Franklin not apol­o­giz­ing for Week 1 run­away

Lions coach says deep re­serves de­serve chance to ‘get in and play’

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Mark Wogenrich

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.

BARRY REEGER/AP

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.

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