Bowl talk bugs Franklin
It’s a question all Penn State fans wanted to know about Saquon Barkley, but coach James Franklin said he doesn’t care for it being asked of a college player.
“I think it’s really inappropriate, in my opinion, from my perspective, to ask a player whether they plan on playing in a bowl game when we’re not even into bowl season yet,” Franklin said Tuesday.
“We’re focused on Maryland this week. I know you guys don’t have to ask questions that I like or agree with. But I think to ask a player about whether they’re going to play in a bowl game when we still have a game yet, we don’t even know what bowl we’re going to, is inappropriate.”
Barkley confirmed after Saturday’s win over Nebraska that he does indeed plan to play in the Nittany Lions’ bowl game. The junior running back is expected to turn pro a year early and is a projected top five NFL draft pick, so his bowl status has been a hot topic as the season has wound down.
Franklin brought up the issue of asking players about bowl games on his own during his opening statements. He later closed his news conference with some further interesting comments about his star running back.
Franklin was asked about Barkley being only about 300 yards away from setting the school’s career rushing record. He responded by saying, “Maryland, Maryland, Maryland” seven times in a row.
Then Franklin brought up something, again on his own, apparently referring to all the attention Barkley got in the Heisman Trophy race, which has now given way to other non-game-related narratives.
“The tone of how the Saquon conversations have been going for the last couple weeks is not the tone I want with our team right now, not the tone I want with Saquon,” the coach said.
“I get that. I don’t control what you write, what you want to talk about. I prefer to keep my team as focused as possible on Maryland, then at the end of the season talk about some bigger picture things and some perspective.”
Franklin made one of the most humorous comments of his PSU tenure Tuesday while discussing when is the right time during a blowout to take out the starters and let backups play. The Lions led Nebraska 56-24 until the Huskers scored 20 points in the final seven minutes against mostly backup defenders, to make the final score 56-44.
Penn State was favored in the game by 27 points, so it was in position to cover that spread until Nebraska’s late surge against backups.
“You leave your ones in, you’re jeopardizing injuries, people say you’re running up the score,” Franklin said. “You put your twos in, people score a lot of points.”
That’s when the coach offered up this doozy:
“You get angry text messages from people who have been drinking and the spread got messed up probably for them.”
Penn State remained No. 10 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night.
That ranking continues to give the Lions a strong chance of being selected for one of the New Year’s Six bowl games. There are still other games and factors in play, though, so the team won’t know where it stands until after the conference championship games.
Cornerback Lamont Wade came in with enormous hype and has been a contributor as a true freshman. He has played in 10 games, making 26 tackles (11 solo) with three pass breakups and one forced fumble.
“His greatest strength is his confidence, his competitive nature,” Franklin said. “He’s also a guy that can run. He’s not the biggest guy, but I think he’ll hit you. He plays big. Had a great spring ball. Really got a lot of reps and matched up with our wide receivers, which for an undersized corner is probably a challenging situation, which he handled it really well.
“I think this year he’s done some really good things. I think there’s some areas that I think he knows that he needs to improve on, and we need to help him improve. But I think he’s got a really bright future because he’s confident, because he’s smart, because he’s tough, because he’s explosive, because he’s fast. He’s just a natural football player.”
Franklin plans to have some players and their families over to his house for Thanksgiving, as well as some other members of the staff and program.
He wants everyone to simply enjoy the day, eat as much as they can, watch football, take a nap and eat some more. Plus one more unusual thing.
“I’m hoping that they’ll come and slobber on my couch and eat turkey and just chill,” Franklin said.
There also will be a lot of pingpong played at the coach’s house. Franklin said the best pingpong players on the team are probably him and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
“My wife is pretty good,” he also added.
LB Manny Bowen will not be available once again this week. He’s missed the past two games after being suspended for undisclosed reasons. … WR and special teams contributor Irv Charles, who was held out of the Nebraska game for undisclosed reasons, will be a game-time decision.