James Franklin walked into the Lasch Building and went up the stairs to the football offices.
Early in the morning, the lights were off.
He flipped the switch and saw it all there for the first time: on his administrative assistant’s desk sat the Big Ten East division trophy on one side and the conference title on the other.
In the middle were a dozen roses delivered by the folks of Pasadena.
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“It put a smile on my face, to be honest with you,” Franklin said at Friday’s Rose Bowl media day.
But that was a week or so ago. Those roses have since died and been cleared from the desk.
“The trophies are still there,” Franklin said, “but now we’ve kind of moved on to our preparation and trying to find a way to have success over USC.”
With the No. 5 Nittany Lions set to face No. 9 Southern California in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m. on Jan. 2, Franklin and his team are trying not to rest on their laurels.
People aren’t going to get overconfident and caught up in what’s going on. That’s not going to be an issue.
Trace McSorley, Penn State quarterback
Penn State (11-2, 9-1) went on an unimaginable run, winning nine straight games, the last of which was Dec. 3’s Big Ten Championship matchup with Wisconsin.
Ever since that magical comeback against the Badgers, there’s been a different feeling downtown and on campus. It extended to the Lasch Building, too.
“I think you walk around our building, there’s a buzz and there’s an energy,” Franklin said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Now that it’s been two weeks since confetti fell on the Nittany Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Franklin is attempting to temper that mood. The 44-year-old coach is still maintaining his positive presence, but he and his coaching staff have preached to the players that they can’t get wrapped up in the hysteria.
“The fact that these guys are getting patted on the back and those types of things, there’s confidence that comes with that,” Franklin said, “but we have to be careful that they’re not overconfident and that we don’t lose who we are. We’re going to stick to our plan. We’re going to stick to our process.”
The Nittany Lions have embraced that message.
Penn State cornerback Grant Haley has already learned how to move on from a memorable moment. The junior scooped-and-scored Marcus Allen’s blocked field goal to defeat No. 2 Ohio State on Oct. 22, helping propel the Nittany Lions to this point.
After that game, Haley took some time to bask in it all, but he learned then and there that being satisfied with what happened the previous Saturday won’t help him against his next opponent.
Similarly, the hoopla surrounding Penn State’s Big Ten title victory isn’t going to help the Nittany Lions defeat the Trojans.
“As players you have to block it out,” Haley said. “Whenever good or bad things happen, you hear it, but you can’t let it affect you too much. There’s going to be a next game.”
Penn State’s offensive stars, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley, agreed.
Barkley said going back to when he was a kid, his parents always told him to live in the moment; there are going to be people saying things during the highs and the lows.
McSorley admitted that fans and fellow students have noticed him more and more since the Big Ten Championship game, which he’s not letting get to his head.
McSorley, Franklin and the Nittany Lions are focused on USC — and earning a Rose Bowl win.
“Our mindset will stay the same,” the quarterback said. “People aren’t going to get overconfident and caught up in what’s going on. That’s not going to be an issue.”