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Good efforts for Penn State are fine, but James Franklin wants to see more wins

The Nittany Lions are 2-2 against ranked teams but have lost three straight heading into Saturday's game at Maryland. Franklin said he likes the way his team battled in its loss to Ohio State

Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on during the second half of the game against the Villanova Wildcats at Beaver Stadium on September 25, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images/TNS)
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on during the second half of the game against the Villanova Wildcats at Beaver Stadium on September 25, 2021 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images/TNS)Read moreScott Taetsch / MCT

Penn State has had some close calls this season with ranked opponents, or opponents that were ranked at the time they played them. The Nittany Lions have won some (at Wisconsin, Auburn) and lost some (at Iowa, at Ohio State).

Now as the No. 22 Lions enter the final month of the regular season beginning with Saturday’s game at Maryland, coach James Franklin wants to see more close games go in his team’s favor.

“Going on the road to Wisconsin to open the season, we battle like crazy and find a way to get some wins in a lot of different ways,” Franklin said Tuesday at his weekly Zoom news conference. “Then obviously we go on the road and play a really tough game against [Iowa], I think the No. 2 team in the country at the time, and obviously some challenges come there.

“So I guess what I would say is, looking at the team, there’s obviously some ways we’ve got to find a way to win some of these tough games, and that’s through a lot of different ways. That’s through preparation, that’s through development, that’s through scheme, that’s through recruiting from a depth perspective. That’s all those things.”

According to, Penn State is ranked sixth in strength of schedule, with the five teams above them all representing the Southeastern Conference. The Nittany Lions have two more ranked teams – Michigan (currently No. 9) and Michigan State (No. 5) – left on their slate.

Penn State played perhaps its most solid game since its 5-0 start but lost to Ohio State, its third consecutive defeat. The Lions led early and rallied from 10 down to tie the game early in the third quarter before the Buckeyes unleashed a pair of explosive third-quarter plays and controlled the ball in the final 15 minutes to come away with a 33-24 victory.

“Obviously, there’s a few plays in a few games we’d love to have back,” Franklin said. “That doesn’t happen, so you learn from them, you grow, you be really honest with yourself and your team, and you find a way to get a win this week and build on it from there.

“I think there were enough things last week in that game to build on, but we’ve got to find a way to get a win this week. That’s all that matters.”

Franklin used the word “build” several times during his meeting with reporters. He liked how physical his offensive and defensive lines were against the Buckeyes “and we need to build on that.” He saw how his players were growing in confidence and how they battled last weekend.

“In every game you’re going to be able to look back at things you want to get better,” he said. “But there were some positive signs to build on. We have to correct the issues and the mistakes.”

Vote to play

Penn State practiced Tuesday despite legislation passed last year by the NCAA ordering no practices or competitions on Election Day. Franklin said he met with his team’s Leadership Council, consisting of players from all four classes, and they decided they did not want to break up the regular weekly routine. The Big Ten then granted the team a waiver allowing the practice. The coach said most of his players file absentee ballots with their hometowns.

No fun flying

The charter flight carrying the Nittany Lions back from Columbus was unable to land at University Park Airport early Sunday because of fog, forcing the plane to go to Harrisburg International Airport. Franklin said staffing issues in Harrisburg and finding bus drivers to take the traveling party back to campus created more delays. The group arrived at the Lasch Football Building at 6:30 a.m.

Veilleux at No. 2

Franklin said that because backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson was limited in practice last week due to an undisclosed injury, he named freshman Christian Veilleux as the No. 2 signal caller just before kickoff for the Ohio State game. The coach said he will continue to evaluate his two backups this week before the trip to Maryland.