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Weekly Press Conference - Head Coach James Franklin (Michigan State)

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Oct. 31, 2017

Opening Statement
We have to develop a finisher's mentality. That's coaches, that's players, that's everybody. We've got to learn from these situations. Painful lesson to learn for all of us. That's number one.

We’ve got to be sharp in game situations, in all game situations. As an organization, weren't as sharp as we had been in the past. I think being on the road was a factor. I think the tempo of their offense was a factor for us.

We have to improve in sudden change on defense. Have not been good this year in sudden change. The punt block, tough situation. It was a critical play in the game obviously, as we all know. Your defense needs to go out and swing momentum back to your side with a three-and-out, hold them, whatever it may be.

We look at sudden change, could be a turnover, blocked punt, any of those types of deals. It's an area we've got to get better, been talking about for a couple weeks.

Offense, we have to improve in the run game. I think the biggest thing really is eliminating the negative-yardage plays. It's not the average run, because a lot of the defenses that we're facing are really good at stopping the run. But our issue is the negative-yardage plays, whether they make a good call and catch us in a look that we're not expecting or whether it's an RPO, we should have pulled it and threw the ball rather than handed it off, or whether it's not trying to turn every run into an 80-yard run, only getting two yards. We have to get better in that area.

To me the game was very similar to our game here last year. We block a kick, we get momentum. They blocked a kick, they got momentum. The crowd got involved. We're a little late off the ball. Dealing with the noise, it tied in very well with their D-line rush.

It's easy after the game to sit there. We had a lot of discussions about four-minute offense, those types of things, continuing to be aggressive. When you actually watch the game, when we ran the ball, we weren't being successful and had negative-yardage plays. When we threw the ball, Trace [McSorley] was running for his life. I think there's some things we can do to help in those situations, which we had a lot of discussions about.

Same thing on defense. We weren't able to get to their quarterback consistently. You say you blitz more. When we blitzed and brought five, they blocked our five. We got to be better in those areas. Again, very similar to last year at our place, we were able to protect and we were able to get pressure on their quarterback. They were, to me, the two differences late in the game.

All that being said, I said this three years ago, four years ago, and people may not like what I'm going to say, but I'm going to stay positive and progress is still being made. Three years ago when we went there, we lost 38-10. There are no moral victories. As the head football coach, I got to be very honest with myself and I got to be very honest with our players and I got to be very honest with our coaching staff and with myself and ask the tough questions and be critical of the things that need to be critical, starting with me.

I also need to be aware of the progress that's being made, as well, and be able to tell the players and the coaches what we've done well and what we need to do better. We are making progress. That's a good football team. You have to give Ohio State, coach Urban Meyer and their program all the credit in the world. But we got to learn to finish.

Offensively we were able to score 38 points. Didn't turn the ball over at all. That's been one of our real secrets to success this year. We're plus-14 in turnover ratio, that's number two in all of college football.

We made an emphasis of getting better on third down. We've talked about that a lot. We've been better. We were 7-for-15 for 47 percent. Net red zone, we scored on three out of our three trips to the red zone, but obviously only two of three for touchdowns. That last one we didn't score a touchdown was critical obviously in the game.

Areas of improvement. We need to be more explosive. That game we were not explosive. We didn't have the big plays we had in the past that, as you guys know, over the last two years, that's been kind of our eraser for some of our issues.

I thought overall we handled the noise well from an operation standpoint in terms of off-sides penalties, delay of games, getting the calls in on time, all those types of things. There's no doubt that playing at home for them, there's an advantage in terms of cadence, us losing the advantage of using our cadence against them.

Defensively we continue to play really good first quarter and third quarter football. We gave up three points in each of those quarters. I think this year we scored 104 points, given up [in the first quarter]. In the third quarter, we scored 79, have given up 6. There's no doubt we have to be better in the second and fourth quarters. Although we're winning those quarters, we need to continue to improve there.

I thought the two two-point plays were huge in the game. Gave our offense an opportunity to go win the game in the end. They were big plays. The takeaways were great. We have to be able to pressure the quarterback, which we weren't able to do on Saturday.

Special teams, obviously the first half of that game special teams were the story. If you look at the statistics, you look at the game, you watch offensively and defensively, the special teams skewed the entire perception of the game. The kickoff return for a touchdown, the big return by Koa, the fumble they had in the first drive, the stats, didn't really make sense.

Even when you watch the game, we weren't being as successful as we needed to be on offense and defense, but our special teams have been playing so well until obviously us getting the punt blocked. As the game went on, our splits were getting tighter and tighter, which created a short edge. They took advantage of it. Got to give them credit there.

That's a fairly long summary of the Ohio State game. I know you guys are going to have a lot of questions, so I thought I would give you a little more detail on that.

Michigan State, obviously tremendous respect for Coach [Mark] Dantonio and their program. You look at our history since joining the Big Ten, against Michigan State, they've had a lot of success. We take a lot of pride in keeping the most beautiful trophy in all of college football home, the Land Grant Trophy.

Obviously going on the road again is going to be challenging. They're a hard-nosed Big Ten football program. They play great on defense. They're built on defense, with a defensive head coach. They're a smash-mouth offense. On offense multiple personnel, multiple groupings, trades, shifts, motions, probably very similar to a Michigan, similar to a Stanford-style of offense.

They're going to run the power, the counter, the pin and pull, and the zone play. A lot of play-action pass. Boots, nakeds, dropback. I think the thing that's making them go is their quarterback, Lewerke. He's a pro style quarterback, but has the ability to beat you with his feet, has made a bunch of big plays there.

On defense, aggressive four-down front. Their linebackers I think are the difference makers on their defense. Really their front, they had some young players last year that have grown up in the secondary, doing a nice job there. [Joe] Bachie is very productive at middle linebacker. Really the whole unit plays well. Justin Layne plays well, the defense, Kenny Willekes. Then special teams, they're number two in punt return defense.

Got a challenge. It's going to be important in how we practice today. I thought our coaches and players handled Sunday well. Monday is their day off. Coaches game planned all day and night. Then obviously it's going to be really important that we go out and practice well today.

Q. You mentioned Sunday. What did you like from what you saw and heard from the players? Do you have confidence about their preparations for Michigan State?
JF: Well, I could not have more confidence in our players. They had a player-only meeting on their own on Sunday. Sometimes I have a hand in those. I did not have a hand in this one. It was not a long meeting at all. The feedback I got, it was really good. Some things I think they just wanted to get off their chest.

Then Sunday's practice was good. Meetings were good. I think it kind of starts with me. I went in with the staff Sunday morning, went in with the players. I think we kind of, as the coaching staff, set the tone for everything. Coaches weren't defensive. Players weren't defensive. We were able to make corrections. We were able to learn from it, grow. We got a resilient group of guys with tremendous character and heart and belief in themselves and belief in what we're doing. We'll have a great week of practice and go play a tough opponent on the road.

I felt good with how things were handled on Sunday. Obviously everybody handles those things differently. But I was overall pleased with our program and how we were on Sunday.

Q. You touched on the fact that the tempo of the Ohio State offense was pretty significant. I think they ran 78 snaps in the game. Now you have to play on the road at noon against a physical Michigan State team. Is there any bigger challenge for you to get the defensive guys ready after they've been on the field so long?
JF: I don't think the number of reps were crazy for the offense or defense, or time of possession. I don't think it was one of those games that was really skewed in that way. But, yeah, we're going to have to be ready for a completely different style. The tempo caused some communication issues for us, some alignment issues for us. Then being on the road and the communication aspect.

It's amazing how much it factors in. They were able to do a lot of check with me at the line of scrimmage where those things are challenging when you're on the road. They took advantage of it and did a really nice job.

But, yeah, we're going to have to be ready this weak for a completely different style. We're going to have to be great from a recovery standpoint all week long. We're going to have to be smart with how we practice, as well.

But that's the case for everybody at this time of year. We had a bye week going into Michigan. I think it helped us. Ohio State had a bye week going into us. I think it helped them. Now both us and Michigan State have to come off really tough games and be ready to play.

That's the reality of this time of year in college football. You embrace it, make the best of it, and you work through it. That's what we will do.

Q. How do you evaluate the play of your wide receivers, including blocking and their ability to get separation? Is there anything specifically that stood out compared to how they played last season?
JF: Good. I think our wide receivers are playing really well. They've made a bunch of big plays. I've said all season long I think we blocked well on the perimeter. There's probably some times I didn't feel we did that as well on Saturday. They got really good, long, big athletes that in space sometimes probably weren't the best matchups.

But it is what it is. Your initial question was how have the wide receivers played in terms of creating separation and blocking for the season. I think good. I think we feel really good about how those guys have played. Have there been times and areas that I think we can improve and get better? No doubt about it. Did some of those things show up on Saturday? No doubt about it.

We're just going to continue to improve and continue to grow there. But overall your initial question, I feel really good about.

Q. You mentioned today and Saturday after the game, you said, I thought we changed our identity. In what way? What steps can you take to prevent repeating that?
JF: One of the things that is a challenging deal is when you run this style of offense that we run, where we probably are a pass-to-run team, we're going to throw the ball to create running situations, that when you get into four-minute offense, the football book, the game management book from the beginning of time, as you run the ball, you eat the clock up, make them use their timeouts, throw the ball, incomplete, the clock stops, not the scenario you want to be in. The reality is when you run this style of offense, you can't try to become something else in four-minute.

Now, saying that, when we actually went back and watched the tape, when we tried to run the ball, we weren't successful. When we tried to throw the ball, Trace [McSorley] was running for his life, and they were able to take advantage of the stadium environment, similar to how we were the year before.

It's easy to sit there and second guess it after the fact. But I do think we probably could have been a little bit more aggressive in terms of throwing the ball, do some other things to help our offensive line out a little bit, as well.

Overall, I think we probably could have been a little bit more aggressive there. Again, when I went back and watched the tape, we weren't really doing either well to give yourself confidence.

Q. We talked about the pass-rush concerns earlier. You may be relying on some younger defensive ends down the stretch. Shaka Toney, Shane Simmons. How do you think those guys are responding to that? How do you help them because of this situation?
JF: Yetur Gross-Matos falls into that category, as well. Shaka probably played too many plays on Saturday, but it was the situation we were in. We have to continue developing those guys and get some of the veteran guys back, as well. Some of those injuries are starting to add up for us a little bit at certain positions.

It's a great opportunity for those guys to continue to grow and develop and make plays. Obviously some of those younger players, it's easier to play them in a one-back offense, spread-style situation, where it's going to be a lot of pass-rush, compared to a Michigan State where they're going to try to run the ball down your throat and play-action pass.

We're going to have to continue to develop those guys. I think you guys know we do have some position flexibility with some of our guys, some of the depth we do have at D-tackle, creates some flexibility for us, as well.

Q. We talk about every defense now having the key to stopping Saquon Barkley, a blueprint as it were. Did Ohio State do anything different than Michigan did the week before? How important is it to find a solution to working all that out with him in the running game?
JF: I don't think I've necessarily communicated it the way you just did, that every defense has the blueprint. I don't think I've communicated it that way.

But, yeah, it's a challenge. I think one of the issues is that we've played some really good defensive football teams in terms of stopping the run. Northwestern is one of the best defenses in terms of stopping the run. Michigan is one of the best in the country at stopping the run. Ohio State is one of the best in the country stopping the run. Michigan State is another one of those teams.

I think that's a little bit about our league, as well. I think we've done a great job all year long and continue to do is get Saquon [Barkley] the ball different ways. I've said this before, when you run a one-back offense, people can out-number you. If you do that, it creates opportunities in the passing game.

Earlier in the season, we were having some of the same challenges and have been successful. We're going to continue to do that. That's life running a one-back offense. We've been very, very successful. Saquon has had dramatic impacts.

Have some people had a better plan than others and created some conflict there? Yeah. But that's also why Trace [McSorley] has been able to throw for the yards he's been able to throw for and have success that way.

We just have to continue to be creative and be willing to use Saquon as many different ways as we possibly can. Like I mentioned, I think the biggest issue is not the production that Saquon is having, it's taking the negative-yardage plays away. It's not handing the ball off in a situation where we're going to get a tackle-for-loss.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes they're going to call the right defensive call at the right time, and sometimes we make the right call. That happens. That's part of football. But I do think if we can eliminate and cut in half some of those negative-yardage plays, that will be very helpful.

Q. When the defense is getting quickly into your backfield, it looks to me a lot of times it's not just that the offensive line is engaging with a defender and getting physically beat, it's a lot of other things. Talk about what goes into all 11 men on offense working to protect or to keep you from really getting badly physically beat like that.
JF: There's different techniques. You got people that are going to mesh charge, which is some of the things we've had. When they're doing it with really good athletes, it magnifies it. There's no doubt. Changing our tempo up, changing our back's alignment up, motion and shift, it's a combination of all those things.

It's making sure that we're putting our guys in the best position to be successful, which we've done a large portion of the time. It's making sure that we are pulling the ball and throwing the ball when we're supposed to. It's being willing to lower your shoulder and get three yards when there's not a great situation. There's blocking on the perimeter better. It's all of us. It's myself, everybody included doing a better job.

Again, I don't know if I would describe it exactly the way you did.

Q. The sudden change thing with the defense, you said they haven’t handled that aspect of the game well. Is there any way through a practice situation you can make sure they're better prepared for that or is it something that's mental and has to be overcome during a game?
JF: I think it's a combination of both. We talk about the situation, explain the situation, what to expect in those situations. A lot of people, when they get a sudden change, have the momentum, they're going to try to keep the momentum by taking a shot. We talk about that, the importance of not allowing them to get the big play in that situation, keep the momentum.

We've been good at it in the past. So it's not like it's a philosophical change or things like that. We're going to keep emphasizing it in practices and meetings, keep coaching, explaining what to expect, what are the plays they run in those situations, what kind of shot plays can we expect, or being able to create a three-and-out and not allow a long drive. It's all those things that factor in.

Q. Media and fans seem to think Saquon is getting the ball from a stand-still position as opposed to going forward. Is there anything to that? Is that a misconception people have? Is that a real concern you want him bursting forward?
JF: We're doing it very similar to what we've done it for the last two years with one of the most explosive offenses in the country. We actually sped it up a little bit this off-season. We're doing it exactly the way we've done it with one of the most explosive offenses in the country for the last two years.

This is the style that we've been playing. This is how we've been doing it. We've had negative-yardage plays for two years. Can we get better in this area? Yes. We've had one of the most explosive offenses in the country, again. For a little bit of perspective, in the last 18 games, we've been 16-2. In the last 16 games, we were 14-2. We've lost those two games by four points with one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

Q. Looking back at the offensive line, what have you seen there differently in the fourth quarter when Ryan [Bates] was out of the game? How do you think those guys held up? Do you expect to have Ryan this week?
JF: Yeah, I think they're getting better. I think Coach Limegrover is working hard with those guys. I think they're getting better. You have Connor McGovern who is a true sophomore starting at the center position. I see him getting better every single week. I see Gonzalez, a redshirt sophomore, is playing pretty well. There's times where I know he and we would like to be a little bit more consistent with both those guys.

Chasz Wright has been a starter off and on and has done some really good things over the last year. We're going to need him to play well this week.

Ryan Bates has been a guy who has played a lot of football for us I think as a redshirt sophomore, as well. He's done some really good things for us.

Will Fries has been kind of the new guy to the group. I think for a redshirt freshman he's playing pretty good against really good opponents week in and week out.

Brendan Mahon is kind of the one vet we have that has played a lot of good football for us. Good guys we're developing behind those guys, as well. The [Michal] Menets of the world, a number of guys.

We're just going to have to continue to get better. I would say that Ohio State, you could make the argument they have one of the best defensive lines in college football, so everything is magnified. Again, we're going to stick to our formula. We're going to stick to our process. We're going to continue to get better.

We played a really, really good football team on the road. We should have finished. We did not. But we got to give credit. Some of the challenges that we've had, the things that people are bringing up, we're working on them. We see them just like the media does. We see them just like the fans do. The best teams in the country have issues that they need to work on and get better, and we're one of them.

Do we need to get a more consistent pass-rush on defense? Yes. We need to consistently be able to get more turnovers on defense. We need to more consistently stop the run on defense.

On offense, we need to eliminate the negative-yardage runs in our running game where I think it shows up when you see, like you're talking about, a defender in the backfield right around the time that Saquon is getting the ball. There's some things we can do to help. We do that and take advantage of those situations.

We need to consistently protect our quarterback. I also think we're at our best on offense when Trace McSorley is running the ball, as well. It just gives them one more thing they have to deal with.

Then on special teams, I think we've played really well all year long, but we've had a few plays that we need to get cleaned up from a consistency standpoint.

Overall I'm very pleased. I couldn't be more proud of the players and the coaches for the progress that we've made, what we're doing. We're going to be very honest with ourselves. I appreciate the media and the fans bringing some of our challenges to our attention. I get it. We take that feedback and we hear that feedback. We also are aware of it, as well.

Q. When you say a little more aggressive offensively, were you speaking specifically about the series down at the seven, taking a shot in the end zone there? Was there some regret not doing that?
JF: I think what happens, a lot of people don't understand, you don't know when we have a run or pass called because every play is essentially a run or pass. We're not just going to throw the ball into the end zone if the look is not there. We had a fade call to Mike Gesicki. There were two defensive backs over his head, so we ran the ball in that situation. You'd love to come out with a touchdown in that situation.

I was probably not talking about that drive. I was talking about the drives later. I thought we probably could have been a little bit more aggressive. We ran the ball in those situations, get a negative yardage play, then you end up getting into a situation where you're throwing in a predictable situation or you run the ball now and people are confused on why you're running the ball in third-and-long situations.

Joe Moorhead is one of the better play callers in college football. We've been very successful. I don't want anybody to think what I'm saying up here is questioning how we handled that situation at the end of the game because I'm not.

Again, it's easy to second guess after the fact. We were not protecting at that point well or running the ball at that point well against their defensive line. Very similar to what happened at our place the year before.

Q. You've referenced the book, conventional end-of-game situations. Is what's happened here, maybe dating back, forcing you to rethink some of that?
JF: Yeah, we did that all off-season. I mean, obviously the way the Rose Bowl game ended, we had a lot of discussions about four-minute offense. I think we even talked about that in here of not changing our identity, not trying to become something we're not in those situations.

Q. A couple weeks after Shaka Toney had his breakout game, he's a good pass-rusher, his explosiveness, you were working on turning him into a three-down D end. How has that progressed?
JF: That doesn't happen over a couple weeks. That's an ongoing process. We're very excited about Shaka and his future. We still feel like at this point he's still a situational defensive end. We were forced on Saturday to not use him in situations, and play him more as an every-down defensive end.

That's going to be an ongoing process. You don't resolve that in a couple weeks, although we're very excited about his future.

Q. When you look at Michigan State, you're facing another great run defense. What do you see on film from them from a scheme perspective that makes them so tough against the run?
JF: Well, I think it's people in this conference, really across college football, but especially in this conference, that they've made up their mind you're not running the ball on them. To be honest with you, most defensive coordinators I've been around are like that. They're always going to try to get an extra man in the box to out-number you, whether you're in a one-back offense or two-back offense. They're always going to try to out-number you there. I see that. I see that in our conference.

That's why I think we've been able to throw the ball effectively. That's why we've had explosive plays. That's why we've been able to put up a good amount of points week in and week out, because people's commitment to stop the run creates opportunities to throw the ball.

We understand that that's what's going to happen for us week in and week out. We have to be patient with the running game. When the opportunities come, that's why Saquon, not only with his ability, we're also able to put him in good situations because when he is carrying the ball, it's usually because the numbers are good. The combination of Saquon's ability and the offensive line straining and fighting like crazy, Joe putting us in the right call, that's why we've been so explosive, one of the more explosive offenses in the country. We have to cut back the negative plays which puts us in a tough situation.

Q. Taking your kids out “trick-or-treating” tonight?
JF: No, it's a challenge. I'm going to try to leave here and go over to the school parade because I have a little bit of dead time between what we do football-wise in the morning, then right before team meeting. I'm going to try to get over to the parade. To go trick or treating when we have practice or film is hard to do. We always do it Monday in our office with the staff and the wives and the kids. They come and trick or treat in the office, then we go over to the training table together.

It's not ideal, but try to make the best of it.

Q. You found your left tackle last year through kind of similar situations to what happened on Saturday. Do you feel the same way this year, given the depth at your tackle positions, if you have to lose somebody for an extended period of time, you feel confident in that situation?
JF: We haven't determined that we're replacing anybody yet. But, yeah, we have options. We have [Ryan] Bates, who has played and played well. We have Chasz [Wright], who we were able to be successful with last year. We have Will Fries, who is a developing player and who we're excited about as well. You have [Brendan] Mahon who has played out there at a high level before. Then guys that we're developing behind them, [Alex] Gellerstedt and guys like that. There are options and scenarios there, but we're pretty confident that we'll have what we need to be successful on Saturday.


 

 

Q. Looked like Troy Apke had a pretty good game. What did you see from him that you didn’t see from the rest of the secondary as a whole?
JF: He's kind of Steady Eddie. I'm really pleased with Troy and his development. He's been a great teammate. He's kind of earned his role and worked up the ladder in terms of his role on special teams, on defense and now, as a starter and a leader. He's very well-respected. The coaches trust him. He's making plays. He's a guy that we feel like we could put back there as a punt returner, as well.

He's making the plays that he's supposed to make from a force perspective, in terms of tackling in the run game. He's making plays in the passing game plays from a coverage, pass breakup and interception perspective. I couldn't be any more pleased with Troy.

Obviously, the rest of the guys, Marcus has played really well all season long. I think our corners have played really well all season long. I think there were times on Saturday, again, with us not being able to get pressure on the quarterback, that we were covering really good athletes in space for too long.

Overall, I feel good about our secondary and what we've been able to do, not only with the veterans like Grant [Haley] and Christian [Campbell], but even some of the other guys that are getting a lot of reps. Amani [Oruwariye] is a vet whose role is getting bigger. [Tariq] Castro-Fields is doing some great stuff for us. [Zach] McPhearson is doing some really good things for us. We have a really good rotation. Lamont Wade. We have really what you want at every position: older, mature, veteran player, playing at a higher level and then some young guys that are getting reps and gaining experience.

Q. You mentioned the fade to Mike [Gesicki] that you checked out of because the safety was higher. Are there concerns defenses are getting to the point where they're able to force you into your weaknesses and take away that element of surprise you might have had otherwise?
JF: Again, I don't know if I would necessarily describe it the way you guys have been describing things today.

We've been scoring a bunch of points, so I don't know if you're able to score the points that we've been able to score and say that we're predictable. If we were predictable, we probably wouldn't be scoring as many points as we've been scoring.

We have a running back, you say besides Saquon [Barkley] in the running game, he's our running back and we play with one on the field. The explosive runs will probably come from your running back. I do think Trace [McSorley] has been a part of explosive plays in our running game, as well. I think our receivers have been pretty good.

I think what I did mention to you guys that I think is the model that a lot of people are using now is that they're going to play a soft coverage and make us throw underneath. We're not getting the 80-yard touchdowns or 70-yard touchdowns that we've had in the past, but we're still creating explosive plays. We're throwing the ball underneath, the guy is running for 16 yards rather than catching the ball behind the defense. That's smart.

Ohio State had an extra week to prepare. They played some stuff on offense and defense that we hadn't seen them do all year long. That's what the extra week of preparation does. I don't think it's necessarily that people are predicting what we're doing. I think people are saying we're going to overload the box, we're going to play some version of a soft quarters or some version of a soft cover two and not allow you to throw the ball over our heads. You're going to get big plays, but they are going to be 16-yard plays or 20-yard plays, not 50-yard plays. Are you going to be able to do that consistently down the field against us? Michigan decided not to play that style, and we were able to get the ball behind them and create some explosive plays.

I understand what you guys are saying. I don't know with some of you guys if I necessarily agree with how the question is being asked. But I get it. I wouldn't describe it the way you just did. Our explosive runs are coming from our running back because he's our running back. In the passing game, people are playing a softer coverage, which makes sense. That's a model that makes sense against us.

What you have to say is if you're playing Penn State, you can't allow Saquon Barkley to beat you, you can't overload the box, you can't allow them to throw the ball over your head. That's the style. Instead of us maybe scoring 40 points a game, we're scoring 30 or so points a game. But I think we're still playing really good complementary football. The offense has been typically scoring enough to win. The defense has been typically holding people to less [points] to allow us to be successful and win. Our special teams have been playing pretty well.

I guess what I'm saying is there is obvious areas we need to get better. I recognize them just like you guys do, and the fans. But we're not panicking right here. There's issues that need to be addressed. I promise you they are being addressed and worked on. But we're not going to hit the panic [button] because we lost on the road to the sixth ranked team in the country by one point.

Do we need to finish better? Yes. Do I take responsibility? No doubt. Do I have tough conversations with my staff about the things that we need to get better about? Yes. Do I challenge the players to take a hard look at themselves and grow as a program? Yeah.

But I am going to stay positive. We are going to work on our challenges and issues every week, no matter what the results are. But we got one of the more explosive offenses in the country. We have some areas that we need to get better. We got one of the better defenses in the country. We have some areas that we need to get better. We have one of the better special teams programs in the country this year, but we have areas we need to get better.

I just want everybody to understand very clearly we recognize them and we are going to be working on them as hard as we possibly can to give us the best chance to be successful this week against Michigan State.

Q. You described the Land Grant Trophy as one of the most beautiful in college football. Why is it beautiful?
JF: Have you seen it?

I think what makes it so beautiful is how unorthodox it is. It's not your normal trophy. It's unique, it's unorthodox. It's cool.

But to me it's not necessarily the trophy, it's these types of games in our conference and around the country that are pretty cool. There's obviously some historical aspects to it.

I think it's something that we look at, again, you look at Penn State's record against Michigan State during the Big Ten era, and we need to work really hard to make sure that we keep the Land Grant Trophy as much as we possibly can because we take a lot of pride in it. It's one of the cool things about college football.

Its beauty comes from its unorthodox and unique qualities.

@PennStateFball

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