We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Penn State sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, wrestling, hockey, baseball or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Friday, Nov. 4. Let’s get started.
Franklin never had a doubt
Greg Pickel of Pennlive.com offered a summary of James Franklin’s regular weekly appearance on the Penn State coaches show Thursday night. One of the things Franklin was asked was what has surprised him the most. It should come as no surprise that “not a whole lot” surprises Franklin, a man who seldom displays a bit of doubt.
Franklin, per Pickel:
“I’ve been saying this for three years. We’ve been making progress. It hasn’t always equated to the statistics, or the scoreboard, but I’ve seen it. I see things getting better. We’re bigger, we’re stronger, we’re faster, all of those types of things. I wouldn’t say anything is necessarily a surprise. We have a lot of work left to do, but we’re making progress.”
That might be true. But let’s remember that the Lions began this season 2-2, with the last of those four games a 49-10 wipeout at Michigan. The next week they returned home but were down 13-3 to Minnesota at halftime, and looked dead in the water. Somehow they awakened, beginning with an unlikely 80-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to backup wide receiver Irv Charles, a redshirt freshman. (It is one of two catches he has this season.)
PSU rallied to win in overtime, and hasn’t lost since.
So while Franklin might not be surprised – or at least say he isn’t — there are a great many who are.
Franklin was also asked about his team’s third-down conversion rate, a season-long issue. The Lions have converted just 24 of 95 third downs (25.3 percent), last among the nation’s 128 FBS teams. His view:
“It’s not one thing, it’s a combination of things. We have to protect a little bit better, we have to create more separation in our routes, and we have to be more accurate. The other thing is, we have to stay out of third and long.”
He has given virtually the same answer on other occasions, and there has been no noticeable improvement to date. You would think this might come back to haunt the Lions at some point. But for the last month, at least, it has not.
Another kicker to Davis’ story
John Cappelletti is, of course, the only Penn State player to win the Heisman Trophy, having done so in 1973. The school has had 16 other players finish among the top 10 in the Heisman voting, most recently Michael Robinson in 2005.
PSU has also seen players win the Bednarik Award, the Biletnikoff Award, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Burlsworth Trophy, the Butkus Award, the Davey O’Brien Award, the Doak Walker Award, the James E. Sullivan Award, the Lott IMPACT Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Outland Trophy, the Rimington Trophy, the Notary Lombardi Award, the Ted Hendricks Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Trophy.
It has never had a Lou Groza Award winner.
On Thursday Tyler Davis was named one of 20 semifinalists for that honor, which since 1992 has been presented annually to the nation’s best kicker.
Davis, the second PSU kicker to be named a semifinalist in three years (joining Sam Ficken in 2014), has a remarkable backstory. He played only soccer his entire life, and spent a year (2013-14) as a scholarship player at Bradley. He began kicking a football in the summer of 2014, and walked on at Penn State in January 2015.
Davis became the regular placekicker midway through last season, making all eight of his field-goal attempts and his first 10 this season to set a school record for consecutive makes with 18. He is 13-of-14 this season – the lone miss a block against Ohio State – and 21-for-22 in his fledgling career.
Tamba Hali – doing well, and doing good
Alex Busingye recently wrote a profile of Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a native Liberian and former Penn State star, for Ducor Sports, a new digital outlet dedicated to providing coverage of African teams and athletes that was previously “nonexistent,” according to the web site.
When Hali was young, his native land was wracked by a civil war that claimed the lives of about 600,000 people, according to Busingye’s account. Hali was tempted to join one of the militias that roved the country, as many his age did.
He did not, though. His family fled to neighboring Ivory Coast, and before long his dad, Henry, immigrated to the United States, settling in Teaneck, N.J. He was able to obtain visas for his four children but not Tamba’s mother, Rachel Keita, because the couple was not married.
Tamba, who was 10 at the time, was awestruck by his new surroundings. As he told Busingye:
“Everything seemed like heaven, like wow, this is America. Because we went from looking for food to where food is always available.”
He struggled with the language barrier at first, but found his niche in football. Hali became a high school star, then an All-American at PSU, and in 2006, an NFL first-round draft pick. That same year, his mom was finally able to join him in the United States:
“It was a situation almost like your parent was dead for 12 years and now she’s back in your life.”
Hali is now 33 and 11 years into a career that has seen him make five Pro Bowls. He has also become a tireless fundraiser in the fight against Ebola in his native land. As he put it:
“We can’t really wait on this. I’d be the first one to tell you that every time I do charity work, I like to do it on the hush-hush and help people quietly. But there are some matters — like this — that are way bigger than me. All I can do is lend my help in ways I know I can.
“This is not a type of disease you can contract and then there are vaccines and it goes away. People are dying within weeks and within the first month of contact. So we have to act now.”
Elsewhere in the Land of 10
State College police to charge 13 people in connection with the riots that followed Penn State’s Oct. 22 victory over Ohio State.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh criticizes the Big Ten over its plan to schedule Friday night games.
Michigan State will start Tyler O’Connor at quarterback against Illinois.