Franklin shakes off hype for game
It’s the game many Rutgers football fans and players have circled on their calendars since the 2014 football schedule was released back in May 2013.
A game that not only puts the Scarlet Knights under the lights of High Point Solutions Stadium Saturday night, but also under the microscope of the rest of the Big Ten conference.
A matchup so highly anticipated it has gained similar comparisons to Rutgers’ 2012 game for the Big East Championship against Louisville.
But for Penn State head coach James Franklin, his message is clear: The Nittany Lions’ approach to this highly anticipated bout will not change — even after the news broke Monday that Penn State is now bowl eligible.
“We are just as motivated in this game as we were for Akron, and we are just as motivated for this game as we were for Central Florida,” Franklin said during a Tuesday teleconference. “Our approach will not change. The one thing that we may do is that when we are playing on the road, the noise will be a different factor in the game, so we are going to have to have more noise in practice to get our guys prepared for that, so that will probably be the one difference.”
While his statement may be more hopeful than true, it’s hard to argue with Franklin’s approach given Penn State’s strong start.
The Lions are 2-0 thus far, ranking fifth in the nation in passing yards per game with 386.5 and 23rd overall in points allowed.
But Rutgers also sports a high-powered attack under first-year offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, a man Franklin has plenty of history with and respect for.
“I think Ralph [Friedgen] is a very, very good football coach, very well-respected,” Franklin said. “Obviously, my first probably big break in the profession in major college football was at the University of Maryland for five years, and [Friedgen and I] had a lot of success.”
Franklin spent seven years working under Friedgen at Maryland as a wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator from 2000-04 before making a second stint under Friedgen as an offensive coordinator from 2008-10.
Although they may not be as close as they used to be, with Friedgen telling BTN.com in an interview during the summer that they no longer have a relationship, Franklin said he’s been impressed with Friedgen’s influence on the Knights’ offense.
“Well, I think when you’ve got a guy that’s been doing it for 42 years, and just like Dwight Galt, our strength coach, says all the time: It’s 30 years of not only doing things right, but doing things wrong and learning from those mistakes and growing and evolving,” Franklin said. “… You look at tendencies and you look at all the things you see from an experienced coach, they show up. I think that’s one of the big reasons why they are playing that way.”
Franklin may have remained coy on the team’s preparation being different from past weeks, but he did acknowledge that from a regional perspective, the game is good for both Universities.
But while the Knights may have already begun to fire up this newly developed rivalry against “That Team From Pennsylvania,” Franklin doesn’t seem to be taking the bait.
“I think we are a school in Pennsylvania, I think. So, it just describes us. We are a school in Pennsylvania,” Franklin said. “So, no, I’m good about it. And again, I really like Kyle [Flood] and I think I have a good relationship with him. I do think this game from a regional perspective is good … so, am looking forward to playing the game.”