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Penn State Football Must Play ‘Full Game’ Against No. 3 Ohio State

James Franklin believes Penn State will need to play four quarters of perfect football Saturday against No. 3 Ohio State — something it didn’t do against Indiana to begin the season.

While the Nittany Lions started out hot with a score to Pat Freiermuth on their opening drive, their next six first-half possessions included two punts, three turnovers, and a missed 25-yard field goal.

Even after the dismal first half, Penn State managed to put itself in a position to beat the Hoosiers. In fact, the Nittany Lions were a few special teams miscues, an accidental touchdown, and a controversial call away from coming out on top in Bloomington.

There won’t be any room for those mistakes, however, if the Nittany Lions want any chance against one of the best teams in college football Saturday.

“If you look at our history with [Ohio State], we’ve done it a number of ways,” Franklin said during a press conference Tuesday. “We’ve won late with big plays, we’ve had early leads and battled all the way to the last play of the fourth quarter. At the end of the day, it’s not just about a fast start and it’s not about finishing strong. You’re gonna have to play well for four quarters.

“That’s starting, that’s finishing, and that’s everything in between,” Franklin added.

Despite losing the past three contests against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions lost by just one point in 2017 and 2018 and made a valiant comeback effort in a 28-17 loss in Columbus last fall. However, to Franklin’s point, the Nittany Lions didn’t play “all four quarters” in each of those matchups.

In the 2017 39-38 loss, Penn State led by as many as 15 points in the second half. It also held a 12-point lead with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the heartbreaking 2018 White Out loss.

While Franklin’s team had a slow start last season, the Nittany Lions finally turned things on late with a 10-point scoring run in the second half.

The theme remains clear over the last three seasons: Play a full game.

Things won’t get any easier for the Nittany Lions this year. Ohio State returns plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, starting with second-year starting quarterback Justin Fields. The former Penn State commit averaged 233.8 passing yards per game last season along with a Big Ten-leading 268.4 yards of total offense.

Fields started off his 2020 campaign with a bang against Nebraska last weekend, as he put up 276 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, and three total scores.

Franklin knows all too well how tough it will be to stop the player once committed to his program.

“It may not even necessarily be the actual runs, but his ability to extend plays with the dynamic receivers they have,” Franklin said. “It’s hard to stop all the different things that offenses are doing now.

“Obviously it’s gonna be a focus point for us this week and it’s gonna be a challenge. He’s one of the best players in college football,” Franklin said.

The head coach added that when going against an offense as talented as Ohio State’s, it’s as important to consistently score points on offense, limit turnovers, and play efficiently on special teams. That’s something Penn State struggled to do against the Hoosiers this past weekend when it turned the ball over three times and missed on all three of its field goal attempts.

Franklin said he expects his team to learn from those week one mistakes and play a more efficient game against the Buckeyes.

“We played hard. It’s not like we look back at that game and we didn’t play hard,” Franklin said. “We didn’t always play smart. Again with the turnovers, and the penalties, and things like that. I think we’ll play hard again, and then I think we’ll obviously learn from some of the mistakes we made in week one. We’re gonna have to against a really good opponent.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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