Penn State coach James Franklin understands that with his team’s lack of explosive playmakers, there isn’t much opportunity to get away with mistakes, particularly in tight conference games.
Franklin hopes his team can begin to work its way back into the Top 25 on Saturday when the Nittany Lions host Rutgers in Big Ten action from University Park, Pa.
Penn State (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) dropped out of the rankings this week following four losses in its last five games. Two of those defeats came against top-five foes in Iowa and Ohio State, another came against Illinois in the first nine-overtime game in FBS history, and the most recent setback was a hard-fought loss to Michigan, another top-10 opponent.
“Obviously that margin of error is small,” Franklin said after the 21-17 defeat to the Wolverines. “When you look at our side of the conference, maybe one of the better sides of the conference in college football, you can pick out four to six plays each game and (generally) that’s going to determine your success. We will find a way to make those six plays per game, especially the way we’re playing on defense. You have a chance to get wins against really good teams, and we have not made those six plays a game consistently enough in the season.”
Franklin highlighted dynamic wide receiver Jahan Dotson (80 catches, 993 yards, nine TDs) as the only true game-breaker on the offense. However, even the star senior was limited to 61 receiving yards against Michigan — his second-lowest total of the campaign.
Perhaps the Nittany Lions can get back on track against Rutgers (5-5, 2-5), a team that they have defeated 14 straight times, including all seven meetings since the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten.
Coach Greg Schiano’s team has won two of its last three, including a resounding 38-3 triumph over Indiana last weekend, but he knows that his squad needs to start defeating Penn State if this is going to become a true rivalry.
“I know that we haven’t done enough to become Penn State’s rival,” said Schiano, who was part of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff in the 1990s. “The only way they become our rivals is if we play well enough to make it that way. That takes years, but we haven’t started yet. We’ve got to get it going.”
–Field Level Media