Nittany Lions need someone to start making plays
A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten)
Kickoff: Saturday, noon, Beaver Stadium
About the Badgers: They’ve been a disappointment at 6-3, losing to BYU, Michigan and Northwestern. … Veteran QB Alex Hornibrook is questionable with a head injury. Sophomore Jack Coan will start if Hornibrook can’t go. He’s thrown 43 passes in his career, completing 30 for 258 yards and two TDs. … RB Jonathan Taylor is terrific, leading nation in rushing with 1,363 yards. He’s averaging 151 yards per game, 6.6 yards per carry and has 11 TDs. … Coach Paul Chryst, Pitt’s former coach, is 40-10 in four seasons at Wisconsin.
Last time vs. Penn State: Lions won in 2016 Big Ten title game, 38-31. The series is tied at 9-9.
Line: Penn State is favored by 8; over/under is 54
Stop waiting around to make plays: Franklin brought up an interesting point about the mindset of some players on the team with regards to stepping up big. “Everybody else is waiting for someone to make the play, and then we’re going to rally behind that person,” the coach said. “And what I talked about is every single one of them was brought into this program to make that play, not to wait for everybody else to do it. I think that’s something that’s really, really important is those guys are understanding that they were brought here to make the plays. They are capable of making the plays, and they need to go do them. “
Run, run, run: Wisconsin has long been a program built around its ground attack, and that’s certainly true this season as Taylor leads the country in rushing. Franklin said the Badgers run on 75 percent of normal downs. “They are going to try to establish the run. That’s who they are,” he said. “They are going to run the ball. They are going to run the ball. They are going to run the ball again and then complement it with play-action pass.”
Taylor has unique talents: Franklin was asked to compare Taylor to other backs and said the Badger really stands out on his own. “I would say he’s probably got the best combination of body type, balance, vision, speed,” Franklin said. “We’ve gone against some guys that are going to get you the tough yards — 6 or 4 yards or 8 yards. We’ve gone against some guys that can take it the distance. But it’s hard to find a guy that can do all those things. He has the ability to do all those things, and it’s magnified because of the type of offense he plays in and because of the type of line that he plays behind.”
QB update: Franklin never gives health updates on injured players, and he wouldn’t tip his hand anyway when it comes to whether QB Trace McSorley (right knee) is too banged up to start. Franklin made it seem the QB decisions will remain unchanged regarding backup Tommy Stevens. “We’ll probably continue approaching it the way we have with being able to mix him in in some of the packages that we’ve used him with either two quarterbacks or have him in for a receiver or tight end or a running back,” Franklin said.
Hard to plan ahead with QBs: Franklin was criticized for swapping the hobbled McSorley in and out with Stevens late in Saturday’s 42-7 loss at Michigan. “It’s very easy after the fact when something doesn’t go well to go back and say, should have handled things differently, and we do that,” Franklin said. “We look at those things very well.” It’s difficult, he added, to plan for that sort of thing before a game. “At the time it’s hard to say what we’re going to do this week because there’s 1,000 variables that go into making those decisions — how the game is going, how guys are playing, all of it. Health. There’s a lot of factors that go into it,” the coach said. “To sit here to try and predict that, I don’t think that makes a whole lot of sense.”
Fixing passing game: Franklin mentioned there have been too many drops by receivers this season, but that’s not the only thing plaguing the passing game. “Last week we had protection issues,” the coach said. “So a combination of those two things. We’ve got to be more consistent in the throws we make. We’ve got to be more consistent in catching the ball. When we have an opportunity to make a play, we’ve got to make a play, and we’ve got to be able to give our quarterback as much time as he needs to go through his progression and his reads.”
— Compiled by Cory Giger