Franklin addresses Florida State talk
UNIVERSITY PARK — Multiple reports over the past week have linked James Franklin to Florida State’s coaching position.
The Seminoles fired Willie Taggart earlier this season to get a headstart on their search.
Franklin has a home in Florida and has roots in the southeast, having coached at Vanderbilt prior to coming to Penn State in 2014.
His name has also come in connection with Southern Cal, which is coached by Clay Helton, who has been on the hot seat most of the season, but reportedly now may be retained.
Franklin was asked about the speculation after Saturday’s 27-6 win over Rutgers and given an opportunity to put an end to it.
“There is nobody that would want this not to be talked about more than me,” he said. “I’m hoping this is going to be over very quickly. Like I told you, I love Penn State, I love our players. I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s a little bit the nature of college football, but I love Penn State, I love what we’re doing here. I don’t see that changing any time soon. Hopefully all this conversation will be over very shortly.”
Franklin’s remarks seem to indicate — and there’s been internet speculation on this as well — that Penn State is working on a contract extension.
Sandy Barbour, Penn State’s athletic director, was in the media room Saturday as Franklin spoke.
She declined to elaborate much, except to say, with a smile, “What are you talking about?” Then she added, “I think we’re good.”
Freiermuth to return next year
Sophomore Pat Freiermuth announced he will be returning for his junior year.
In a graphic uploaded to Twitter minutes after the game, he cited the “brotherhood and family atmosphere” of the team as a huge influence on his decision.
The culture Franklin has built amongst the team and completing his degree were among other reasons he expressed.
“He’s a huge part of our offense, and he’s a great player, so to have him back next year is awesome,” Will Levis said. “He’s only going to get better.”
Freiermuth finished the regular season with 468 yards and seven touchdowns on 41 catches.
Penn State injury report
Penn State’s 10-2 record seems remarkable considering the injuries it has endured this season.
Quarterback Sean Clifford came onto the field in street clothes for warm ups, giving Will Levis his first career start on offense. The redshirt freshman led his team in rushing for the second week in a row, gaining 108 yards on 17 carries.
“We just felt like rather than him, each week, gradually losing mobility, that this will give us the best chance to get him back to 100 percent for the bowl game,” Franklin said.
The Penn State defensive roster was smaller than usual heading into the game, but kept decreasing as the game went on.
With Yetur Gross-Matos and Tariq Castro-Fields both out, Jayson Oweh and Keaton Ellis both made their first career starts as well.
The game also saw Lamont Wade and John Reid go down with injuries on the same play. Wade made his return in the second half, but Reid did not return.
He came out of the injury tent with his helmet on, but did not see the field the rest of the game. He was replaced by Trent Gordon.
Rutgers hangs in there
Considering the Scarlet Knights were heavy underdogs coming into the contest, they faired decently against Penn State.
The Rutgers offense had 199 passing yards to the Nittany Lions’ 81. It had a good day on the ground as well, with Isaih Pacheco leading the way gaining 102 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Johnny Langan alsohad 58 yards on 18 carries.
“Those guys are warriors,” Rutgers coach Nunzio Campanile said.
“They’re the type of guys you want on your team. They’re the type of guys you can build a program around. They’re just winners.”
While there wasn’t a lot of it this game, the punting was strong from both sides. Blake Gillikin averaged 49 yards on four punts, while Rutgers’ Adam Korsak averaged 45 yards on five attempts.
The Scarlet Knights were only down 7-3 heading into the half, and it took Penn State until the fourth quarter to really put the game away.
Rutgers gave the Nittany Lions a better game than anyone anticipated.
“In a lot of ways, I know the results don’t show it, but they drowned out a lot of noise and just kept playing,” Campanile said.
While the future of Rutgers’ coaching staff is uncertain, there have been talks of former head coach Greg Schiano – who resurrected a bad Rutgers team and brought them six winning seasons in his final seven seasons – taking the job once again.
While the rumors are back-and-forth about his commitment to the program, the latest word is that he is in serious talks with the Scarlet Knights about taking the reins.
Schiano is perhaps one of the only coaches in America that could turn this team around, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks.
Gillikin finishes strong
Blake Gillikin has been one of Penn State’s best and most consistent players during his four years in Happy Valley.
He currently sits in second place on the all-time punting yards list for the Nittany Lions with 10,147 behind 2006 graduate Jeremy Kapinos with 10,396.
Before his arrival, Penn State had one of the worst special-teams units in the country for several seasons. Throughout his career, though, he’s consistently pinned the opposition deep in their zone drive after drive.
“Obviously, I never like to be in a punting situation,” Gillikin said. “I like when our offense scores a lot, so I just try to do my job whenever I’m out there.”
In one of his most impressive punts to date, Gillikin booted a kick from his own 25-yard line that was ceased on the Rutgers three-yard line — a total of 72 yards. His leg has become a vital part of the Penn State defense, giving opponents tough starting field position.
He will finish his career as one of the Penn State greats on special teams, and will most likely be getting looks from the NFL.
One last ride
Before the game, 16 seniors were honored in front of the Beaver Stadium crowd in the final home game of their careers.
The seniors, who clinched a Rose Bowl berth, a Big Ten Championship and secured a Fiesta Bowl victory in their time as Nittany Lions, have been a big part of Penn State’s consistent success. They are the winningest Penn State class since 2009.
They also have garnered 41 wins thus far in their careers, with a chance to make it 42. This will mark the third time in the last four years that Penn State has won 10 games in a season, and it could be the third time it wins 11 should it win the bowl game.
“Winning 10 games on the year — not many college football teams can do that,” Steven Gonzalez said. “For us to win 10 games this season, it was just really special.”