Franklin makes right call with Barkley’s high-stepping move

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) runs in for a touchdown as Iowa's Bo Bower (41) chases after him during the second half last week vs. Iowa.

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) runs in for a touchdown as Iowa's Bo Bower (41) chases after him during the second half last week vs. Iowa.

James Franklin has made his share of good coaching moves this season, but one stood out last week.

At the end of his 44-yard touchdown reception on a wheel route up the right sideline that extended Penn State’s lead to 34-7 over Iowa, Saquon Barkley decided to high-step the last few yards into the end zone.

Franklin responded by spending a few moments with him on the sideline, doling out an encouraging piece of admonishment.

He felt the line of good sportsmanship had been crossed.

Franklin wants his players to have fun — “because it is a game,” he said — but he also saw the opportunity to provide a teaching moment.

“It’s like anything else,” he said. “You’ve just got to be careful that you don’t go too far with it. We don’t want to do anything that we’re not showing good sportsmanship.”

The fact that Franklin was able to make a point with his team’s best player only enhanced the message.

Though he contended, “I didn’t dance,” Barkley got the point.

“That wasn’t really smart on my part,” he said. “I don’t even know why I did that. I’ve got to be smarter.”

There is no doubt the new-age Nittany Lions, including Franklin, take more liberties in celebrating moments, touchdowns and first downs, more than ever before.

“I want them to have fun, and I want them to enjoy it with one another,” Franklin said. “They work extremely hard. There’s nothing wrong when you sack the quarterback, you stand up and you show emotion. That’s awesome. You worked hard for that, and you celebrate with your teammates. You score a touchdown, you make a big catch, those things are great about the game of football.

“And our guys for the most part do a really good job of that. Saquon obviously got excited and needs to finish that run into the end zone and hand the ball to the official, which is what he typically does. But there’s times obviously that our guys get excited, and so do the coaches on the sideline.”

Franklin also understands today’s athletes want to be able to express themselves. LaVar Arrington said as much all the way back in 1999.

Then again, too much self-expression could be costly, especially when a team isn’t up 34-7.

“The other thing that they need to be aware of is technically, that play could have been called where they throw a flag at the 2-yard line,” Franklin said. “You don’t score, the ball is moved back 15 yards, and that’s a dramatic swing of emotion and field position.”

Nitpicking …

• If you’re looking for a common thread in the Lions’ five-game winning streak, check out their average yards per passing attempt, one of the true indicators to measure aerial success. Trace McSorley’s  is 9.28 over the last five games. The Lions’ season record is 10.15, set by Kerry Collins in 1994. McSorley has also averaged a staggering 20 yards per completion in the last three weeks.

• I’m not a recruiting guru, but I did notice that Miles Sanders, who was involved with hosting fellow Pittsburgh native and coveted recruit Lamont Wade, got a season-high five carries, plus his kickoff returning duties last week. It was a smart move to make Sanders feel good as well. Plus he’s deserving and brings a speedy dimension.

• Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens rushed five times for 70 yards against Iowa, including a 13-yard touchdown. With the Indiana native having collected more than 125 tickets from teammates, don’t be  stunned if he sees some touches today as well.

• It will be curious how the Big Ten’s decision to play Friday night games, beginning next year, evolves. Credit the league for allowing its member schools to have input on their preferences — Penn State cares not to have a Friday home game, unless it’s after Thanksgiving — but should schools have the sway to outright reject any appearances, home or away? That’s Michigan’s stance so far, which is not fair.

• Does anybody really believe that Nick Saban didn’t know Tuesday was election day, as he claimed? If true, it’s an embarrassing admission from someone charged with educating young men.

Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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