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Penn State's Franklin gives muted response to subtle dig from Pitt's Narduzzi

BOB COHN
YorkDispatch

Penn State coach James Franklin gave a muted response to Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi's subtle but obvious reference to problems with the Nittany Lions' passing game.

On Monday, Narduzzi was asked whether quarterback Nate Peterman's accuracy resulted from his skills or the play-calling.

It was more Peterman, Narduzzi said, which was not a surprise, although he added that play-calling certainly helps. Then, perhaps feeling giddy over Pitt cracking the Top 25 (No. 25) during the season for the first time since 2009, he said, "You could have a talented quarterback with a bad play-caller and make (the quarterback) look bad. You see that around the country, some closer than others."

There was no doubt Narduzzi was referring to Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who is having a difficult season, and jabbing embattled offensive coordinator and play-caller John Donovan, and Franklin himself.

On Tuesday, it was Franklin's turn to respond. His answer was not unexpected.

"First of all, I don't want to read into anything," he said. "There's been comments and things I've said in the past that people have read into. Happy for them and the success they've had. But my focus is on Penn State completely, 100 percent."

He added, "There is a lot of great football being played in this state," citing Pitt and No. 22 Temple, whom he knows something about, and even Penn, which is 2-3. Franklin also playfully plugged his alma mater, East Stroudsburg, repeating it twice.

Franklin said he doesn't like "back and forth," noting he and offensive line coach Herb Hand "had a conversation to stop that." This was about some Twitter sniping between Hand and Pitt offensive line coach John Peterson over recruiting.

"I think there have been other times in other things that have happened that people have read into that are not there, looking to get hits on websites or to try to create some drama that was never really there."

Narduzzi, meanwhile, also has poked at Franklin's claim during his introductory news conference in January 2014 that Penn State would "dominate the state" in recruiting.

In 11 months, the teams meet for the first time since 2000. It should be fun.

No retreat, no surrender: Franklin said he understood why the subject would come up but still defended letting Hackenberg play the entirety of Saturday's 38-10 loss to Ohio State.

Not only did the Buckeyes have the situation well in hand in the fourth quarter, Hackenberg was limping after taking a beating.

Franklin also stuck with freshman sensation running back Saquon Barkley, who missed the previous two-plus games with an ankle injury.

"I think you guys are going to see that over time, that our staff and our players and me, specifically, are really, really competitive, and I think it's hard to put your backups in the game before the game is over," Franklin said.

"It's almost like waving a white flag, and that's not kind of who I am or who we will be. We're going to fight to the last play of the game."