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Penn State Football: End Of The Day, 2017 Nittany Lions Are Who They Are, And That Is Fine

by on October 31, 2017 4:00 PM

James Franklin was equal parts exasperated and understanding during his Tuesday press conference, his first since Penn State's late loss to Ohio State this past weekend. An 18-point lead turning into a one-point loss.

And it's hard to blame him, the Nittany Lions have without question, improved under his watch in just about every possible area. Yet in the wake of that pivotal defeat, one that may very well keep the Nittany Lions out of the postseason, that progress was hardly the topic of discussion.

Nor should it have been.

Instead the offensive and defensive lines were mentioned 12 times, the value of an explosive offense 16 times, Ohio State eight times, the word "issues" came up seven times.

It puts Franklin in a tough spot. Penn State lost on Saturday because of its long established shortcomings, be it line play, overall team depth or late game management. Equally true, the Nittany Lions put up 38 points against a team it has rarely stood on even ground with. For all the talk of a struggling offense, Penn State manages nearly 40 points a game. A far cry from nearly every Penn State offense in recent and distant memory. Those are facts hard to disregard.

But at the same time Penn State was ranked No.2 in the nation, and while the Nittany Lions' imperfections finally caught up to them, it's not as though this was an upset bid coming up short. Penn State is an elite team, and it opens the Nittany Lions up to hairsplitting, whether they like it or not.

"Overall I'm very pleased," Franklin said. "I couldn't be more proud of the players and the coaches for the progress that we've made, what we're doing. We're going to be very honest with ourselves. I appreciate the media and the fans bringing some of our limitations or some of our challenges to our attention. I get it. We take that feedback and we hear that feedback. We also are aware of it, as well."

So Penn State will continue to look forward. Truthfully the Nittany Lions are who they are and are unlikely to change this year. It's hard to imagine that the running game will drastically improve over the span of the next few weeks or that the team's depth is going to appear in all the right places.

As a result it's easy (and necessary) to critique, but as Franklin left his 40 some minute press conference it was not hard to imagine his frustration. Penn State is one of the best teams in the nation, and lost by a single point to a team it rarely beats, let alone on the road.

In the stages of a #process this isn't a bad one to be in.

"I said this three years ago, four years ago, and people may not like what I'm going to say, but I'm going to stay positive and progress is still being made," Franklin said. "Three years ago when we went there, we lost 38-10. There are no moral victories. As the head football coach, I got to be very honest with myself and I got to be very honest with our players and I got to be very honest with our coaching staff and with myself and ask the tough questions and be critical of the things that need to be critical, starting with me."

"I also need to be aware of the progress that's being made, as well, and be able to tell the players and the coaches what we've done well and what we need to do better. We are making progress. That's a good football team. You have to give Ohio State and Coach Urban Meyer and their program all the credit in the world. But we got to learn to finish. No doubt about it."

In the end, Penn State may not quite be the team fans were hoping it could be, but the alternative is still not half bad.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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