Franklin Takes Responsibility in His First Loss
It’s an inevitable first, but one inevitably hard to swallow.
James Franklin suffered his first loss as Penn State’s head football coach Saturday afternoon, a 29-6 thumping by Northwestern.
Franklin took the blame for nearly all of his team’s shortcomings, and vowed to fix them.
“We will get this fixed. I promise you and guarantee you that,” he said. “I take full responsibility.”
Throughout his postgame press conference, which was noticeably shorter than those following victories, Franklin remained confident and collected, his voice never trailing, his answers never indirect. Still, his voice reflected disappointment, and at times mild anger. He looked tired, a towel draped over his sweaty shoulder.
“We’re too one-dimensional right now,” he said, a reference to his Nittany Lions’ inability to run the ball.
Christian Hackenberg threw 45 passes and was sacked on four occasions. Penn State ran the ball only 25 times; ten of those were scrambles in which Hackenberg was forced from the pocket.
“He’s taking too many hits,” said Franklin. “We have to get that resolved.”
Franklin said he needed to watch tape before further addressing the play of his offensive line, which he labeled an area of concern before the season started. Despite its inexperience, the line had performed admirably in the first four games. Saturday, it was finally cracked.
“I love those kids,” he said with vigor. “Those kids care about this team and Christian Hackenberg and playing better than anybody.”
Franklin is an emotional coach. During games, especially last-minute wins against Central Florida and Rutgers, he could be seen jumping in celebration, embracing his players.
Today, Franklin was markedly subdued on the sidelines. There wasn’t much to celebrate.
The special teams unit was inconsistent, he said. The tacklers weren’t wrapping up, the punt team should have flipped the field, and the run game wasn’t sufficiently aggressive.
For each error he highlighted, Franklin took fault for it.
“We’ve come back and rallied late in games,” he said. “You can only do that so many times.”
Franklin said he initially planned to outline the bye week schedule with his players immediately after the game, as practice begins once again on Sunday. But Franklin wasn’t ready to move on quite yet.
“I wanted to talk about how much I cared about them, and that we need to get these things fixed,” he said.