Wake-Up Call: Penn State QB Trace McSorley steps lightly, media blackout myths, and whether ‘rivalry’ game could put Franklin on hot seat
The best way to start you day is with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to preapre you for everything you need to know about the world of Penn State sports. We’ll share it here with you in the morning.
I’ll be your guide through the Wake-Up Call and let you know what is happening with the Nittany Lions each a.m. So let’s get to it. It is rivalry week after all.
Here is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Sept. 7.
McSorley won’t admit rivalry exists with Pitt
The renewal of the Penn State-Pitt rivalry, dormant since 2000, draws ever nearer. If, in fact, you can call it a rivalry.
Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley, speaking on a conference call with reporters Tuesday morning, did not.
It was not nearly as inflammatory as it sounds. In fact, it wasn’t inflammatory at all. McSorley was merely trying to make a point about how the Lions try to treat every game the same. That has been the mantra of coach James Franklin since he was hired in January 2014.
Just listen to McSorley: “I’m not saying it’s a rivalry. We’re treating it as the next game and we’re excited to get the Penn State-Pitt tradition going, but we’re approaching it as just the next game and it’s the most important game because of that reason.”
And again: “It’s important to this team, because it’s our next game. We treat every game as important as it is. We understand the tradition behind this game. … We understand you’ve got that tradition behind it, and we’re excited to keep that tradition going.”
And once more, when asked to compare this game to one against, say, Ohio State or Michigan: “It will be different, because I guess it does have, kind of, the in-state seal to it. It’s a huge game for the state of Pennsylvania in general. Pitt and Penn State has got that tradition behind it. … It will be big because it is an in-state game, whereas Penn State-Ohio State is a huge game, but it’s not the same in-state kind of pride that you might get from one of those games.”
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Elsewhere on Land of 10, Stephen Pianovich wrote about Franklin’s take on the rivalry, courtesy of the coach’s weekly conference call.
Franklin also said that the decision to honor the late Joe Paterno before the Sept. 17 game against Temple was “a decision that our administration makes.”
Is this ‘the biggest game’ of James Franklin’s tenure?
I don’t believe Franklin should be on the hot seat this season (and wrote as much here), since he has just begun to crawl out from under the NCAA sanctions brought on by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal.
Foxsport.com’s Dieter Kurtenbach disagrees, and further says that Franklin really needs a victory against an in-state rival to solidify his status:
One of the easiest ways to lose the trust of the money men who own the team is to lose to a rival, particularly an in-state one that is historically viewed as the little brother – that’s a taste that’s hard to chase.
That makes Saturday’s game at Pitt the most important game Franklin has coached at Penn State.
The myth of the media blackout
Pennlive.com’s David Jones (no relation, but in the interests of full disclosure, a friend) argues that a coach putting his players on media lockdown, as Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi has this week, is sheer folly:
Now, could Pitt beat PSU? Of course. They are favored to do so. But it won’t have anything to do with the Panthers supposedly focusing better without having to do a few interviews. It won’t be because the Panthers weren’t trusted to not say something stupid that ended up on a Lasch Building white board.
It will be because they are better and better prepared.
Jones noted that Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, Narduzzi’s mentor, is not averse to pulling stunts such as this one, most notably before a Spartans matchup against a subpar Ohio State team in 2011. The Spartans, 11-2 that season, beat the 6-7 Buckeyes, but only by 10-7.
Bottom line: If the Panthers win Saturday, no one will remember that Narduzzi made his players scarce. If they lose, no one will forget.
Breaking down the Kent State game
Growing up in Connecticut, Andrew Callahan was so fascinated with football’s intricacies that until early in his college career – at the University of Connecticut, in his hometown of Storrs — he considered going into coaching. Callahan befriended a Huskies graduate assistant and spent considerable time watching film and learning about the game, and now, at age 25, applies that to his writing and video work for the Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News and GameTimePA.com.
In his most recent offering he breaks down the Kent State game, noting that Trace McSorley’s decision-making was largely excellent, though his execution might have been better in the red zone and on some long balls. By Callahan’s count, McSorley went just 3-for-10 on attempts over 20 yards, though that was probably due to the Golden Flashes’ excellent secondary as much as anything else.
One other stat of interest: The Flashes rushed more than five or more people 14 times, and did not manage a sack in these situations. Callahan writes that was due, in part, to the excellent blocking of running back Saquon Barkley, who was (as always) far more celebrated for his running. He gained 105 yards on 22 attempts.
The times, they are a changin’
Jourdan Rodrigue of the Centre Daily Times tweeted the photo below of the hard copy from a 1998 Penn State-Pitt preview story written by one of her predecessors at the CDT, Kim Jones (now of the NFL Network).
The lead quote, from an unnamed Penn State assistant, is this: “Do you know how much they hate you?”
Gotta be honest here: I kinda miss the venomous old days.
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 6, 2016