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Penn State Football: What To Know From James Franklin's Weekly Press Conference

by on November 01, 2016 3:30 PM

At 6-2 and looking to make it five straight wins, Penn State coach James Franklin spoke to the media on Tuesday for his weekly press conference. The Nittany Lions will face Iowa this weekend, set for a 7:30 p.m. kick at Beaver Stadium. The game marks the second straight night contest at home for Penn State.

Here is what to know from Franklin's interview.

Trace is at about 55 percent right now. What is a good completion percentage in this offense given all the variables that go into a stat like that?

I think we want to get back up into the mid 60s or higher. I think that's something that's important for us. We talked about third downs, something that's going to be important for us in those statistics. That's where a lot of your passing numbers are going to come from because you're going to predominantly throw in third down situations.

Improving our completion percentage would help us. Improving our third down percentage would help our team. There's a lot of factors that go into that. I think there's some throws that Trace wishes he had over. I think obviously our protection, being able to protect long enough to allow people to get open and make plays is part of it. Then drops, we have to reduce some of those as well.

The other thing you have to remember is how many shots we're taking down the field, how many defenses we're playing that are playing in your face, press man on the outside. I mean, last week, if you watched that game, almost every rep, every defender was eight yards or under.

Obviously the farther you throw the ball down the field, the lower percentage it typically is. Again, I think Saquon Barkley does a couple of things. He forces us to see a lot of defenses that have a lot of men in the box, but he also creates possibilities and opportunities for plays down the field because our guys are in one-on-one situations.

I think it's a combination of all those factors, offensive line protection, consistently catching the ball, being as accurate as we can be, then the different styles of defense we're going to see. Saquon Barkley has an impact on that, as well.

When you look at Iowa, when they've gone up against teams with strong rushing attacks, what has been their patterns against teams like yourself?

Iowa is what you would expect when you have a coach and a coaching staff as tenured as theirs. They're not changing. You put the film on this year, last year, according to Coach Limegrover, five years ago, they have tweaked some things in who they've been, but not much. This is who they've been on offense.

They're going to line up and try to run the ball down your throat. Pro style offense. They're going to be aggressive on defense, they're going to be really good up front. They're going to try to do a great job with their front seven. Typically going to play with a two-high safety and do a great job with those things.

They're not changing. I think that will be their model for success for the long-term there. Like I said, they don't turn the ball over on offense. They don't make any mistakes on defense. They've built their program around that. On special teams they've been able to make plays. Desmond King is a big part of that as a punt return guy. They have their model, they're going to stick to it. Probably no reason to change based on the success they've had there.

Is part of that success having a team that is as close as these guys seem to be? Why do you think this team is so close?

I think any successful team is really close. You have to have trust in any successful football team. You have to have love for one another. You have to have belief. Those are three things that you have to have: trust, love and belief in any successful team, organization, corporation for it to be successful. We have that right now.

The other ingredient which I think is key, you have to be willing to sacrifice and work hard. Our guys have done that. They work hard in practice, work hard in off-season. We're playing hard right now, which to me is the best compliment that I think you can get as a coach.

When you talk to high school coaches or people that study the game of football, they say, Your guys play really hard. That's something that's really, really important to me. We're doing that right now.

I think it's not really specific to this year. It's specific to good teams. Good teams are close. Good teams care about each other. Good teams care about the organization or the school that they represent. They believe in each other. They believe in each other, they believe in the coaches, the coaches believe in the players. They believe in the systems.

Right now we got great chemistry. I think I told you guys that in the beginning of the year, that we got really good chemistry in the locker room. We work really hard at that. We're in a good place. This is how it's supposed to be. Now that we have that, we can't ever let it go. We got to work real hard at keeping that.

You were ranked in the top 25 for the first time last week. Football playoff poll comes out today. I know you're focused on Iowa, but all of this positive momentum that the program is getting, more praise around the country, how much does all of that ultimately help to what your end goal is, to build the program back into a nationally prominent team?

I think externally it helps. Internally, I don't think it does. Our focus is on Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa internally. That's all we talk about. We don't talk about those other things. We talk about making sure we have a great environment on Saturday so we have a home-field advantage, making sure our guys are prepared.

I thought on Monday once again our player-driven meetings on their own, coming in, watching film, having questions ready for Tuesday, taking ownership of the team, taking our destiny and our fate. That's where our focus is.

Externally I think it's important because perception is important because perception is that person's reality. As you guys know, the media has an impact on that. So externally it's great, but internally our focus is on Iowa completely, black and gold, Coach Ferentz, their football team, their schemes, and our guys preparing to go out and play well today in practice, control the things that we can control, which is practicing well today, do that again on Wednesday, do that again on Thursday, have a great walk-through on Friday, then be really prepared well to play on Saturday. That is our focus. It's not going to change week in and week out.

On offense, you've been one of the top teams in the country as far as explosive plays. The steady, grind-it-out, move-the-chains offense, maybe it has been or hasn't been what you want it to be. It's not a thing if you score 62 points, but is that a thing going forward? How can you improve on that?

No, I think what you want is you want both. I think we're a good offense right now. Where we have to get better is on third down. If we solve the third down problem, we'll sustain more drives. We'll also do a better job with time of possession, which will help our defense out, as well.

But I don't want to lose the explosive part of our offense, as well. Right now I think we're good on offense. For us to take the next step and become even better on offense is to improve on third down. That will have a huge impact.

We have less third downs than we've had in the past because we're getting so many first downs on first and second downs. The way they do third downs is on percentage. That's where we have to improve. We have to improve on our percentage of third downs that we're able to execute and pick up, would be really helpful for us overall as an entire team.

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