Givens expected back against Pitt
A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Pitt (1-0)
Kickoff: Saturday 8 p.m., Heinz Field
About the Panthers: They beat Albany in opener, 33-7. … New starting QB is sophomore Kenny Pickett, who went 16-of-22 for 154 yards, two TDs and one INT last week. … Panthers went 5-7 last season, and Vegas over/under win total for this year was 5.5. … Pat Narduzzi went 8-5 each of first two seasons as coach, so he’s 22-17 overall.
Last time vs. Penn State: Lions won at home last year, 33-14
Line: Penn State is favored by 8.5; over/under is 57
Givens expected to play: It sounds as if defensive tackle Kevin Givens will play against Pitt after being suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules. Then again, Franklin gave an odd, somewhat vague answer when asked if he expects Givens to be back this week. “Yeah. I hope so,” the coach said. Givens certainly was missed against App State and will be needed to help slow down the Panthers, who rushed for 238 yards vs. Albany.
Concerns from opener: Franklin noted one thing that was obvious from the opener. “We played like an inexperienced football team,” he said. “We had a bunch of guys playing for the first time, guys that did not play as fast or as confident as I know they’re capable of. And then mistakes — not playing the techniques or the fundamentals the way we want them played, or not even the right assignments.”
Areas for growth: Franklin mentioned the following as the major areas of growth needed: “Making sure that our guys are playing full speed from the snap to the whistle, discipline up front and defense in keying the ball, not jumping offs … Offensively, we got to be better in our perimeter blocking. And defensively, we got to be better in our block destruction, especially on the perimeter with D-backs and wide receivers.” One final area he noted was getting on any ball that’s on the ground, whether it’s live or not, just in case.
Holding onto leads: PSU couldn’t protect a 14-point late against App State, and that’s been a problem at times for the program in recent years (Rose Bowl vs. USC two years ago, last year vs. Ohio State). Franklin was asked if the coaches are staying aggressive when they get leads. “We could be more aggressive in those settings,” he said. “It’s interesting because you can make both arguments. People say, well, you should be more aggressive offensively. Well, for us in our offense, that’s throwing the ball. Well, then you got other people that are going to be critical because they’re saying in four-minute offense you should be running the ball more, but that’s not really our style of offense. That’s not how we do things. So I think you have to be careful in how you’re interpreting aggressive.”
The “F” word: Franklin let a dirty word slip — fullback — and then jokingly addressed it. “The challenge is in our old offensive system one of the things that I really liked about that is we ran a system that had an H back or a fullback, however you want to make the argument,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have said fullback because then the message boards and everything will be going crazy. But an H back that could fill that type of role.”
Why are you yelling!: Franklin told a story that sounded like a classic “Seinfeld” episode when Elaine was editing a book and the author kept using too many exclamation points. “I get in trouble from my wife and my staff all the time because I never use periods,” Franklin said. “Every time I text someone it’s an exclamation point, so they think I’m yelling at them. And all I’m saying is this is really important to me. That’s what the exclamation point means. But people have told me that’s not grammatically correct.”