Penn State taking calm approach into football season's final stretch

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)

It may have just been the frustration talking. But shortly after suffering a second straight loss on Saturday, James Franklin delivered a caution.

Penn State head coach James Franklin has seen his team lose two straight games.

“It’s going to be boring interviews from now on,’’ the Penn State coach told reporters. “You guys aren’t gonna like it.’’

Tuesday proved quite the opposite.

As the Nittany Lions look to move on from a 39-38 loss to Ohio State and a 27-24 defeat to Michigan State, Franklin and his players were thoughtful and forthright about getting on track for Saturday’s game against Rutgers.

“Our players haven’t forgotten how to play and our coaches haven’t forgotten how to coach,” said a calm Franklin, who stayed even-keeled throughout his weekly press conference. “We played two really good opponents, and we’ve lost by a total of four points. And we’ve got to find a way to come out on top of those situations more often than we are right now.

“And again, that’s also saying that we’ve been pretty successful overall. But not as successful as we want to be or not as successful that our fans want us to be. But I can guarantee there’s nobody that’s working harder at it than the guys in our locker room and the coaches in our offices to solve some of these challenges and issues.”

As he did after the game on Saturday, wideout DeAndre Thompkins took responsibility for a dropped pass on fourth down with the Lions driving for a potential winning score.

Michigan State took over on downs and ended up kicking a tiebreaking field goal on the final play.

“That’s one of the those passes as a receiver you have to catch,” Thompkins said.

Likewise, guard Steven Gonzalez said the offensive line has to improve across the board, from protecting Trace McSorley to giving Saquon Barkley room to make a play.

“It’s just our mindset and the way we approach the practice,” Gonzalez said. “I think we just have to approach the practice today and for the rest of the week and the rest of the season of a more finishing mindset. Trying to finish every play, don’t stop until the whistle.”

Lions drop to No. 14: Penn State dropped seven spots to No. 14 in the second week of the College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night.

The two teams right ahead of the Lions are their last two opponents as Michigan State is No. 12 and Ohio State is No. 13. Unbeaten Wisconsin leads six Big Ten teams in the rankings at No. 8. Iowa is at No. 20 and Northwestern checks in at No. 25.

Infirmary report: Though there was no firm update on a pair of injured starters in tackle Ryan Bates and defensive end Ryan Buchholz, the latter may be able to return despite needing to be carted off the field at Ohio State.

Franklin has said the Lions’ defensive woes the past two weeks stem primarily from the lack of a pass rush, with the absence of Buchholz and Torrence Brown playing a major role.

“I think obviously whenever you lose two starters on the one position, that’s a challenge,” Franklin said. “Losing (Torrence) Brown and now you lose Buchholz, that’s a challenge. We can’t say we don’t miss those guys, and we don’t miss those guys — saying that would not be truthful.

“Hopefully we’ll get Buch back here sooner than later.”

Bates appeared to hurt his ankle against the Buckeyes and also did not play against the Spartans.

“He’s handling it pretty well,” Gonzalez said. “He’s doing what he has to do to get back as fast as he can. And we’re keeping his spirits up. But he’s doing just fine. And he’ll be back soon, hopefully. We’ll see what happens.”

More for McSorley: For the second straight week, McSorley was named a semifinalist for a national honor.

McSorley was chosen as one of 16 players still in the running for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the country’s top quarterback. He is also a semifinalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which goes to the top quarterback for accomplishments on and off the field who is on track to graduate.

The redshirt junior broke the Penn State record for career touchdown passes in Saturday’s loss, tossing three to surpass Christian Hackenberg.

Elsewhere on the trophy front, senior linebacker Brandon Smith is one of 20 semifinalists for the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award, which also rewards off the field work.