Franklin seeking success in red zone

A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference:

Opponent: Akron

Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium

Records: Both teams are 1-0.


About the Zips: After winning its last three games of 2013 to finish 5-7, Akron blew out Howard, 41-0, in last week’s opener. Returning QB Kyle Pohl enters the game with 3,108 career yards. RB Jawon Chisholm, a Harrisburg native, has 2,804 career rushing yards and 78 receptions. Franklin said DE Nordly Capi “jumps out” on film.

Last time vs. PSU: The teams last met in 2009, with Penn State winning 31-7, and are next scheduled to open the 2017 season at Beaver Stadium. Penn State leads the series, 4-0.

Line: Penn State is a 151/2-point favorite.

Run-game focus: PSU managed just 57 yards on 28 carries against Central Florida, and Franklin quickly emphasized the need for improvement. “Obviously, we need to do a better job of being able to impose our will in the running game and be able to dictate the game from that standpoint. We weren’t able to do that consistently on Saturday. It’s finishing blocks. When you think you’ve blocked long enough, block longer to the echo of the whistle.”

Red-zone report: Franklin traced scoring just two touchdowns, despite five trips to the red zone, as a product of a run game yet to get in gear. “Offensively, we have to score when we get in the red zone, although I thought (Sam) Ficken did a great job for us, and our scoring in the red zone was 100 percent. We were 5-for-5 but only 1-to-4 when it comes to touchdowns.”

Unsoliticed strategy session: Franklin took time to disclose, without being asked, some philosophy concerning hurry-up situations. One, he said he will never call timeout after a play gains a first down because the clock should be stopped and the team should be ready to run a play. (After Christian Hackenberg scrambled for key first down, 10 seconds ran off the clock). Two, he’ll hustle to be sure the clock has been stopped when a player is out of bounds. Before Ficken’s game-winning field goal, there was confusion over whether Geno Lewis was out – Franklin thought he was but the officials kept the clock moving – and Franklin alertly called timeout.

What’s up front: Don’t look for much substitution on the offensive line as the starters went the entire way. Franklin said most college teams only use a first unit since cohesion is paramount. Defensively, even though the front played well, he’s looking for more faces to surface and mentioned Parker Cothren and Tarow Barney getting snaps to keep DTs Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson fresh in the fourth quarter.

Injury report: Franklin reiterated that he doesn’t plan to confirm or discuss injuries. TE Jesse James, who went out with a shoulder injury Saturday, said he’s fine and ready to play this week.

Players of the week: Franklin said the coaching staff will be awarding its own players of the week honors and announced them as Hackenberg (offense), Mike Hull (defense) and Ficken (special teams, which Franklin refers to as “wefense.”) Ficken and WR DaeSean Hamilton won Big Ten honors.

Akron ties: As an assistant at Kansas State (2006-07), Franklin met Akron coach Terry Bowden, who was speaking at the K-State clinic. Jeff Bowden, Terry’s brother, is also on the Zips staff that Franklin called “very veteran.” The Bowdens are sons of Bobby Bowden. Chuck Amato, former NC State head coach and another Bobby Bowden/Florida State product, is Akron’s defensive coordinator.

Open invitation: Franklin said he doesn’t use “bulletin board material” but suggested his assistants might. ESPN’s Lee Corso predicted UCF would “wax” PSU. Franklin’s response? “I’m a huge fan of Lee Corso, and I’m hoping that they (ESPN GameDay) will come to a game this year, and he will put the Nittany Lion head on and run around town and go crazy.”

Top 25 billing: Penn State received consideration votes for the Top 25 this week for the first time since 2011. Franklin: “Again, those things are outside of our control and to be honest would you, outside of our concern. We are focused on Akron and coach Bowden and their players and excited about opening the season at home.”

– Compiled by Neil Rudel