James Franklin, Penn State Satisfied With Pinstripe Bowl Bid
James Franklin wasn’t able to share the news of Penn State’s acceptance to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl with his team Sunday afternoon. Instead, when he called in to a teleconference with the media that evening, Franklin was in a hotel in Pittsburgh, having completed an in-home visit with a recruit.
Despite his absence, Franklin said he and his team were overwhelmingly optimistic about playing similarly mediocre ACC member Boston College on a transformed baseball field in the Bronx, where late December temperatures hover around freezing.
“It’s excitement,” said Franklin, when asked about emotions following the announcement. With their bowl bid, the Nittany Lions receive 15 extra practices to fine-tune schemes, rest, and prepare for the Eagles.
“We know how important these practices are,” he said. “The amount of work that we’re getting with these young guys has been big. From a program perspective, it’s been invaluable.”
Franklin and his staff now face the challenge of balancing prime recruiting season with bowl preparation. But the first-year coach explained this schedule has been planned months in advance, and said this “change of pace” between time in the office and time on the road is enjoyable. Most practices will be over the weekends, he said, while “coordinator practices” will be during the week when other coaches are recruiting. “I’d say 80 percent of the practices will happen here, then you’ll have some of the practices [at Yankee Stadium],” he added.
Franklin suggested that the December 27 kickoff is opportune as it gives a young Penn State team the time to spread out its allotted practices and recover physically. He noted that if redshirted players were omitted, the Nittany Lions have only 47 scholarship players. Subtract those with injuries, and that number is south of 40.
“We’ve had a lot of wear and tear on our guys this year,” he said. “It’s not just the guys that are out, it’s the [nagging injuries as well].”
Franklin said he’s never been to Yankee Stadium, though a friend has invited him to Jets’ games on multiple occasions. Still, he knows that playing in New York City is prime for several reasons, among them that it’s a strong alumni base, and a fertile recruiting hotspot.
“We’re going to be able to play in a bowl game where we’re going to have a really, really strong presence with our fans and our alumni and our former players,” he said. “Being in a region in the country with strong Penn State ties is awesome.”
Not only is it a unique chance for fans, it’s an unexpected treat for a team that entered the season thinking it wouldn’t be playing in any postseason game. “How cool is this?” Franklin pondered. “You’re an 18- to 22-year old young man, and you get to spend a week in Ireland and a week in New York City in the same year.”
And while he said he hasn’t had the chance to study the Eagles yet, the Boston College program isn’t completely unknown to Franklin. He said he worked with defensive coordinator Don Brown when they were both Maryland staffers, as well as tight end coach Frank Leonard during their time at Kansas State. “They’ve done a great job there,” Franklin said. “They have a history of having a hard-nose blue collar team.”
Franklin said the Eagles’ ground attack, which ranks No. 15 in the country, will be a challenge. Dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy leads a Wildcat offense that has consistently fooled opponents. “We’ve been pretty good all year stopping the run,” Franklin offered. “But we haven’t really faced that before.”
Franklin ended his teleconference by fielding a question about the proposition of the football team wearing pink and black jerseys for Homecoming, much like the basketball team did in games against Bucknell and Virginia Tech. Franklin found the photoshopped images “really cool,” and said that it’s “an interesting idea, especially with breast cancer awareness month” falling in October, the same month as the Homecoming game.
At the same time, he was quick to add that “people feel pretty strongly about the Penn State football uniforms,” and that “we have a great uniform now.”
Image: Katie Fiorillo