With all of Penn State’s success in throwing football, the running game has yet to open fully this season, despite, as Franklin pointed out, Saturday was against Indiana “a step in the right direction.”
The Nittany Lions stormed 209 yards to 42 dead (5 yards per carry) in a 24-0 win over the Hoosiers. Keyvone Lee emerged as the lead rusher, carrying the ball eight times for 74 yards while Sean Clifford had 58 yards for 10 carries.
The fact remains that none of the players in the highly acclaimed running back room were able to part ways with Penn State and Franklin pulled so much back on Tuesday, challenging someone to take the lead back as the feature.
Franklin also made it clear that he is comfortable using a rotation if no clear leadback shows up.
“You’d love it if someone really jumped out and said, ‘I’m going to get the majority of the reps and the other guys will be rotating'” he said. “I wouldn’t say that necessarily has already happened. You could have three guys playing at a high level where you can hold them back or you can have one guy take control of the room and the rest are complementary pieces. Both are good.”
For five weeks Penn State is 92.6 yards per game out of 130 FBS teams on the rush offensive (11th in the Big Ten).
Franklin noted that the ongoing game against a strong Iowa defense will be especially important.
“We have to establish the run and were able to take a step with our running game last week.” said Franklin. “That will be very important, not only for the success of our offensive, but also for our defense against possession times. This will be one of those games where we have to work out and help our defenses. “
Xs and Os
Of Iowa’s greatest strengths, its defense is clearly the key to its success as the Hawkeyes rank second in goal defense in the country, giving up only 11.6 points per game. Iowa is only behind Georgia on points allowed per game (4.6 points per competition).
Penn State must convert in the red zone, where the Hawkeyes rank 103rd in the country in defending the red zone, scoring 90 percent of the time.
Penn State, on the other hand, is the second in the nation in the red zone defense, behind Cincinnati.
Turnovers were the biggest story for Iowa as the Hawkeyes forced 16 turnovers in five games – including a staggering six interceptions on Friday night in a 51:14 beatdown from Maryland.
“I think your plan will allow you to capitalize on your mistakes by keeping an eye on the quarterback, probably just like anyone else in college football.” said Franklin. “You do a great job coaching, drilling and teaching. The length they are (in front) also allows them to get their hands on some balls. “
Franklin knows that in a hostile environment in the battle of the top 5 opponents at Kinnick Stadium, winning the battle for sales will be crucial.
“Sales are synonymous with profits” said Franklin. “Sales and explosive games can do that. Everyone knows that this is the plot of this game. They do a lot of things well, but that’s what makes them special and that affects their entire team. “
Another focus related to the running game is Penn State’s success in close-range situations – or lack thereof.
The Nittany Lions put just under 36 percent of their chances in third place – good enough for 91st place in the country and 13th place in the Big Ten. Penn State has a fourth down conversion rate of 50%.
Physicality on the line of scrimmage and the fear of being able to run or pass in close-range situations is something Franklin is still looking for on his offensive.
“It wasn’t that constant” said Franklin. “I would like to be better in third place overall, but if we were better in third place it would help our overall percentage. I think it’s mostly a mentality. We have to be more physical. We’ll sometimes throw the ball in situations like this, but at the end of the day we have to be able to line up and get a meter or two when we need it. “
Avoid the hype
Franklin often references his team’s approach and how consistent it is every week, no matter which team faces the Nittany Lions on Saturday. He praises his opponents every week before a game and believes in them more than anything.
The importance of a top 5 game on the road has not escaped him, but he believes the success of avoiding the hype of a massive game comes from his team’s weekly routine – although he did mention his team maybe a bit must be dialed in more than usual.
“We need a full week of training and preparation”, said Franklin. “Everything is important when you talk about two opponents coming together like that – especially when we’re on the road. The margin of error will be small, and it all adds up. We just have to be conscious about everything we do and I am very specific about our process. “
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