Penn State to mull personnel, strategy changes after humbling loss to Temple
STATE COLLEGE — A day after their stunning loss to Temple, Penn State players held a funeral on their practice field.
They buried the game tape — with few kind words uttered in remembrance — determined to put the embarrassing effort behind them.
"We called the team up and we just wanted to let the guys know, 'Hey look, we're not going to dwell on the past,"' senior safety Jordan Lucas said. "'We lost the game. It was our fault. We're going to bury this. It's not the end of our season."'
But the weight of a weekend in which Penn State's offense gave up 10 sacks and its defense allowed 27 unanswered points to an opponent it hadn't lost to in more than seven decades was clearly still on coach James Franklin's shoulders.
The usually upbeat coach was somber during his first meeting with reporters since Saturday but insisted there were still "good things going on in the program" and asked for patience with 11 games still to play.
"It was tough to walk into that press conference after the game," Franklin said. "It was tough to walk into this press conference today. The last couple of days have not been great. The only positive thing that's happened the last two days was getting to see my wife and daughters after the game."
With a few days to think it over, Franklin said he's reconsidered his postgame statement that Penn State fielded its best five offensive linemen against the Owls. The Nittany Lions relied on returning starting guards Brendan Mahon and Brian Gaia, center Angelo Mangiro and right tackle Andrew Nelson, along with first-time starter Paris Palmer at left tackle.
After two scoring drives to start the game, Penn State's offense managed just four first downs the rest of the way while quarterback Christian Hackenberg took a beating. Temple racked up sacks with as little as a two-man rush, and that ineptitude from the offensive line is forcing Franklin to reconsider his personnel.
That includes evaluating players who have been used mostly in reserve roles and others who haven't yet played in a game.
Penn State will likely give interior lineman Wendy Laurent another look this week, possibly freeing up Mangiro to move to one of the tackles. Mangiro slid from center last season and played right tackle with Nelson switching to the left side when former starter Donovan Smith was hurt. Laurent played center in Mangiro's place and played well.
Guard Derek Dowrey played some last season and saw time at center on Saturday. Sophomore tackle Chance Sorrell has yet to debut, but Franklin singled him out as a player who's made progress.
The coaching staff needs to be better too, Franklin said. That includes tooling the offense to their pocket passer who once thrived in former coach Bill O'Brien's NFL-inspired system.
"I think we can run the ball more. I think we can move the pocket more," Franklin said. "Those are things I think can be helpful for us for a lot of different reasons. I think we have to be able to take more shots."
Few Penn State alums missed the chance to weigh in on the result. Former players Allen Robinson, Bill Belton and Adam Gress — who played with most of the current players — joined others to voice their disdain on Twitter during and after the game. Gress, a former offensive tackle, was specifically critical of offensive coordinator John Donovan, tweeting "Offensive coordinator sucks."
"Everybody's got to pull their weight," Franklin said. "Do I think there have been some challenges more so on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side of the ball since we arrived? Yeah.
"But we also have to be creative to overcome some of those things, and everybody is being evaluated. My job is to support everybody and find a way to overcome some of these challenges and issues that we have right now."
The first step was breaking out that shovel.