After disappointing Ohio State loss, Penn State refocuses following players-only meeting

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
  • Penn State suffered a 39-38 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.
  • It was Penn State's first loss of the 2017 season.
  • After the game, the Nittany Lions held a players-only meeting on Sunday.

The players did not need to be pushed into having a meeting.

Less than 24 hours after having their undefeated run end at Ohio State, Penn State captains got their teammates together on Sunday to refocus for the November stretch run following a painful loss to the Buckeyes.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, top right, is sacked by Penn State defenders Jason Cabinda, left, and Manny Bowen during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Cabinda was one of the players involved in calling for a players-only meeting after PSU's 39-38 loss to the Buckeyes.

“I could not have more confidence in our players,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said. “They had a player-only meeting on their own on Sunday. Sometimes I have a hand in those — I did not have a hand in this one. It was not a long meeting at all.

“The feedback I got, it was really good. Some things I think they just wanted to get off their chest.”

As expected, Penn State players who spoke on Tuesday and Wednesday didn’t go into too much detail about what was said being closed doors.

Senior linebacker and defensive captain Jason Cabinda got the ball rolling, texting with offensive counterpart Trace McSorley, as well as Saquon Barkley, about setting something up.

Special teams captain Nick Scott said from there that the staff will send out a group text to the team to let them know the captains want to meet with everyone.

“We just felt like there were some things we had to kind of get off our chest,” said Cabinda, who added that the loss wasn’t the sole reason for the meeting. “Making sure the mentality of the team was the same, we were still taking the same approach. Knowing there’s still a ton of football left, a lot still left to be accomplished. Kind of just reiterating those things really.”

According to one senior, it was Cabinda and the captains who did much of the talking.

“The team captains just got together and started talking,” tight end Mike Gesicki said. “Didn’t get into anything too deep. Just talking about how we have a ton of football left to play this season. Everything we want is still out there. We can still achieve it all.

“We’ve gotta get back to work, correct mistakes and just get back on a roll.”

It starts on Saturday with a third straight ranked opponent as the Lions hit the road to take on No. 24 Michigan State.

Ranked at No. 7 themselves in the first College Football Playoff poll, the Lions aren’t guaranteed one of the four spots even if they win out to finish the regular season at 11-1.

After the trip to East Lansing, the Lions host Rutgers and Nebraska before finishing on the road at Maryland.

Cabinda said he thought everyone was on the same page afterward.

“Obviously I didn’t really expect anyone to have any type of head-down mentality or being down. That’s just not who we are as players. It’s not who this team is. … I know the kind of guys we have in that locker room. It was really to reiterate it, make sure the mentality was set, making sure we were all pulling the rope in the same direction. Which we are.

“To me, it was really about how little convincing it took to everyone to make sure we’re in the same direction.”

Monday is a designated off day for players. When they came back in on Tuesday, the seniors were happy with the effort they saw.

“We had our best Tuesday practice of the season,” Gesicki said.

“Spirits are high,” Scott said. “Guys are ready to work.”

McSorley makes the cut: Now a month away from awards season, McSorley was named one of 10 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback for accomplishments on and off the field.

Candidates for the trophy must be seniors or redshirt juniors on track to graduate. McSorley and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett are the lone Big Ten finalists are joined by Riley Ferguson (Memphis), Ryan Finley (N.C. State), Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State), Quinton Flowers (South Florida), Kenny Hill (TCU), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) and Logan Woodside (Toledo).

Penn State also has some semifinalists for other national awards, including Barkley (Maxwell), Cabinda and Marcus Allen (Lott IMPACT).