(Note: A database crash erased from servers blog entries that were posted over a period of time last week. I typically type out my posts in a Word file and copy-and-paste them over, so I have the copies from the missing posts. Simply for the record and archival purposes, I am re-posting two lost blog posts here on 1/1/15. The original publish date for this content was 12/26/14. Slight editing might be missing from the original finished product.)
A SEVENTH-FLOOR HOTEL ROOM IN QUEENS – Fifteen hours into my day since awakening in my palatial Carnegie estate and heading off to New York City for coverage of Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl, here are some notes…
—-Penn State coach James Franklin often talks about “family” in regards to the program. He’s repeatedly discussed how he’ll miss the unity of the current team (rightly mentioning how it will never be together as one again after this weekend), even though he’s only had one season as part of it.
During a news conference Friday at Yankee Stadium, Franklin was asked if he felt as if he and his staff have been able to aptly assimilate into that family atmosphere he so speaks of. Franklin said, “I hope we have,” and then went into a longer answer:
“Penn State a place where we had the same coach for 100 years, and we have tremendous respect for our history and our past – but I can’t be anybody but James Franklin.
“I think I’m probably very different in a lot of ways than the last two coaches who sat in this role. I hope we already have shown respect of the past… If it hasn’t happened already, I hope it’ll happen over time that we’re building and earning everybody’s trust and respect. This is a very, very important position at Penn State and its history, and you’ve got coaches and a coaching staff here that understands that and are just as proud to be here and part of the (university) community as anyone else… It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. And every single day we wake up trying our best.”
—-Franklin relayed an anecdote from a practice earlier this month. According to Franklin, fifth-year senior guard Miles Dieffenbach told him that when he was a true freshman (in 2010, when he arrived at University Park as a four-star recruit) he was “on the fifth team” and often would “watch” practice and not get any reps.
This season, the Nittany Lions opened the season with three true freshmen on the second team – out of necessity. Franklin called the lack of competition (via the lack of depth, a result of NCAA sanctions) his “biggest challenge” in returning the program to its former lofty status.
The offensive line is where depth concerns have stung PSU the most this season. That perhaps won’t be more apparent than it will be against Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles’ five starters on their offensive line are all seniors who have already graduated. They combine for 129 career starts – the Lions opened the season with just one player who’d had any career starts.
The (sort of) good news? With Dieffenbach back from injury late in the season, Penn State’s five starters on the line had almost a full month to practice together to gain continuity for the first time this year.
—-Yes, these news conferences are glorified publicity machines-slash-pep rallies. The opposing coach is sitting an arm’s length away; do you really think one of the coaches is going to say anything remotely negative about the other team?
Under that context, take this for what it’s worth. Still, I took what Boston College coach Steve Addazio said about the Penn State defense as genuine. Asked about the unit, Addazio reminded that the Lions rank first nationally in rushing defense and second in total defense (it also is second in pass efficiency defense and seventh in scoring defense.
“You have the stats, and you watch the film,” Addazio said, suggesting that sometimes the former and latter do not match up.
“In this case, the film backs up the stats
—-Perhaps (for far different reasons; sanctions vs. a general mediocre malaise) Penn State will treat next season’s bowl experience (if there is one) the way Boston College is treating its this season. The Eagles are in their second consecutive bowl after sitting out the previous two seasons. The NCAA kept the Nittany Lions from participating in the postseason in 2012 and ’13.
“Last year, the goal was to get to a bowl,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “That’s certainly not the goal this year. We did that (last year), but now we’re here to win these. They’re launching pads for the program.”
—I’ll leave you with Franklin’s thoughts on the meaning of Saturday’s game:
“The emotion for us isn’t necessarily about the bowl; it’s about our family being together. The 2014 football team will never be together again after this game. We’ve talked about that all week long. To me, that’s what special about bowl games is being able to keep the family together for a few more weeks.
All the members of the teams will get bowl rings, but there’s something special about being able to put ‘bowl champions’ on that ring. They’re going to look down and see that ring for the rest of their lives.
For us, there’s probably a little bit more significance in terms of sending these seniors out that have been through so much in their careers and sending them out on a real positive note and laying the foundation for the expectation moving forward.”
Enjoy this lovely week between Christmas and New Year’s…