UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football returns to action Saturday, returning from the road to host Rutgers in Beaver Stadium. Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin met with members of the media in his weekly press conference. Offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez and wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins also joined for a pair of media sessions.
Following back-to-back road trips, Beaver Stadium is a welcome atmosphere for the Nittany Lions.
"It's great to be home. It's great to be back for homecoming," Franklin said. "It's great to be hosting military appreciation. It's great to be in our own surroundings and in front of our fans and loved ones and things like that. That's great."
For wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins, returning to Beaver Stadium is all about the comforts of home.
"There's no environment like here. The fans are great," Thompkins said. "The environment is great. We feed off it as a team. We do a great job at home, as you know. It's just good to get back to your bearings. And being in an environment that you're comfortable playing in."
An area of improvement identified by Franklin has been increasing physicality up front. For Gonzalez, that's an area that comes down to mindset and the way the Nittany Lions approach practice. More specifically, it's incorporating everything into more of a finishers mindset, working through the whistle the entire week of practice rather than holding out for gameday.
"I think it's a huge challenge not only for me, but for the rest of the offensive line and I think that's the real emphasis this week, to try to improve that. That's what we do every week to try to improve our physicality. I think that will be our mindset this week, and just try to be as physical as we can against Rutgers."
On The Quote Board -
- Franklin on improvements to handling in-game momentum shifts.
"On a positive note, one of the areas that I thought we've been struggling on defense this year with sudden change and I thought our defense handled the three turnovers extremely well. Those three turnovers came out to be two punts and one take away. So that was a real positive. We want to build on that."
- Thompkins on blocking.
"I knew that the biggest thing coming into Division I football is blocking. People are big. They're strong. And I'm for the that big. I'm not that strong. But blocking is all about Hart. That's the one thing Coach Gattis tells us is you can train all you want, blocking drills, all this and that, but is it comes down do you want the person behind you with the ball want to score. And I want receiver person on offensive to score. I go all out for blocking and my teammates.
- Gonzalez on Rutgers.
"It's a challenge every week to try to face a defense like them. They're physical. They're a big group. And they're coming off a few games where they've won. Obviously they're coming off a hot streak. It's always going to be tough. And they're going to come in and try to knock us off. And they're going to come in with a lot of momentum, so we just have to be prepared for it."
- Thompkins on how running back Saquon Barkley has handled himself in the last few weeks.
"One thing that I admire from him [Barkley] is he's a team player, he's not one of those guys that goes in demands the ball. He knows the type of players we are as receivers. He knows the type of player Mike is at tight end, he knows Trace and et cetera. But that's one thing that he handles very well is he knows he's not the only piece to the puzzle and he's willing to sacrifice that for the success of the team."
- Franklin on Barkley
"Saquon is one of the better football players, if not the best football player I've ever been around. He's able to be explosive in so many different ways, and that's what we want to do. We want to get the ball into his hands in a lot of different ways. I think that gives us the best opportunity to be successful."
- Gonzalez on where his game has grown the most this season.
"I think I've just gained more confidence in my game. I think last year, toward the beginning, I wasn't really confident. It took a while to build it up and I wasn't really clicking with the offensive line, I was kind of a lone wolf. I think this year I just made a lot of changes. Obviously with my faith, just believing in the process and believing in my abilities and the confidence grew. It's a product now and I've been playing pretty decently."
- Thompkins on dealing with adversity.
"One thing I would say is that even though it's a tough loss you also learn from wins as well. Just because you win a game doesn't mean you didn't have mistakes. Whether it's a win or a loss, with maturity it becomes even though we've won, hey, I did not play a perfect game. There's things that I need to work on and improve. That just comes with, like you said, maturity. That's something we have as a team, is we know that no matter how much we win by or how much we lose by, the mistakes will show. And that's something that you have to take into account, understand what happened, why it happened, and then just go on to the next week."