Penn State is off to an 0-1 start in the Big Ten and stands at 2-2 overall. It's coming off a 49-10 shellacking at Michigan in a game that was virtually over by halftime. The Nittany Lions are down four linebackers, including three starters, with an opponent (Minnesota) visiting on Saturday that loves to run the football.
James Franklin hears the grumbling. He's not happy with what happened Saturday at the Big House, either. But his advice to Nittany Nation is simple: "I want everybody to take a deep breath."
"I think I have stated before that there's a process to this," the Nittany Lions coach said Tuesday at his weekly teleconference. "There's a process from the time we arrived to where we're going. I think I see strides in people that come to practice every single day.
"There's progress being made. Are there times where we all want the progress to happen a lot faster? No doubt about it. But I think that's also what makes Penn State special is there's very high expectations here. There's a tremendous amount of pride."
Franklin said he realizes that people feel strongly about Penn State "because they love their experience here . . . the difference it's made in their lives." He understands that school pride "goes hand in hand with the expectations and the standards and who and what we want to be."
"I think what happens a lot of times is that people compare and contrast," he said. "Well, it's hard to compare and contrast because of the situation we were in [with NCAA sanctions]. Who are you going to compare that to? So I get it, but I think it's coming from a good place . . . of pride and love of Penn State and wanting to get back to those memories and those experiences that they look back so fondly on.
"So I get it, I embrace it. I take it for what it is, and I think our players do as well."
Through four games, however, there are problem areas with the Lions. Their rushing attack, even with the talented Saquon Barkley, is ranked 122nd of the 128 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Their paltry third-down conversion rate of 24.4 percent is next-to-last in the nation.
Michigan rushed for 326 yards, the second time this season that Penn State has yielded more than 300 yards on the ground, and now the Nittany Lions prepare for Minnesota (3-0), a team that averages 228 rushing yards.
The tendency for the offensive miseries is to point at the line, which yielded six sacks to the Wolverines. Franklin admitted the unit "hasn't been as physical as we need to be" and "needs to take the next step," but he believe it has improved.
As for finding ways to spring Barkley, Franklin took issue with a suggestion that the team make simple, direct handoffs to Barkley rather than wait for quarterback Trace McSorley to make a zone- read before he decides whether to hand the ball off to him, an approach that Michigan handled rather easily.
"Well, what we considered doing is putting in the single wing and just snap it to" Barkley, Franklin said.
He said offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead has been successful with the type of offense the Nittany Lions are playing, and he supports Moorhead.
On defense, the decimated linebacker corps may have an emerging young star in freshman Cameron Brown, who had 10 tackles last week and could start Saturday.
So Franklin's process continues. He knows the fans want to see results and he'll keep working to provide those.
"We're going to continue developing these kids," he said, "and I believe in my 22 years of experience that we're heading in the right direction and good things are going to happen if people let the process play out."