Penn State Football Can’t Let Minnesota Loss Carry Over To Performance Against Indiana
Penn State football is no longer an unbeaten team and has fallen out of the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings after an initial start at No. 4.
This loss is far from the end of the Nittany Lions’ season; Penn State still has three games left to play, and James Franklin made it clear that the defeat hasn’t changed his team’s mindset.
“It’s very important that we put [the loss] to bed tomorrow and move on,” Franklin said after Saturday’s game. “There’s been times where we haven’t moved on from losses, and I think part of that is how I’ve handled myself in the locker room.”
The Nittany Lions have struggled to move on from losses, most notably during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. After undefeated starts to the seasons, Penn State lost consecutive games, spectacularly and emotionally, to Ohio State and Michigan State in both seasons.
In 2017, Penn State was ranked No. 2 and held a 38-27 lead over Ohio State with 5:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Franklin’s squad then conceded 12 unanswered points to the Buckeyes and lost the game. Penn State lost to No. 24 Michigan State on a last-second field goal the next week and tumbled all the way to No. 14.
2018 was a similar story. Penn State was ranked No. 9 in the country when it collapsed in a fourth quarter that included the infamous fourth and five play call to Ohio State. What happened next, you might ask? The Nittany Lions fell to an unranked Michigan State team in an ugly offensive performance that closed out with a last-second Felton Davis touchdown that gave the Spartans the lead. Penn State fell nine spots, all the way to No. 18, after the two losses.
The Nittany Lions approach the weekend at No. 9. Indiana sits at No. 24 in the AP Top 25 — the same ranking Michigan State had when it beat Penn State in 2017.
The Hoosiers have earned their ranking, averaging a fifth-best in the Big Ten 34 points per game and a 7-2 record. The Hoosiers also have the best passing offense in the conference. While a majority of those numbers come from quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who suffered a season-ending injury against Northwestern, redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey has settled into his role under center.
Franklin explained that his team needs to use the loss against the Gophers to return to its winning ways.
“When you win, the confidence is used as fuel. When you have setbacks, that adversity can be used as fuel,” Franklin said. “That’s how we are approaching it and are going to move forward. I talked to a bunch of the players as well and I think they feel the same way.”
One of the most important leaders in moving on from the loss will undoubtedly be Sean Clifford. Although the redshirt sophomore finished his day with 340 yards through the air, he also threw three interceptions. The young quarterback notably took the brunt of the blame for the loss when addressing the media.
Franklin remains to have the utmost confidence in his quarterback, as he explained on Tuesday that Clifford “will do everything in his power and more to make sure he doesn’t feel the same way he did Saturday night.”
Clifford certainly wasn’t the only Nittany Lion who made mistakes last Saturday, but Franklin remains to be steadfast in his positive approach to each of his players.
“You [have to] remember that most people and most young people are harder on themselves than you’ll ever be,” Franklin said. “So at the end of the day, we’ve got to build their confidence up and we’ve got to build their fundamentals and skills up so they make those plays, rather than spending so much time on what they didn’t do.”
Teams have and will reach the College Football Playoff with a blemish on their schedules, but two losses make it nearly impossible to do so. Even with a must-win clash against No. 2 Ohio State on the horizon, the outcome of that game won’t matter much if the Nittany Lions can’t beat a solid Hoosiers team at Beaver Stadium Saturday.
But for Franklin, the pressure of Saturday’s test is a welcome challenge.
“We’re 8-1. We’re one of the best teams in the country,” Franklin said. “It probably doesn’t feel that way around here right now, but we have a resilient group of guys and a resilient coaching staff. Saturday can’t come soon enough.”
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