If you happen to have James Franklin’s cellphone number and congratulated him late Saturday night after Penn State’s massive upset over Ohio State, you probably got the same response as everyone else.
“I basically texted back, ‘Thank you’, or ‘Thanks, brother, I appreciate it,’ ” Franklin said at his Tuesday press conference. “I copied and pasted that to everybody — men, women, coaches, neighbors, cousins, everybody.”
It’s understandable, though; the coach had 348 messages in his inbox.
A few days removed from his Nittany Lions upending the then-undefeated Buckeyes 24-21, Franklin said repeatedly that his focus is on Penn State’s next game, a road matchup at Purdue.
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However, he did relive Saturday night and Sunday a bit.
By time the party in the Penn State locker room wrapped up, Franklin got home at about 2:30 a.m., made sure all 348 people received their response, talked with his wife, Fumi, until 3:30 a.m., and then woke up the next morning and went back to work.
He met with the defensive staff to review film, later hosted recruits at his house for brunch, and then had a crew come over to fix up his basement, which was flooded with all the rain last week.
“It was an interesting week,” Franklin said with a grin. “Never a dull moment.”
That afternoon, Franklin, like the rest of the media and fan base, saw the updated Associated Press’ Top-25 Poll.
After missing out on the Amway Coaches Poll that morning, the Nittany Lions slide in at No. 24 in the AP Poll, the first time Penn State was ranked since 2011.
Franklin said the recognition won’t earn them a single point on Saturday against the Purdue Boilermakers, but he was pleased to see it nonetheless.
“The poll that really matters is the one at the end of the season,” Franklin noted. “But it’s nice to be part of that conversation again ... We’re appreciative of it, the way people view our program and the direction it’s going in.”
Franklin has always talked up Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry, and Tuesday was no different.
This season has been pretty rough on the Nittany Lions’ defense. A total of seven injuries at linebacker, including leaders Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell missing a combined nine games, took a toll on the unit.
Thankfully for Pry, Cabinda and Bell returned to action against Ohio State, alleviating a tad of the stress their defensive coordinator’s been under.
All things considered, though, Franklin said Pry’s attitude never wavered in the face of mounting injuries.
“I’ve been a lot of places where that happens, and there’s a ‘woe is me’ by the coach,” Franklin said. “If you do that, the players take on that identity, and (Pry) hasn’t been like that.”
Pry, the linebackers coach when Franklin arrived at Penn State and now the defensive coordinator after Bob Shoop left for Tennessee in the offseason, is in his sixth season on Franklin’s staff.
The head coach knows Pry like few do, and is proud of his budding coordinator.
“He can be really demanding, but still be positive,” Franklin said. “I’ve known him for a long time...I have a lot of faith and a lot of belief in him.”
As Penn State’s offense trotted out to the field and lined up in victory formation to kill the remaining clock in Saturday’s win over the Buckeyes, some watching the game expressed their confusion on social media.
What did they just see? A team lining up in the shotgun for the victory formation?
The Nittany Lions, under first-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, have done it before this season, but it still boggles the mind to a group of fans.
Franklin addressed any concerns about why his quarterback wouldn’t just line up under-center like the majority of victory formations.
“We never take a snap under-center,” Franklin said. “We don’t do that in our offense, and then to do that in a victory formation or on short-yardage? We just never do it. I’ve never seen Joe (Moorhead) do that since he’s been here.”
Franklin is right — the Nittany Lions, since Moorhead’s arrival, has not snapped the ball from under-center all year.
The Nittany Lions have run 462 offensive plays this season, and every single one has been out of the shotgun.
“It doesn’t make sense in our minds,” Franklin said of an under-center victory formation. “I know you could say, ‘Well, why don’t you practice it?’ But now you’re going to take time practicing something that you’re only going to do less than one percent of the time.”
To Franklin, redshirt sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley is “Steady Eddie” — nothing gets him too high or too low emotionally.
The coach said his first-year starting signal-caller, who has totaled 1,590 passing yards and nine touchdowns to only three interceptions, has grown with each game and each snap.
He’s also valued highly by the guys blocking for him.
“His mom gets snacks for the offensive line each week,” Franklin said. “We’ll have snacks Friday night at the hotel. If we’re on the road, she finds a local establishment like a bakery or something in town. She brings something different for each guy and adds a note.”
It may seem small, but Franklin thinks it’s the little things that have been amplified recently in his program.
“Appreciation is something we talk a lot about in our program. .. .And I see examples of that on our team,” the coach said. “There’s a really good vibe, and I think it’s really important and appropriate.”
“Luckily the police stopped all these students that were grabbing my bald head. I don’t know if they feel like they rub it for good luck or whatever.” — Franklin, on the post-Ohio State upset storming of the field and celebration.