Coach praises seniors before home finale

coach speak with james franklin

UNIVERSITY PARK — A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.

Opponent: Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten)

Kickoff: Saturday, 4 p.m., Beaver Stadium


About the Cornhuskers: They’re having a disastrous season, and Mike Riley is a lame-duck coach as he almost certainly will be fired at season’s end. Huskers fans are furious at the depths the program has fallen to in Riley’s third season, not the least of which includes the team being a whopping 26-point underdog this week to PSU. … QB Tanner Lee is in the concussion protocol and may not be able to play. If he can’t go, Patrick O’Brien will start. Lee has thrown for 2,539 yards, 18 TDs and 13 INTs this season, while O’Brien is just 18-of-30 for 192 yards and one INT. … Devine Ozigbo leads team in rushing, with just 468 yards. … Defense has been big problem as Huskers allowed 54 points and 409 yards rushing last week at Minnesota, as well as 56 points to Ohio State and 38 to Wisconsin.

Last time vs. Penn State: Huskers won in OT, 23-20, at home in 2013

Line: PSU is favored by 26; over/under is 56

Senior salute: This group of seniors has been through a great deal in their PSU careers, from trying to keep the program afloat to winning a Big Ten title and appearing in the Rose Bowl. They will play the final home game of their careers this week. “These seniors, couldn’t be more proud of those guys,” Franklin said. “Very confident that they’re going to go on and be tremendous fathers and husbands and businessmen and leaders. Really, really proud of those guys. They’ve seen it all here in their Penn State career and have done wonderful things on the football field. I’m very confident the type of men that they’re going to be leaving our university and how they’re prepared for life.”

Life comes at you fast: Franklin had some terrific comments about how you look at things differently at various stages. “It’s like I tell (the players) all the time, they all look back at high school now, and at the time they thought high school was so hard and stressful. Then they get to college and they look back and high school is kind of a joke,” Franklin said. “Then they’re in college, and they’re stressing about college and how hard college is and how hard and tough we are, then they look back at college and they’re like: Please, can I go back to Penn State?”

Again trying to keep things in perspective: Franklin has faced a lot of probing questions in recent weeks after the back-to-back losses and struggles in the running game. He mentioned Tuesday that he doesn’t always see things the way the media sees it with some of the problems. “We’ve lost two games this year by a total of four points,” he said. “So I guess sometimes the way you guys ask questions and the way you guys kind of pose things, I don’t necessarily look at it the same way. We didn’t play as well as we needed to two weeks on offense, defense, and special teams, and lost to two of the better teams in this country on the road by four points.”

Bowen update: Starting LB Manny Bowen was suspended for the Rutgers game for violating team rules and will not play once again this week. Franklin was asked if Bowen will return to the team but only offered up, “Bowen’s not available right now.”

High praise for Bowen’s replacement, Brandon Smith: Franklin went on for about four minutes praising Smith, a young man who came to PSU as a walk-on but who has made an impact on and off the field, is the team’s lone married player and is hoping to get into medical school. The senior had 10 tackles against Rutgers. “I would like to take a moment just to talk about what an unbelievable kid Brandon is,” Franklin said during his opening remarks. “Has a tremendous Penn State story. … He’s just been unbelievable. He’s brought so much leadership. He’s brought so much maturity to our program. He gets up and speaks to the team. I wish fans and media could see how wonderful this guy is when he gets up and talks to our team. Just blessed to have gotten to know Brandon.”

— Compiled by Cory Giger