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September 17, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State football TribLive Radio podcast: UMass week

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In this week’s abbreviated “Nittany Nation” episode on Trib Live Radio, we talk with Jeff Rice of Lions247.com.

 

Jeff has covered Penn State football for 13 seasons, so safe to say he knows what he’s talking about and can bring a unique perspective.

 

We discuss the Penn State defense’s strong start to the season, new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s role in that, the remarkable three games the PSU defensive line has turned in – and the seeming star turn that Lions junior Anthony Zettel has made in moving from defensive end to tackle. Jeff also gives some insight on the wringer the Penn State program has been through and emerged from over the past three years.

 

 

Listen here:

 

 

Download the podcast here:

http://filesource.abacast.com/tribtotal/917PSU14.mp3

 

 

 

Look for stories on Zettel, Penn State’s run defense and the Whipple family’s ties to Pittsburgh and Penn State in the coming days in the Trib.

 

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

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September 16, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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‘We-fense’ worries for Penn State?

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During Tuesday’s weekly news conference, Penn State coach James Franklin termed the special teams “not really a positive or a negative” and added, “We must start providing more value.”

 

Indeed, for all the talk of “Nektons” and “great white sharks” and “Prefontaine pace” and Eight or nine yards is not our goal… We want touchdowns (and) blocked kicks… so far, Penn State’s special teams haven’t delivered.

 

The special teams (or “we-fense,” as Franklin likes to call them) have been a mostly average bunch (at best) so far. Among the 14 teams in the Big Ten, here is where the Nittany Lions stand through three weeks:

 

  • 13th in punt returns (3.5 yards average)
  • 10th in punting (33.2 average net yardage)
  • 12th in kickoff coverage (38.5 yard average)
  • 4th in kickoff returns (24.2 yard average)

 

Franklin was asked in what ways he was looking the special te — er, we-fense – to provide more value. Here was his answer:

 

“I think when you’re talking about punting and the kickoff, it’s the consistency. I think (punter Chris) Gulla has done a nice job for us so far with his kick location and eliminating the returner.  We talked about that before the season started. We don’t believe in kicking the ball down the middle of the field, so now the returner has got 53 yards to work with. We want to pin them to a sideline and I think we have done a good job of that. But I still think we can be a little more consistent with our hang time, with our location, with our distance, and also just the rhythm and the timing of how quickly we are getting those things off.

Kickoff, same thing. We almost had a kick there at the end of the game that cost us. (Freshman) Christian Campbell, who played his first game, had a huge play because he made a tackle in the open field against a dangerous returner, which could have been dramatic.  So our kickoff and our kickoff location is important. 

In the return game, just being able to give our offense better field position, giving them some momentum with a big return; whether it’s a return for a touchdown or whether it’s just a chunk of field position. That’s what we’d like to do.

So I think we’ve done some nice things, I really do. There’s still a lot of areas for improvement.”

 

 

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September 11, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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“We’re not going to let it bring down the program the way it is intended to” — Nittany Nation podcast 9/10/14

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Had quite a packed weekly show on Trib Live Radio Wednesday morning. We had three guests – Penn State beat writer Ben Jones of StateCollege.com, Rutgers beat writer Ryan Dunleavy of the Asbury Park Press and MyCentralJersey.com and former Penn State offensive tackle  and West Mifflin native Adam Gress.

 

 

Highlights from Dunleavy – as a native New Jerseyan and a Rutgers alum who has covered the Scarlet Knights for about 10 seasons now – include perspective on just how big a game this is for the Rutgers program and community:

 

  • “For the Rutgers fan, it’s their Super Bowl. For the Rutgers player, this is certainly more than just one game.”
  • “Interest is at an all-time high in Rutgers football.”
  • “I’d love to see this become a rivalry… but we all know, Rutgers has to win a game for this to become a rivalry.”
  • Relating the story of a player who, responding to NJ native Bill Belton’s comments that suggest that he believes Rutgers is not “big time”, said, “I’m so glad we get to play Penn State. What an opportunity to play big-time football.”

 

 

Jones, whose work covering Penn State predates the Jerry Sandusky scandal, offered some perspectives about what emerging from the sanctions means, and also what Saturday’s game might mean for Penn State:

 

  • “To go into Rutgers’ stadium and beat them…especially coming out of the sanctions in the first game is def big for the program, not only on the recruiting front but on the getting-things-started-on-the-right-foot getting out of the sanctions.”
  • “I don’t think anyone, myself included, expected (the sanctions-saddled seasons) to go this well… They came away with victories that would have been big wins during any season – and to be able to do that in the circumstances they were in, I don’t think anyone could have expected to go as well as it has.”

 

 

To me, the most fascinating part of the show was Gress, who was about to begin preseason camp for his redshirt junior season when the NCAA dropped its hammer in the form of historic sanctions. Gress told the story of the Penn State players watching television, en masse in the Lasch Building, when the NCAA sanctions were announced. And he gave his point of view of not only why he stayed but why the vast majority of his teammates stayed at Penn State.

 

  • “At first, right after they announced the sanctions, everyone just kind of stood there, not sure what to say. We all just kind of looked around the room, and you could some guys… everyone was starting to think, ‘Oh man, is this it? Are we screwed?’
  • But it wasn’t long after that, I remember I was sitting in my locker stall and (Michael) Mauti came walking up, and he was like, ‘Hey, Gress, let’s go,’ and I was like, ‘What are we—‘ and he was like, ‘Let’s go, come on. We’re all going.’ So I just kinda got up and rolled with those guys. And that was when we went out and we made the (public commitment) video. And everybody there that day decided, ‘We’re not going to let what happened tear us apart. We’re not going to let it bring down  the program the way it is intended to”
  • “When that (NCAA sanctions announcement) did happen, it was a punch to the gut. And we had training camp coming up very shortly, and I almost feel like it was released at that time intentionally to kind of throw us all of. But at the end of the day, I think instead of knocking us down, it make is all stronger.”
  • (On his time at Penn State) “At the time we were so caught with everything that was going on and the emotions of it all that you didn’t really think of it –you just kind of rolled with the punches. But now that I’ve looked back, it really is incredible what we went through, and it’s more incredible how we fought back and how we came together as a team and how we stuck together and just persevered and we went out and… didn’t miss a beat because of the sanctions.”

 

 

 

To download the file, click here:

http://files.triblive.com/podcasts/sportstalk/910PSU14.mp3

 

 

For the full show, listen here:

 

 

Enjoy the show. And your week.

 

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September 9, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Reaction from the Penn State community on the day the sanctions were rolled back

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In the hours after the NCAA’s announcement it was, essentially, wiping out its remaining penalties affecting the current and future Penn State football teams, I talked to several people connected to the program. I also, like everyone else associated with the university, saw social-media from ex- and current players and media reports citing others. Here is a compilation of what people said about the Nittany Lions being immediately postseason eligible and getting the final five scholarships back for next year:

 

 

 

 

“Obviously, it’s a great day for Penn State. We’re all just thrilled. I’m just really happy for the kids — going to a bowl is a reward for their hard work all season.

“It’s got to be a great feeling for coach Franklin to be at full scholarship strength next year. With the way he’s been recruiting he’s just got to to be overwhelmed. That had to come as a complete surprise.

“It very much so (bothers him the wins from 1998-2011 remain vacated). Hopefully they’ll be addressing that next. It’s not just Joe (Paterno) who this is about; it’s about all those kids that played there that never won a game.

–Shane Conlan, college football Hall of Famer and member of PSU’s 1986 national title team, by phone

 

 

“All the guys who stayed and some of the guys who committed to Penn State when it wasn’t looking bright for the program, for them to go to any bowl game at all, that’s big. And that’s a good reward for them.”

–Steelers WR Derek Moye from Rochester HS, who played at Penn State 2008-11, so every game he won has been vacated. I asked Moye in our phone interview if restoring those wins would mean anything.

“That would be all good, I guess, for coach Paterno’s legacy and everything, but I would really care less about it because we played in those games. We know who we beat and know who we lost to. I still have my Big Ten championship ring and still have all the memories. They can take away statistical things but they won’t be able to take away of that away from us as players.”

 

 

 

“Today’s announcement should come as no surprise to Penn Staters. Penn State has always been the model for Athletics Integrity. We don’t need to pay George Mitchell to tell us that. However, I have mixed emotions about the announcement. On the one hand, I am happy for our student-athletes who were unjustly penalized by the heavy-handedness of the NCAA. On the other hand, I am saddened by the fact that the NCAA has returned only a portion of the penalties they had no legal authority to impose in the first place.”

–Anthony Lubrano, outspoken, alumni-elected board of trustees member, in a phone interview

 

 

 

“Long time coming! Now we need Paterno’s wins restored. He did exactly what NCAA protocol calls for.”

–text from Tom Hull, linebacker for Penn State 1971-73 and father of current PSU LB Mike Hull

 

 

 

“Overall, I’d have to say simply, ‘It’s about time.’ Everybody knows very well who is responsible for the terrible things that happened years back, and they have been punished accordingly. From the beginning, there was no reason to punish hard-working athletes that had nothing to do with it.”

–text from West Mifflin native Adam Gress, Penn State offensive tackle 2010-13 who spent training camp with the New York Giants

 

 

 

“I’m so stoked about it! Such a great day for PSU. We get to recruit more players. And we get to go to bowls.”

–text from Steven Gonzalez, a four-star offensive lineman from New Jersey who made a verbal commitment to Penn State and plans on signing a national letter of intent in February

 

 

 

“Senator Mitchell’s report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution. This is welcome news for the University community, particularly for our current and future student-athletes.

“Our student-athletes and our entire student-body are to be commended for their resiliency and spirit during a challenging time. We also are grateful for the dedication and commitment to success on and off the field of our football student-athletes, and the leadership of Coach James Franklin and Coach Bill O’Brien before him.”

–Penn State President Eric Barron, in a statement released by the university

 

 

 

“This report is a welcome acknowledgement of the University’s efforts. Such a massive undertaking has made Penn State a national model in an array of university functions – including compliance, safety and security. I commend President Barron and his predecessor, Rodney Erickson, for their tremendous leadership throughout this process. The Board of Trustees is committed to the continued monitoring and improvement of university policies, procedures and actions.”

–Board of Trustees Chair Keith Masser, in a statement released by the university

 

 

 

“I am very happy for Coach Franklin, the coaches and staff and most importantly, our outstanding football student-athletes. I am gratified for the student-athletes who have remained resilient, committed and dedicated to Penn State during the past three years. We will continue to work hard and strive for integrity and academic and athletic excellence every day and to provide our student-athletes with the best experience possible.”

–Athletic director Sandy Barbour, in a statement released by the university

 

 

“I think that’s great news for Penn State. It’s a fantastic place. Great education. Great football program. Lot of great people.

“Penn State is a special place. I’m happy for the players and for the coaching staff that’s there now.”

 –Former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, at a press conference for the Houston Texans, whom he now coaches

 

 

 

“Following our briefing with Senator Mitchell, the (Big Ten’s council of presidents) reached consensus agreement to support his latest recommendation and also agreed to restore the school’s eligibility for the Big Ten Football Championship Game, which ran concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban.  “We support the NCAA announcement acting on that recommendation, thank Senator Mitchell for his dedicated service and appreciate Penn State’s ongoing commitment to improvement.”

–Big Ten COPC Chair and Iowa President Sally Mason.

 

 

 

 

Now, some tweets…

 

–Former standout linebacker

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore LB Nyeem Wartman

 

 

 

 

–Graduate assistant coach

 

 

 

 

–Freshman defensive lineman

 

 

 

 

–Junior wide receiver

 

 

 

 

–Freshman tight end

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore running back from Blackhawk

 

 

 

 

–Freshman linebacker

 

 

 

 

–Sophomore guard

 

 

 

 

–Fifth-year senior guard from Fox Chapel

–Freshman tight end Mike Gesicki

 

 

 

 

September 7, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: More thoughts on Penn State through 2 weeks

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STATE COLLEGE – (I use that dateline on my blog because, well, it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want… and I have a pet peeve about “University Park” because it’s the campus address and I don’t think a campus should have its own address…)

 

Now that that’s out of the way, I present a random collection of leftover thoughts on Saturday’s 21-3 Penn State win against Akron:

 

–Listen, the Zips are a MAC team – and Big Ten teams are supposed to beat MAC teams. That said, they don’t always do so (witness Northwestern and Purdue’s losses Saturday). And there is a BIG difference between the top of the MAC and the bottom of the MAC. Akron is one of the conference’s better teams. It has an experienced roster. If the Nittany Lions are only up by four late against UMass in two weeks, that’s bad. This year’s Akron team, not so much.

 

Bottom line on being 2-0: Yes, it’s not like PSU played Oregon or Virginia Tech or Notre Dame or LSU like some of its conference rivals did over these first two weeks. But the Lions did play two teams that are capable of beating them. In one of the games (against a team coming off a 12-1 season), they trailed with 3 seconds left. In the other, they clung to a four-point lead until late in the third quarter. Yet, they won both. Give them some props. They’d only been 2-0 once over the prior five years.

 

–Coach James Franklin made it a point of saying, during the opening statement of his postgame remarks, that “We have to play more guys.” But who? Ten defensive linemen already are playing. Franklin indicated last week that he doesn’t like rotating in any offensive linemen. Outside of special teams (sorry, “WEFENSE”), that leaves the following areas for backups to contribute: Linebacker, the secondary and wide receiver. That means, in order, Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder, Da’Quan Davis (who barely played on defense vs. Akron) and Marcus Allen, Saeed Blacknall and Matt Zanellato. Of the players I mentioned, all but Davis and Zanellato are true freshmen.

 

–Cornerback Jordan Lucas is one of my favorites to talk to, so I was sad I missed him Saturday (I had other priorities of who to interview in what is a crowded and frenzied postgame media room). I was even more sad when I learned of two tremendous quotes. Both I learned of via colleague Travis Johnson of the Centre Daily Times.

One dealt with a family resemblance within the house of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

The other? Well, I ain’t got the words to begin to describe.

 

–The common preseason narrative was that the young Penn State offensive line that includes a couple of converted defensive linemen in Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey (although only Gaia starts) would be better at run blocking (pushing forward) than pass blocking (holding back those who are pushing forward). Instead, the exact opposite has happened: QB Christian Hackenberg had loads of time to throw most of the time vs. Akron and was only sacked once. The run game, though, was almost nonexistent until the game’s late stages.

 

–Penn State fans have to be encouraged by this: So far, with a mostly-poor running game and with their quarterback not playing his best games, the Lions still manage to rank fourth in the Big Ten in total offense.

 

–I absolutely despise the lazy tendency fans and reporters have for saying, “Looking at the schedule, Team X could be (insert number here)-and-oh heading into its big game against Such-and-Such.”

That said, I’ll do it anyway: If Penn State can somehow get past Rutgers, they could be 5-0 heading into a big game at The Big House on Oct. 11. Massachusetts is 2-24 since joining the FBS in 2012; Northwestern has lost nine of its past 10 games. They’re PSU’s opponents Sept. 20 and Sept. 27.

 

–I’ll emphasize, however, that I believe very strongly that Rutgers can (and very well might) beat Penn State this coming Saturday. Night game. Big Ten debut. “Rivalry. Game.” This is by no means whatsoever anything close to a pushover game. Quite frankly, PSU isn’t good enough to feel that way about anyone.

 

Enjoy the week.

It is “Rutgers Week” after all…

 

 

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September 3, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Newest episode of Nittany Nation show on TribLive Radio available

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This morning was Episode 5 of the Penn State show I host every Wednesday morning – 52 weeks a year – at 9 a.m. Despite the presence of yours truly, I’ll humbly say this week’s was a pretty good show – thanks only, of course, to guests Donnie Collins and George Thomas.

 

Collins has covered Penn State football for more than a decade for the Times Leader in Scranton; Thomas is a veteran journalist at the Akron Beacon Journal who is responsible for covering the Akron Zips.

 

Akron, of course, is the opponent for James Franklin’s Beaver Stadium debut as Penn State’s coach. The Zips were picked to finish second in the MAC East and are far from a pushover. They feature a veteran quarterback, the highest percentage of pass-catchers returning from last season, a dynamic running back and a strong corps of linebackers. Thomas expounds on all this – and more – much better than I ever could.

 

With Collins, we discuss what to make of the Nittany Lions’ 26-24 victory against UCF in Dublin last week. (I wear by new Dublin Gaelic Games “kit” for the show, as a tribute. Go Dubs!).

 

Anyway, how big of a win was it? Was Christian Hackenberg’s game really as good as some are saying? How impressive was the before-unknown wide receivers group? Did the offensive line show it can be an adequate unit this season? Is there reason for concern that if Justin Holman would have started at QB for UCF that PSU would have lost? Can the Lions be ranked in the top 25 soon? And how much of a threat is Akron to Penn State this week? All are eloquently expounded upon on by Collins and myself.

 

Listen here:

 

 

Podcast download:

http://files.triblive.com/podcasts/sportstalk/903PSU14.mp3

 

 

Enjoy.

 

 

Thank you for listening. And for reading. And for being so nice to me on Twitter.

 

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September 2, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Franklin goes out of his way to explain PSU’s late-game clock management

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Unsolicited, coach James Franklin ended his remarks at Penn State’s weekly news conference with a tutorial of almost 500 words explaining his staff’s philosophy on late-game clock and timeout management.

 

I’ll put a full transcript below. But in summation, Franklin had four primary points:

 

(x) He will never call a timeout after a first down because during the final two minutes, the clock stops until the chains are set (the remainder of the game it is only until the ball is set). “So, you have plenty of time to get a play called,” Franklin said.

(x) He believes officials usually will “give… the benefit of the doubt” for players getting out of bounds to stop the clock late in games.

(x) He will ensure he is on the sidelines next to the official in such situations – in case he rules the player stayed inbounds (allowing the clock to roll) so he can then call a timeout.

(x) He will, if at all possible, save a timeout in his pocket in case a field goal that is not kicked on fourth down is blocked or botched in some other way. “So we still have a chance to… kick a field goal… to win the game.”

 

All logical, intelligent and seemingly-savvy policies. They make sense. Few would have too many logical qualms, if at all.

 

But it’s so much the content of the discussion but the “why now?” Franklin’s voluntary tangent suggested he’d heard criticism about late-game clock management Saturday.

 

Penn State did not use a timeout until there was 17 seconds left. After one ensuing play, another timeout was not called until three seconds remained. Sam Ficken hit a 36-yard field goal as time expired.

 

~~

 

My take:

 

As wonderfully skilled in PR as Franklin seems to be, this was a blunder. He took something that was a non-story – and made it a story.

 

Only a guess here, but Franklin making a point to address this Tuesday, to me, shows he was burned by those who were saying he bungled the timeout situation, and he was itching to fire back. (He also, in my guess, was eager to point out that the official who did not stop the clock when Geno Lewis went out of bounds on the game’s penultimate play was in the wrong).

 

After this quasi-rant (although he hardly came off as “angry,” per se), looking back at Franklin’s postgame remarks Saturday take on a whole new meaning.  To wit-

 

When asked about the final 10 seconds: “I’m not going to get into some of the things that went on during the game, but I thought the guy was out of bounds. If he did wind the clock, he wound it late.”

 

Later, in that same answer: “There’s no doubt, there were some issues throughout the game, and that was one of them.”

 

In referring to PSU’s lack of working headsets early in the game, while UCF’s were left on: “I wouldn’t know if I would necessarily describe it as a surprise, but it was interesting.”

 

 

Again, although they momentarily raised my eyebrows while sitting in Croke Park Stadium postgame, in the end, there were too many positive things to talk about than to get into them that day.

 

The bottom line is the Nittany Lions won the game. So the lack of first-quarter communication or proper clock-stopping or ball-spotting skills by officials all were rendered moot. Lord can only imagine how big of a story all would have been had Ficken’s field goal been kicked only about a yard to the right. Similarly, I fret to wonder how big of a deal Franklin himself might have made of each of the perceived transgressions had he lost his PSU debut.

 

I still go back to no-harm, no-foul. Yes, I’m sure a vocal fringe of the Twittersphere or the Internet was blasting Franklin for what they say were late-game gaffes. Lunatics online will call you names and say mean things. Trust me, I know. It happens. But it wasn’t out in the mainstream, at least from what I could tell.

 

Now, it is. This very blog post is living proof. Now, all eyes, for better or worse, fair or not, are going to be on Franklin’s clock management. One honest mistake, it’ll exponentially blow up.

 

If I had to guess, Franklin came into Tuesday’s presser armed with that answer to a question nobody bothered to ask. And the fact no reporter – over 30 minutes and two dozen questions – cared to inquire to Franklin about late-game timeout usage on Tuesday says it wasn’t on the top of anyone’s mind.

 

Now, it will be.

 

~~

 

(Full transcript of Franklin’s unsolicited remarks after taking questions from the Beaver Stadium media room Tuesday):

 

I do have a couple things that I’d like to address more about philosophy and also some rules that really are not specific to this game, but I just want to make sure that you guys kind of understand kind of where I’m coming from with some things.
Talking about understanding two‑minute and handling two‑minute situations and things like that, we will never use the time out for first downs because when you get a first down during two minutes, the clock will pause, and the clock will pause not till just the ball is set, but the clock will pause until the chains are set.
So you have plenty of time in our system to get a play called without losing any time off the clock.  So that’s how we will do things from here on out.
The other thing is, the way the rules are written and the way our philosophy is, we’re going to try to catch the ball and when we catch the ball outside the numbers, we are going to get as much yardage as we possibly can and get out of bounds.
The difficult thing that happens sometimes is you have to decide, is the player going to get out of bounds, and the clock will stop and stay stopped; or, will they mark on the field forward progress and forward progress will stop.
In two‑minute situations, they will typically give the receiver the benefit of the doubt and if he’s trying to get out of bounds, they will allow the clock to be stopped.
So what I will typically do, I will run down the sideline and I will stand there and if the official goes like this like this, that means the clock is stopped and that the receiver had gotten out of bounds.  If not and they wind the clock, I’m going to be right there to call the time out.
The other thing is we will typically safe a time‑out for a couple reasons.  We’re going to typically try to center the ball and then be able to call a time‑out, and then on top of that, we will safe a time‑out that we may go into the locker room with or that we may go into the end of the game with at half‑time; or, because if you’re going to kick a field goal on any other down but fourth down, we are going to save a time‑out because if they happen to block the field goal and we recover it, we have a chance to call time out and now still be able to kick a field goal with maybe one second to go in the game.
Just so you guys kind of understand our philosophy and our believes and also understanding of the rules, we think those things are really, really important.  So I did want to cover those guys with you, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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August 26, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Adamski: Those who sleep well on planes will enjoy the luck o’ the Irish for PSU

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Penn State’s overnight sojourn to Dublin – a bus ride to Harrisburg and flight to Ireland – began Tuesday evening. Like most of the rest of the trip’s itinerary, it’ll be all business.

 

“Get as much sleep on the plane as you can,” running back Bill Belton said. “That’s basically it.”

 

Led by edict from coach James Franklin, Nittany Lions players have repeatedly referred to their four days in Ireland as “a business trip.” Although the team will take a group bus tour of Dublin and have a team dinner at the Guinness Storehouse, players know what will make the rare European excursion most memorable is by beating Central Florida at Croke Park Stadium 1:30 p.m. (Irish Standard Time).

 

Of course, the trip begins in earnest with the charter flight – some seven hours over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

“It’s a little challenging for bigger guys of our stature,” the 6-foot-3, 309-pound center Angelo Mangiro said. “(But) there is a benefit to doing it at night.”

 

PSU’s plan was to depart after an early-evening practice Wednesday. That, theoretically, would lead to tired bodies – all the better to fall asleep early, which is desired because of the five-hour time difference. The team is arriving early in the morning IST – which will feel like the middle of the night in Pennsylvania for the players. They’ll be quickly put to work upon arrival, the goal being to fall asleep at the proper time Wednesday for a “normal” Irish day.

 

“I’m definitely planning on trying to get as much asleep as I can on the plane,” Mangiro said.

 

Franklin estimated that 80 percent of his players were making their first overseas trip. It’s doubtful none have done so as recently Mangiro, who spent a week in Italy with his girlfriend in May.

 

Although everyone figures to be eager to touch down in Ireland, one player might be more relieved than most.

 

“Deion Barnes doesn’t like flying,” Belton said. “He just was complaining about how long the flight is.”

 

Belton added that Barnes “will be all right.” I only hope I can say the same.

 

Me? I’m far from a 300-punder… but at 6-5, I’m not looking forward to my quasi-overnight flight being squeezed into a window seat.

 

Then again, I’m going to Ireland – the homeland of (one quarter of) my ancestors. I won’t complain.

 

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August 26, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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More on James Franklin getting so many to buy in to his vision

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Monday’s Trib features a story on James Franklin and his strengths at relating to people and persuading them to buy in to his vision.

 

The modern realities of the news holes in print mean, often, some interesting things are left out. But that’s why God invented blogs, no? Here are some unused quotes vis-à-vis Franklin and his people-want-to-get-on-board-with-him personality…

 

 

 

 

I asked Franklin about why he feels the need to put pressure on himself and the program with bold calls to sell out “every single game” and #107kStrong hashtags and the like:

 

“I think that’s more than that nowadays it’s more than just winning football games, it’s the whole package. And for us to continue to win, there’s a revenue aspect to this as well. We’ve got to generate revenue, we’ve got to win football games, most importantly we’ve got to graduate our players and make sure they have a great experience here. But I’m a football coach that, I feel like you better have an understanding and you better have a grasp of the complete picture. I don’t see it as… I just see it as part of the job. We’ve got to graduate our players, we’ve got to win football games, we’ve got to sell the stadium out. Selling the stadium out is good for a number of reasons – great for recruiting… we bring in recruits and it’s one of the best atmospheres in the country. It’s going to help us continue to build the program because we’re bringing in revenue and as you know, we have some challenges and issues right now that we’re going to have to overcome and that’s all part of it.”

 

 

 

Tim Corbin, the baseball coach at Vanderbilt who led the Commodores to the College World Series title in June, developed a close friendship with Franklin while he was at Vandy. Corbin had plenty to say about how Franklin reinvigorated not only a woebegone football program but an entire athletic department and university community:

 

“(Franklin) was tapping into every resource he sees as necessary in order to move forward. He was continually thinking –his mind never stops. And he was just a person that asked a lot of questions about the recruiting part of it here at Vanderbilt, the kids, how everything was set up.”

 

“There’s nothing he’s saying that he won’t stand by. He is THAT guy. He is 100 percent committed to the developing every ounce of ability that that program has. I can’t speak to Penn State; I’m on onlooker when it comes to (Joe) Patreno and (Bill) O’Brien, but what I think he has – now, Joe was obviously there a long period of time – but what this guy has is attitude, presence, and an energy level that is very, very high. And you just can get him down – he just undeniably comes back all the time. He’s that fighter who is going to be with you. You think you’ve got him down and the next thing you know he’s back up again throwing punches and that’s why his kids are so resilient is because he’s so damn resilient.”

 

 

 

Longtime East Stroudsburg coach Dennis Douds – Franklin’s coach when he played quarterback in college – told me what everyone already knows. Franklin is a people person, and that shows in recruiting:

 

“He’s able to not only get players interested in Penn State, to come there and play, but the kids that are there now to play and get the whole Penn State Nation excited about supporting that program.”

 

 

 

I talked to sports marketing guru Joe Favorito, a professor at Columbia University. He said he has followed Franklin’s career closely.  I asked him how much a head coach is or can be identified as the “brand” of a team, athletic program or university:

 

“There’s plenty of examples, absolutely: Cal (John Cailpari at Kentucky basketball), Pitino (Rick Pitino at Louisville basketball). I think people go to see then, especially now in a day and age where student athletes are so transient and can be there one year and gone another. The best you have as a face of a program – and Penn State obviously had this for many years – is an imposing figure as coach. James Franklin aspires to be that. Obviously, there’s a lot of factors that go into that. You want someone to communicate and send out your message, and everyone knows this is his program, he’s the CEO.

 

“I honestly think in the world we live in that you have to be of a certain mindset thinking about what makes your program or your business successful.

 

 

 

I asked senior co-captain Miles Dieffenbach if players are compelled to join in with Franklin in promoting the program:

 

“As a senior, we have a lot to do around the community with community service and interacting with the community, and it’s definitely something you love going out into that sold-out stadium, so working with that coaching staff and the media trying to get fans in and incorporate the team and fans together and really make them part of the team – which they are, our fan base is truly unbelievable. And we want to get that stadium sold out, so I think it’s definitely something we can help with as well.”

 

 

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August 24, 2014
by Chris Adamski


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Penn State in 2014: For entertainment purposes only

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On Friday, I posted my predictions for Penn State’s 2014 season. But what about the “experts?”

 

I reached out to one, Vegas oddsmaker Steve Merril of ProSportsInfo.com. He provided some game-by-game info for the Nittany Lions, as well as predicted season win total and even a division title line.

 

Some of what I took from all of it: First, PSU is favored in six games, underdogs in six. That said, the Lions are bigger favorites than they are ‘dogs, on average, meaning that a 7 ½ over/under win total makes mathematical sense.

 

I was surprised that Maryland, if the game was played today, would be a favorite at Beaver Stadium. This is especially surprising considering Penn State would be “only” an 8-point underdog at home to both Ohio State and Michigan State – top-10 teams. Being a five-point underdog to Indiana is also, in the Blue & White Nation, akin to sacrilege. Then again, there’s precedent.

 

On the more positive side, I thought maybe Akron would be less of an underdog in Week 2. Also, Western PA Penn State fans can hold bragging rights – in a theoretical Vegas world – against their Pitt and West Virginia fan counterparts. Just for fun, I asked Steve who would be favored if the Lions played the Panthers or Mountaineers.

 

PSU fans can take heart in one last thing: According to Merril, James Franklin has a .641 winning percentage against the spread in his coaching career. With every Big Ten game – plus the UCF opener next week – a spread of fewer than 10 points, expect a lot of close games this season. And if Franklin’s team is covering the spread in them, that COULD mean lots of on-field wins.

 

Enjoy, for entertainment purposes only, of course…

 

Season Wins: 7.5 Over/Under

 

To Win Big Ten East division:  5/1

 

Game Lines (the number listed in each game is the projected Penn State line as either a favorite (-) or underdog (+) in that game:

 

UCF (@Ireland) +1

Akron -18

@Rutgers -6

UMass -31

Northwestern -3.5

@Michigan +9

Ohio State +8

Maryland +2

@Indiana +5

Temple -16.5

@Illinois -5

Michigan State +8

 

 

If They Played (projected line) (Penn State favored in both on neutral field):

Pittsburgh -3

West Virginia -3.5

 

(Note: I followed up with Merril about Pitt-vs.-WVU. He said a Backyard Brawl renewal would “maybe” give Pitt a one-point edge on a neutral field, if not a Pick ‘Em).

 

 
James Franklin (ATS= Against the Spread (pointspread) / SU = Straight-up)

 

Overall: 25-14 ATS

 

Off a Loss: 9-5 ATS (10-4 SU)

 

At Home: 14-5 ATS (9-3 ATS home favorite) (5-2 ATS home dog)

 

Away: 9-7 ATS (3-3 ATS away favorite) (6-4 ATS away dog)

 

 

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