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Has Franklin lost the team? Coach weighs in on that question

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Sean Clifford and Devyn Ford

Penn State is 0-5 for its worst start ever. The Nittany Lions are making dubious history with their terrible start. They keep losing their best players. An ESPN story from Friday made the football program and James Franklin look really bad.

There was, according to multiple people I’ve talked to, some sort of altercation involving some players on the team last week. Specific details of what happened have been hard to come by, but I’m told something did indeed happen.

There is a reference to a “scuffle” in this postgame question to Keaton Ellis on Saturday. It’s at the 2:00 mark.

Everything has gone wrong for this team so far this season.

With buy in seemingly at an all-time low, it may seem as if a lot of the players have started to tune out James Franklin.

In light of all that, I felt it was appropriate to ask Franklin this question Tuesday: Do you think it’s possible as a coach that you have lost the football team, and do coaches concern themselves with those kinds of things that media and fans talk about with losing a team when things are struggling?

Following is Franklin’s response, and it part makes a good bit of sense:

“I guess what I would say is I just look how we have played late in games, and we’ve played well. We’ve given ourselves a chance to win some games in the second half by how we battled and competed.”

Granted, PSU is winless and has struggled mightily in the first half of games. But if you’re talking about a coach losing a team and the players giving up, you would then see that team go out in the second half of games and get blown out.

As Franklin pointed out, that hasn’t happened.

Penn State roared back at Nebraska two weeks ago and had chances to tie late before losing, 30-23.

The Lions battled back from down 31-7 to pull within 31-21 in the fourth quarter Saturday against Iowa.

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Granted, there’s a lot to complain about with Franklin and the coaches for not having the team ready to play early in those games.

But for the sake of whether or not Franklin has lost the team, yes, the second-half comebacks do indicate that there’s still fight and heart and character in the team and that the players are still trying to buy in to some degree to what Franklin and the coaches are saying.

The second part of Franklin’s answer to my question was a bit curious. He started talking about something that he has mentioned a few times lately, but that didn’t seem all that pertinent to the part about him maybe losing the team.

“I think that’s a little bit of the nature of college football now with programs like Penn State in terms of the playoffs.

“I remember seeing things and hearing things and having conversations with (a communications staffer) about that — you lose a game and there’s a portion of the fan base that feels like you’re out of the playoffs. So it’s a different college football now than it was 10 years ago because of the playoff system.”

I’m not sure what all that has to do with the coach losing the team, but I guess it does make some sense if Franklin is maybe talking about how the players can get caught up in that sense of the season is lost if they lose a game and are out of the playoff picture.

Franklin concluded his answer with these aspects, which to him indicates the players are still buying in and not becoming disinterested in what the coach is saying.

“I look at how we’ve been practicing, I look at us late in games, and obviously there’s disappointment, obviously there’s frustration, but I see how our guys are in the locker room after the game, I see how our guys are at practice, I see how our guys have competed late in games.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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