Franklin not apologizing for Week 1 runaway
Lions coach says deep reserves deserve chance to ‘get in and play’
Penn State coach James Franklin said he wasn’t trying to score 79 points against Idaho on Saturday. But he also wanted as much of his roster to be part of the season’s first win.
Sometimes, those two points mark a complicated coexistence.
“You look at the score, and no one, I would say, necessarily likes to see that in college football,” Franklin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “But I will tell you, I also believe very strongly that those guys deserve the ability to get in the game and play. They should be able to go in and play, and that’s what they were able to do.
“And that’s why the locker room and the team reacted the way they did to [Nick Eury].”
Eury, a walk-on running back from LakeLehman High near Wilkes-Barre, scored Penn State’s 10th and final touchdown late in a 79-7 win over Idaho. By that point, both Penn State and Idaho were substituting freely, giving players who rarely see action a shot at the spotlight.
Eury, a redshirt junior with a 4.0 grade-point average, entered the season with one career carry.
During one stretch of a past preseason camp, Eury took most of the carries because of injuries to other backs. The team had to build in water breaks specifically for Eury, Franklin said.
“Literally, we wouldn’t have been able to have camp without Nick Eury,” Franklin said.
As a result, Eury, along with a host of other walk-ons who labor on Penn State’s practice squads, deserved their chances to play, Franklin said.
And their chances to score touchdowns, whatever the schedule says.
“It’s all about the team, it’s all about the university, it’s all about the program, it’s all about their teammates,” Franklin said. “Because the reality is, some of these guys may go four and five years and never see the field and never get that type of positive affirmation.”
The flip side is the schedule.
Penn State has made clear that its nonconference scheduling strategy is to feature one Power Five opponent and two cash games against Group of Five (or lower) teams.
That strategy assures Penn State can host seven home games and prepare for the Big Ten season with winnable games that act as a sort of preseason.
It also can lead to blowouts such as Saturday’s.
Some fans, by contrast, want to see a beefier home schedule.
“Everybody wants to see Penn State versus the Philadelphia Eagles every single week,” Franklin said.
“I get that. But there’s also a reason you see some of these types of games being scheduled and played because you do need some time to work out some of the issues.”
Penn State got that Saturday against Idaho, which received $1.45 million, according to the Idaho Statesman, and seemed to leave with no hard feelings — and perhaps some competitive motivation.
“If you’re a competitor, right now you should be mad,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “And some guys can look in the mirror and know they played their tails off, you know?”
Penn State isn’t changing its scheduling model anytime soon. The Lions will play Buffalo on Saturday, marking the 16th consecutive year with a MidAmerican Conference opponent visiting Beaver Stadium. Penn State also has scheduled future games against FCS programs Villanova (2021 and ’25) and Delaware (2023).
Look for more of the same in those games.
“I know there’s a lot of different discussions about scoring and these types of games and things like that, but it’s my belief that you get the backups in the game and you allow them to play,” Franklin said. “I think they deserve that opportunity.” Nittany Notes: Two suspended players returned to the depth chart this week.
Defensive tackle Damion Barber and cornerback Donovan Johnson are listed as second-team players after being suspended for the Idaho game. Franklin said both violated team rules.
Franklin said the defense had its best season opener, in terms of execution, in his six seasons. He also graded the tackling highly, notable for a first game.
The coach liked what he saw from backup quarterback Will Levis, who completed 11 of 14 attempts and threw two touchdown passes. But he wasn’t thrilled that the 230-pound redshirt freshman took on defenders while running the ball. “He needs to get down,” Franklin said. “He’s trying to show everybody how big and strong he is. I’m like, ‘Get down.’ ”
Penn State stayed at No. 15 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25. It marks the 42nd straight week the Lions are ranked.
Penn State running back Journey Brown scores a touchdown Saturday in the lopsided win over Idaho in State College. The Lions recorded 10 TDs in all.