Penn State coach James Franklin spoke to reporters for about 45 minutes Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
Here are the highlights of what he discussed:
Just like beating Akron ... or not?
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi appeared to take a subtle jab at Franklin on Monday when he said, “If anybody wants to argue and say this is no different than any other week — it is. That’s a fact. If you want to ignore that, ignore it. But it’s a big game.”
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Franklin came under fire last year for saying beating Pitt was “just like beating Akron.” But the Penn State head coach has consistently said, every week, that he likes to treat each game like any other.
And he was asked Tuesday if maybe his past words were taken out of context, or if he stands by them. This is Franklin’s full response:
“I think it’s still being misinterpreted. Like, I hear people saying, ‘Well, this is a big game and anyone who says this isn’t a big game is kidding themselves.’ This is the biggest game in the world. This is the Super Bowl for us. It’s the most important game on our schedule. Why? Because it’s the game we’re playing this week. Last week was the Super Bowl for us. It was the most important game in the universe. This week is a huge game for us.
“I’ve never denied that, from the very beginning. This is the most important game on our schedule. This is the Super Bowl. It’s the most important game in the universe. I don’t know how much clearer I can be on that. Last week, that was the most important game in the universe. That was the Super Bowl for us. That’s how we approach it.
“So I’m not saying this game isn’t really important. I’m actually saying the opposite. I’m actually saying the opposite, and I still think it’s being misinterpreted. It’s one game at a time. And we focus on the task at hand. I’m never going to say that one game is more important than the other except the game we are playing right now.”
DT Kevin Givens’ status still (sorta) unknown
Givens was suspended for Saturday’s game against Appalachian State due to an unspecified violation of team rules. So will he play against Pitt?
Unsurprisingly, Franklin — who doesn’t like to comment on players’ availability — was somewhat vague.
“Yeah,” Franklin said. “I hope so.”
Givens’ absence was felt against Appalachian State. If he’s not ready to go, Fred Hansard will again replace him in the starting lineup.
CB John Reid not back to himself just yet
Reid, who missed all of last season with a leg injury, was yanked for the final few defensive series in both the fourth quarter and in overtime Saturday. Franklin intimated that the decision was not injury-related, however, but play-related.
Still, Franklin has confidence in the player with the unhealthy obsession with breaking down film.
“He played like a guy who hadn’t played for a year,” Franklin said. “I think there was a little bit of rust on him. I think John’s going to have a huge year for us.”
Lots of room for improvement this week
Franklin said Penn State made corrections and broke down the film Sunday, and a number of players came in on their day off Monday to put in even more time.
The positives in the Appalachian State game, per Franklin: It was a gritty win, the defense played well for three quarters, the comeback was a tremendous opportunity for growth among the younger players, and Jake Pinegar made all six PATs.
The negatives? (Or, as Franklin said, the areas where there is room for growth): Numerous players did not compete at full speed, the discipline up front was lacking (the defense needs to key the ball and not jump offsides), the blocking offensively on the perimeter could have been much better, and both the offense and defense need to cover the ball whenever it hits the ground.
“We played like an inexperienced football team,” Franklin said. “We had a bunch of guys playing for the first time, guys who didn’t play as fast or as confident as they’re capable of.”
Players of the week
Every week, Franklin announces the Penn State players of the week. This week, it’s:
Offense: RB Miles Sanders — 91 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 3 catches, 20 yards
Defense: DE Shareef Miller — 3 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss
Special teams: K Jake Pinegar — 1-for-1 FGs; 6-for-6 PATs