James Franklin Transcript - Oct. 14
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are idle this week for the second of two bye weeks during the 2014 season.
With the season at the midway point, head coach James Franklin and the coaching staff are focused on utilizing this week as an opportunity to improve on the practice field and in the film room before attention shifts to the Oct. 25 primetime matchup against Ohio State. Franklin updated the media on team's progress during the weekly Big Ten Teleconference on Tuesday.
"We are excited that we have a bye this week," Franklin said. "At practice, we are looking forward to getting some things corrected and giving some guys time off in terms of the banging and the running. We will look at refining some things and take a look at some of the things we need to be focused on more. It's coming at a good time for us."
Franklin said on Tuesday that field position in the second half of the Michigan game really stood out on film. Complementary football is essential for the Nittany Lions to be successful. That includes all three phases of the game functioning at a high level. Strong play on defense and on special teams contribute to good field position for the offense.
"We've got to play faster. We aren't playing as fast as we need to be playing right now," Franklin said. "I think that's really in all three phases. I think special teams and offense is probably what everybody is focused on. But I think in all three phases we can play faster and play more aggressive. Running the football consistently and protecting the quarterback are probably our biggest challenges right now."
The bye week has come at a good time for the team to focus on correcting some of the mistakes that have hindered the Lions during the first six weeks. Nonetheless, four wins in the first six games of the season is a positive step for the direction Franklin and the staff are leading the program in.
"We are 4-2 right now. There are a lot of teams across the country that would love to be 4-2," said Franklin. "We knew there were going to be some challenges and some issues coming into this season. But I couldn't be more positive and more excited about being at Penn State...We are excited about the opportunity to play a talented Ohio State team next week. We are as positive and optimistic (now) as we were going into the season."
Penn State returned to practice on Tuesday following the team's off day.
Defense Ranks Among Nation's Best
The Penn State defense has played superb football during the first half of the season. The Nittany Lions are ranked in the nation's top five in five different statistical categories, including three major categories. Allowing just 60.8 yards per game on the ground, Penn State is second in the nation and atop the Big Ten in rushing defense. At 15.2 points allowed per game, Penn State is fifth in scoring defense (No. 1 in the B1G). The Nittany Lions have allowed 283.3 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the nation in total defense (No. 1 in the B1G). Additionally, Penn State is second in the nation in first downs defense (85 allowed on the season) and No. 4 in red zone defense (63.2 percent). Penn State opponents have averaged 2.0 yards per rush this season.
With 64 tackles on the season, senior linebacker Mike Hull has been the catalyst for the Nittany Lion defense. Hull leads the Big Ten in tackles per game with 10.7. Additionally, Hull is 11th in the nation and ranks atop the Big Ten with 6.7 solo hits per game.
Jesse James Added to Mackey List
The Mackey Award is handed out to the nation's top tight end. Junior Jesse James was added to the Mid-season Watch List for the John Mackey Award on Monday. James is third on the team in receptions 18 this season. He has 203 yards (11.3 avg.) and two touchdowns. The Mackey Award semifinalists will be announced in late November.
Ohio State Under the Lights Up Next
The Nittany Lions will begin a string of six-straight weeks of football when Ohio State comes to Beaver Stadium for an 8 p.m. kick on Oct. 25. The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes will battle under the lights for the third-straight year. Six of the last 10 meetings between the two teams have been held under the lights. The Penn State White Out will air nationally on ABC. Penn State and Ohio State have met annually since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. As members of the East Division, the teams will continue to meet annually.
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