Penn State's James Franklin says Lions tickled pink about Iowa's visiting locker room

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • Penn State will play Iowa on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.
  • Iowa's stadium has pink walls in the visiting locker room.
  • The walls were painted pink in 1979 in an effort to mellow out the visiting teams.

UNIVERSITY PARK — Jim Harbaugh channeled his inner Bo Schembechler when Michigan visited Iowa last season, having the pink walls of Kinnick Stadium’s visiting locker room covered with Wolverine flags and “Go Blue” posters.

Penn State coach James Franklin talks to the team during practice Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in State College, Pa. Franklin says he likes what he sees from some of his team's redshirt freshmen.

James Franklin will go to no such extremes on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are embracing “one of the cooler, historical things in college football.”

“I think it’s awesome,” Franklin said of the pink walls at Tuesday’s press conference. “I’m not going to make a big deal out of it with our guys. I’m actually going to talk to our guys about it being a really, really nice gesture by the University of Iowa to welcome Penn State, since our original school colors are pink and black. How wonderful it is and what a wonderful gesture it is that they painted their locker room pink for us.”

Franklin smiled during his tongue-in-cheek comment, and it seems as if his players aren’t taking the different look too seriously, either. Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller doesn’t believe his teammates are “too worried about that at all,” and senior safety Marcus Allen said the same.

The visiting locker room walls were painted pink in 1979 at the order of former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, who thought it was a good way to mellow and psych out the Hawkeyes’ opponents. Kirk Ferentz apparently thought the same; during a 2005 renovation of Kinnick Stadium, pink was added to the urinals, sinks and shower curtains.

When asked more specifically about his thoughts on the pink locker room effect, Franklin — a psychology major at East Stroudsburg — wasn’t really having it.

“We just got done painting our house. My daughter, Shola, went with a teal blue. ... My youngest daughter, Addy, went with pink, and it looks great,” Franklin said. “And I think it’s probably going to look cool in their locker room.”

Trace-Tommy package evolving: Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead first showcased his quirky look with quarterback Trace McSorley and backup Tommy Stevens on the field at the same time against Iowa last season.

As Penn State prepares to face the Hawkeyes again, Franklin thinks the package will “just continue to evolve.”

“It makes a defense tentative when you have got a quarterback like that carrying the ball,” Franklin said of Stevens’ involvement. “You have to have in the back of your mind that this guy could throw it at any moment, which is going to make you a little bit tentative in terms of how hard you run support.”

Stevens scored against Iowa in 2016, blasting through Hawkeye defenders for a 13-yard jet sweep touchdown in Penn State’s 41-14 win. The redshirt sophomore has since built on that success, recording one receiving touchdown this season.

“What’s nice about him is he can play like a receiver, he can play like a running back, he can play like a quarterback and we’ve used him in almost all of those ways,” Franklin said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it creates stress on a defense.”

Quotable: “Time’s the biggest difference for me and my teammates. You know, some guys can just go and sit by themselves or do whatever they need to do, but in fairness to my wife and because I want to be with her, that’s just time with my wife. I have to get my work, my schoolwork done a little bit faster or maybe during the day instead of at night so I can be fair to her. It’s a challenge but it’s definitely been worth it so far. She’s a huge encouragement to me, so I appreciate it.” — linebacker Brandon Smith, on married life as a Nittany Lion