's just interesting when you look at all those things.
So I think the White Out exemplifies what this place is all about. It's about our community coming together, the fans, the community, the professors, our alumni and our players and going into that stadium and having fun together and representing Penn State the right way. It's special. There's no doubt about it. I mean, everybody knows about the academics and all those things, but I think I've said this before. I think Thon and football, when you can get that many people pulling together for one common cause and to do something bigger than just themselves, it really connects and unifies this school and this community like very few places in the country. So it's special.
I think obviously if you talk about from a recruiting perspective, the people have a chance to get a taste of that. And when you see it and when you're around it, it's something that you say, hey, this is something really special that I would like to be a part of.
Q. Can you describe a little bit the impact that Tyler Davis has had on your team in the past two seasons? Certainly not a big personality, flashy guy. Is there anything different about him as a kicker than maybe other kickers you've worked with?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, just I'm really proud of him. You're exactly right. He's not the most vocal guy. He's very mature for his age, which I think is important for that position, you know, because we do have some youth at that position with Gillikin and with Joe Julius.
So to see an older guy that kind of goes about his business, in school, goes about his business, in football, doesn't get too high and doesn't get too low and is very consistent in his approach; I think it's been really important, specifically for the specialists.
I use him as an example a lot with the other guys -- it's a little bit different because the rest of the team doesn't really interact with those guys a whole lot during practice, where the offense and the defense, they interact. But the specialists for the most part, you know, they are in the indoor when we're outside, or vice versa, and they are kind of working on their craft over and over and over again.
I think his demeanor, his approach in meetings and just kind of how he is on game day, I think people look at that and they look up to him and he's got a lot of respect. But it's not like the D-Line is watching him at practice and how he works, because those guys are handling their own business during that time.
Q. The fact that you guys are going to be playing the No. 2 team in the country in front of a sellout crowd and a national TV audience, as a coach, do you get a little concerned about the guys peaking maybe a little too early, or do you feel like your guys can stay on an even keel leading right up to kick off and then let it all go?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's kind of what I talked to you guys about in the past when we've had our lengthy discussions about rivalries or about conference games or non-conference games or big games. We don't change our approach. I think for the exact reason that you're saying right now, is they know this is a big game. We don't need to tell them that and we need to prepare and we need to work hard all week long to give us the best opportunity to go out and play well on Saturday.
Yeah, I think that for exactly the points that you've made, that they don't peak too early in the week or they don't get too emotional high too early in the week or run out of gas on Saturday, all those things, consistency in behavior, consistency in play, that's what we try to do all the time.
So yeah, our approach won't change. They understand how big this game is. They see it all over social media and everything else and walking around town and on campus and from their families and ticket requests and all those things. They get it.
Q. You said that Wisconsin being pro style doesn't give you a lot of good film for your offense. Do you have good film on Ohio State from previous, because I guess spread offenses are fairly common. Do you have from previous weeks, some stuff to go on?
COACH FRANKLIN: Oh, yeah, definitely. This is no different, early in the season. And you may even go back to last year and things like that to make sure you get enough plays by formation that you're looking for. So yeah, there's plenty of games that are good.
And even the Wisconsin game, we still watch and we still study, and those things are great. But you're not pulling formations out and things like that to put into your cut-ups because there's just not enough similarities. Defensively, it's really good and they are playing really well on defense and have been all season long.
So yeah, we've got plenty of stuff to study. We've got plenty of stuff to research. And like I said, it's no different than every week. Every week you kind of have one opponent where maybe they play the wishbone team or they play a spread team or a pro team or whatever style or even on defense, maybe a 3-4 or a 4-3 or whatever it may be that maybe doesn't fit exactly what you do. But that's no different this week than it is any other week.
Q. J.T. Barrett obviously has been an effective player for a long time now but how is he different now than he was the first two years that you've seen him and why have so few defenses to the been able to slow him down?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, it seems like he's been playing there forever, it really has. He's very poised. He's very mature. He's got a lot of weapons around him. He's got a veteran, talented offensive line in front of him.
They are playing one freshman who is playing really well on the offensive line. But he's a guy that can beat you in so many different ways. He can beat with you his experience and he can beat you with his accuracy and decision making and he can beat with you his legs. He's a huge part of their running game, a real, real big part of their running game, week-in and week-out and he's shown he's been able to do that and been a problem for people for the last three years.
Whenever you get a guy like that that's played as much football as he has and expects to win and those types of things, those things are valuable, probably more at that position than any other position on the field.
Q. In the Ohio State/Wisconsin game, the Ohio State defense was probably the most vulnerable --
COACH FRANKLIN: Megan? It was your birthday last week, wasn't it.
Q. It was.
COACH FRANKLIN: How was it?
Q. It was fine. It was good. I don't know, I turned 24, nothing happened. I still can't rent a car but it was good.
COACH FRANKLIN: Go ahead. I'm glad you had a good birthday.
Q. Thanks, Coach. In the Ohio State/Wisconsin game this past weekend, the Ohio State defense looked probably the most vulnerable it had in that first half. Did you guys look at that and what kind of things can you replicate to expose their defense again, and in general, what makes the Ohio State defense so good?
COACH FRANKLIN: You said Wisconsin. Is that what you said?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I kind of referenced that a couple times already that they are a pro-style power -- they are playing a young quarterback and they run the ball. That's who they have been for a long time and continue to be. That's kind of their game plan. So we are not running that style of offense.
I think they are a little bit different than some of the other defenses that we've seen this year. They are very skillful. They are very, very athletic.
But yeah, the Wisconsin game for us offensively, there's some value in it, especially on third down, when they get into more 11-personnel type sets and things like that. But the 22-personnel sets and the 21-personnel sets and things like that are not as valuable for us as maybe some other things.
And we all know, Wisconsin is a good football team, from week one of the season, they kind of made a mark, and playing really, really good on defense, and I think that's probably as impactful as anything, is their defense is playing so well that they keep them low scoring games, which allows them to play their traditional style of offense and continue with that the entire game. Where if the points get out of hand a little bit, and they have to change and become a drop-back 11- or 10-personnel team and throw it around, that's not really who they are.
So their defense and their offense are playing really good complementary football right now.
Q. Kevin Givens was moved to second team. Can you just discuss what happened, the thought process there and what has he done the first six games good and bad?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's done some really good things. We're really, really happy with Kevin and impressed with Kevin. He continues to grow in every area of his life and he needs to continue to do that.
We think Curtis is doing some nice things for us, as well. We kind of look at it as we have three guys there, Curtis and Salt (ph) and Kevin that are all playing, playing really well and playing at a high level.
So we're going to rotate those guys but it's not anything kind of more than that. We just feel like -- we just feel like Curtis is earning the opportunity to step in there and be the starter.
Q. Following up on J.T., he had a hundred yards rushing on you last year and 75 the year before. Are things that he does that you've seen in those two head-to-head games, keeping the ball, things that you've seen that he does specifically well in their running game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, they use him a lot. It's not like, you know, a quarterback where they may have one or two design runs or scrambles for him. They use him a lot. I mean, he's a large percentage of their running game in design quarterback runs or read options like you mentioned, and then you sprinkle in some of the scrambles, as well. So all those things factor in.
But he's got good size. He's got good quickness. He's strong. He's very, very strong and plays that way. You see him breaking arm tackles and wiggling out of things. He's got good change of direction, and like I said, he's been doing it for a number of years.
I think the biggest thing is they go into it each week purposely, purposeful in terms of he is going to be a part of their running game.
Q. You spoke about the challenges of getting guys possibly back like your linebackers --
COACH FRANKLIN: Hi.
Q. Good bye week?
COACH FRANKLIN: It was. Thanks for asking.
Q. When you look at possibly getting those guys back, what are some of the challenges as far as, like you said, there's going to be a lag-off because it's been awhile, but how much do you take into account them being experienced as far as trusting what they say. Obviously it's a medical staff thing but I'm sure the experience would probably help.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, the medical decision has nothing to do with us and really them. The medical people make those decisions.
What it really comes down to is really no different than what we went through in the beginning of the year with some other guys. We're excited to have the possibility of having them back, and you think about their experience, but you also have to say, these guys haven't played. They haven't practiced. They haven't played. They haven't been in games for a number of weeks. And to think that they are just going to be able to jump back in and be the type of players they were when they left, I don't know if that's realistic.
We just need to make sure as coaches, as well as players, that we remember that and that we evaluate the tape all week long, as long as they are going to be able to practice and be evaluated; that we evaluate it and make sure that we are not just throwing them back in there because we are excited that they are back and make sure that they are ready.
And depending on what the medical staff says and how much they are going to be able to practice and how much they are going to be able to do is really going to decide what we even do with them. It may be even a non-factor this week.
Q. So Brandon Smith, the last game against Maryland got Big Ten Player of the Week, he's a unique individual. Can you speak on Brandon and what he brings to the table, just how he stepped up from the role he was before to where he is now?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I didn't talk about that at all. I kind of moved on because I knew you guys probably wouldn't want to talk about it after a week off.
Our Players of the Game on offense was Saquon Barkley, on defense was Brandon Smith, and on special teams was Ayron Monroe, who is really doing some nice things for us right now, and Nick Scott.
So Brandon, we're just really pleased with. He's a great example for all of us, all of our young players, all of our older players, scholarship players, walk-on players, players from all different backgrounds. Brandon is a guy that's persevered, worked hard, waited for opportunities and when opportunities came, he was ready.
I think a lot of times in life, you think you're ready for something, and then the time comes and you don't take advantage of it because instead of preparing the way you should have, you were spending time complaining and talking about that you should be playing more or you should be doing this or you should be doing that.
And Brandon never approached it that way. He just kept working and kept working and kept working, and so when that opportunity came, he truly was ready and was ready to take advantage of it. He didn't waste any energy on anything else. He's doing great in school. He's doing great with his family. He's a great husband. He's going to be an unbelievable father one day. He's going to be a success in everything he does because of his approach, and he is respected throughout our program.
I'm really happy for him. He'll continue, even getting guys back healthy, he'll continue to have a big role for us week-in and week-out because he has shown that he can play, and play at a high level.
Q. How soon does the decision from the medical staff need to be made to give you enough time to evaluate them from a fitness and preparedness standpoint to know if they will give you some reps on Saturday?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it depends. We've talked about this a little bit in the past. I think it depends on experience.
So you've got a guy like Brandon Bell who has played a lot of football here and is a senior. He's probably going to be able to do things with a little bit less reps and a little bit less time than a guy like Cooper who is still a young player.
But at the end of the day, I've been around places where coaches have rules where if you don't practice full go by this day, I don't know if I necessarily agree with that. I think you have to make the decisions that are the right decisions for your program and for the young man. And that's going to be different for a freshman compared to a senior and everything in between.
So we'll just see. We'll just see how it goes all week long. We have a staff meeting every morning at 7:00 A.M. Tim Bream is in there and he goes through the medical report so everybody is on the same page. I can ask questions. The coaches can ask questions. The coaches will tell them what we have planned for doing with guys in practice and if he's okay with that and all those types of things.
So yeah, it's not like a blanket answer I can give you. It's pretty fluid.
Q. Since Connor McGovern took over the right guard position, Chasz Wright got in a couple series in the last few games, if he doesn't make that start, if you make that determination, will there be any rotation at guard or tackle with him, or are you planning on doing that in this game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, again, that same thing. It's too early in the week to decide that. But I will say that our tackle situation is different now. We felt like moving Chasz into guard because he had shown some really good signs; that we felt like we needed a little bit more mass and a little bit more length in there and was doing some nice things.
But yeah, I don't know if with Chasz's experience, if we can kind of bump him back and forth from tackle to guard all week long. I don't think that's fair to him or fair to our team. I think you have to be careful as coaches where you want someone to master one thing before you give him two.
Yeah, I think right now, Chasz will be at tackle for this week, give him an opportunity to compete for that job. Obviously in an emergency, he could move back into guard, but we have some other answers in there, as well, with the Dowreys of the world and the Gaias of the world -- excuse me, the Wendys of the world and guys like that.
There are some other answers. Gonzalez is another guy. This week we'll be primarily offensive tackle.
Q. You've talked about the top five programs, maybe being the separation of those. How much do you think you can bring the Michigan experience to this game in a positive way, or do you think that it can be? And also, do you have much relationship with Urban Meyer? Have you gotten to know him, created any rapport? Just wonder if you can comment on that.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I know Urban. I've known him for a number of years. Obviously head coaches' meetings.
I'm going to say something; you guys are all going to freak out. But I've been on vacation with Urban. And what I mean by that is they do a Nike trip every year and I've been on that with him and his wife. I don't want you to think that me and Urban are going alone on vacation, but we have been on vacation before and spent some social time together. So yeah, know him fairly well.
Yeah, I think experience of games, all different types of games, from the Maryland game to the Michigan game and everything in between, yeah, you're always learning something. You're always learning something. I thought our guys, our focus this week is going to be on preparing really hard and practicing really hard so we can go out and play loose and confident on Saturday.
I don't know if we necessarily did that against Michigan. I think we're in a little bit different position right now, and all these experiences and all of these games, you learn something from. Whether you learn something from a loss or whether you learn something from a win; in life, just like the game of football, all those things are positive if handled the right way. And our guys, I think have really grown up from that.
I think we've got a great opportunity on Saturday. I think all of the games that we've had this season, I think all the games that we had for some of our players last year, as well, all are going to help us prepare for what's going to happen on Saturday.
And again, I would also make the argument, being at home in Beaver Stadium, being a White Out, that there's a big part of that, no different than us going on the road into some of these venues, as well.
We have a home-field advantage. There's no doubt about it, and we're going to need -- I'm going to go to the Quarterback Club on Wednesday like I always do, and I'm going to tell them on Wednesday that I hope the Quarterback Club the following week is cancelled because their voices are all gone and they can't talk, because that's the approach that we need.
We need everybody in the stadium screaming and hollering. It's no different than the election; every vote matters. And it's the same way in the stadium: Every clap, every yell, every scream matters. It makes a difference. All 107,000 people are going to make a difference on Saturday.
Q. With the offensive line, how concerned are you about matching up with them, especially with Nelly being out and moving some guys around and how can Trace factor into opening up that running game and helping those guys out?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think whenever you lose a guy like Nelly, who we think is a very, very good football player and has played at a high level here for a number of years, whenever you take a guy like that away, it has an effect.
Especially on the offensive line where we've been somewhat fortunate to play with the same group of guys all year long, probably for the first time since we've been here. Now you take Nelly out of the equation and you add a new component. Luckily for us, Paris has played a lot of football, so that helps. Luckily for us, we did have a bye week to get a little bit of that chemistry going with those guys, as well.
But yeah, I think it factors. They are very, very athletic. They have got good size. They have got good strength and quickness. They have been very, very productive all year long.
I do think Trace's ability to run changes things. I think it really does. I think it helps your offensive line. I think it also affects the defensive coordinator in things that they are going to call and how they are going to call them and why they are going to call them and when they are going to call them.
Because when you know, if you have a drop-back quarterback who is not a threat to scramble compared to one that is, it affects how you do things. It affects how the D-line coach is going to coach how they rush the quarterback all week long. When you have a pocket-style quarterback, you can be a little bit more reckless and take a little bit more chances in your pass rush than you can with somebody that can pull the ball down and scramble for a first down.
So yeah, we need Trace to continue to be a factor in the run game with scrambles, with design runs, with all those things. That needs to be a part of what we do and who we are from here on out. So yeah, we are excited about it but the offensive line is going to have a real challenge, there's no doubt about it.
Again, I think being at home, one of the best places where you gain an advantage in a home field environment or being on the road in a tough environment is the O-line versus the D-line because typically, your D-Line gains an advantage because in a lot of these types of venues, you have to use a silent count if you're the visiting team and you can't communicate real well.
And when you can affect communication, and you can go to a silent count where it's probably the offense's best weapon against a defensive line is being able to change the cadence up so they can't time up and tee off on you.
So that's something that I think is in our favor from that standpoint. Where if you're playing with an inexperienced line and you've got a new part in there, and you're going on the road and communication is going to be affected, that could be a challenge.
Q. How would you compare Ohio State's offense this year to last year, given the guys they lost?
COACH FRANKLIN: They have really recruited so well that -- and they play a lot of guys. If you look, they are playing true freshmen. Even if they are not getting a lot of reps, they play them. They have been able to kind of keep this thing rolling, even by losing a lot of guys in the NFL. There's an expectation of winning there. They were recruiting at a high level before Urban got there and they are recruiting at a high level now after Urban's been there.
Obviously when you have a returning starter or a quarterback who has been very successful and productive, I think they have leaned on him heavily, especially early in the year, and now their running backs are really playing well, as well, and the offensive line, as well.
But when you have a quarterback that can make some plays for you, it allows that youth around him to grow. Where in other circumstances, or maybe you have a veteran offense and an inexperienced quarterback, kind of like we just talked about at Wisconsin, they are doing the opposite. Instead of leaning on the quarterback, they are leaning on the run game; where Ohio State is leaning on a veteran quarterback and allowing all the other guys to grow around him.
Q. How much do you think the defense has progressed since week one against Kent State when they had a mobile quarterback that got out of the pocket a lot and was able to scramble for big gains, just in practice of containing Trace if he tries to take off because that will be a big factor with Barrett's mobility.
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it goes back to what we talked about all off-season. We lost four defensive linemen, three to the NFL, that are all now on NFL teams. So getting those guys experience, building their confidence as early as we possibly can, I think that's the group that has probably grown as much as anybody is our defensive lineman, I think is playing pretty well right now.
I think that's probably the biggest difference between now and game one is the experience of our defensive line and those guys make something plays and being stout and being aggressive as the season has gone on. And then obviously the possibility of getting some linebackers back helps with that, as well.
Q. The past two years, the 38-10 score doesn't look competitive but that game was competitive into the fourth quarter. You had the ball inside the 15, had the turnover on downs, and the double over time is self-explanatory. So you've played Ohio State competitively despite a lot of reasons why maybe people feel that shouldn't be the case. Why do you think you guys have managed to show up at that next level against Ohio State the past two years?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, and on top of that, I think in 2013, it was 63-14.
Yeah, we have; the first year we played really well. Mike Hull was really an eraser for us in year one on the defensive side of the ball on the defensive line, and we played well.
I thought one of the things I thought we did really well that year was we got the crowd involved early in the game and kept them involved early in the game. I think last year, we were able to do that, at times, but not as consistently as we would like.
I think a lot of it goes back to what we've talked about before is matchups and style of play. There's going to be some teams, depending on kind of where you're at in your program, that are not going to be good matchups and vice versa. You see it every week when you're watching games on Saturdays through Thursday night, a team that you think is going to dominate and they go out and play and they don't play as well and you wonder why, and a lot of it deals with matchups.
We have played well. We have played hard. We have played aggressive and we've handled some of those things. I think the first year is probably the year that probably jumps out to me the most is I think the biggest factor is we made plays on offense and we made plays on defense, that not only kept us in the game, but kept the crowd involved, which I think is very, very important.
Last year, we didn't do that consistently enough and we did some things, we had some big plays last year and got penalties which took points off the board, which you can't do. The margin of error against these types of teams is too small. So you have to play; you have to play well. That's what we plan on doing again on Saturday.
We're one of the more disciplined teams in the country when it comes to penalties and we need to continue to do that. The games that we have not turned the ball over and protected the football and won the turnover battle, we've been successful. We're going to need to do that again on Saturday.
And then the last component is explosive plays. We have to limit them. They are a big-play team. We have to limit their explosiveness and we have to create big plays, which is something that we've done a pretty good job of all year long. We need to continue to build on that.
I think last week, if you look at the Maryland game, we had 15 explosive plays on offense and our defense gave up four. So when you win the turnover battle and you win the explosive play battle, you've got a chance to be successful; and, like I mentioned before, keep the crowd involved, or take the crowd out of the game.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports