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Tuesdays with James: Franklin on Returning to Maryland, PSU Finding a Rhythm and More

Welcome to Tuesdays with James, our weekly grab bag of topics from Penn State head coach James Franklin’s weekly Tuesday press conference.

WELCOME BACK?

Franklin’s history with the University of Maryland is well documented. 

From 1995 to 1999, the then up-and-coming coach had six different employers, and it was in College Park where Franklin finally found stability. 

He started his tenure with the Terps in 2000 under head coach Ron Vanderlinden. When Ralph Friedgen took over in 2001, Franklin stayed on staff and worked under Friedgen through 2004. 

After stints with the Green Bay Packers and Kansas State, Franklin came back to College Park in 2008 and stayed there through 2010 before moving on to be Vanderbilt’s head coach. 

“It was really my first big-time, full-time job,” Franklin said. “Had a lot of success there… we went on a really good run and had a lot of success, and I learned a lot in a short period of time about coaching, about organizational structure, about really all of it. It was a tremendous experience.”

Saturday’s trip to College Park will be Franklin’s third as the Lions’ head coach (the teams played a Maryland home game in Baltimore in 2015.) Franklin is 2-0 in College Park with Penn State and 5-2 overall against Maryland, losing games in State College in 2014 and 2020.

FINDING A RHYTHM

Through five weeks, Penn State arguably looked as good as anybody in the Big 10, with wins at Wisconsin and at home against Auburn. Then, quarterback Sean Clifford got hurt at Iowa, and Penn State lost its first game. Two weeks later, 3-6 Illinois stunned the Nittany Lions and ruined Penn State’s homecoming. Last week, the Nittany Lions fought hard in Columbus but fell short against Ohio State. 

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster in some ways, right?” Franklin said.

With a road game at Maryland and games against Michigan and Michigan State all in November, Franklin knows his team needs things to be different than they were last month to find a rhythm. 

“There’s a few plays and a few games we’d love to have back,” he said. “That doesn’t happen. So you learn from them. You grow. You be really honest with yourself and your team, and you find a way to get a win this week and build on it from there.”

BUILDING FROM LAST WEEK

It’s hard to say the Nittany Lions weren’t better in Columbus than they were against the Illini a week prior. 

Although the team lost its third straight game, 33-24, Penn State was within a field goal of the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter. Clifford (361 yards) looked closer to his old self at quarterback, and Penn State’s defense held Ohio State to one touchdown in six trips to the red zone. 

“We battled,” Franklin said. “We were more physical up front on both sides of the ball. I thought we made plays in this game, those didn’t happen the week before, and I thought our guys handled adversity and rose to the occasion.”

Penn State will look to again rise to the occasion on the road this week, with a different result. 

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