Besieged this week by questions about the firing of his offensive coordinator, Penn State coach James Franklin implored reporters to address the No. 12 Nittany Lions’ next opponent.
“At some point during this press conference I’d love to get just a few questions about Rutgers,” he said Monday.
Despite Franklin’s efforts, the visiting Scarlet Knights (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) received little attention from the press corps ahead of the Saturday clash with the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2) in University Park, Pa.
Franklin, who is in his 10th season, has been feeling the heat since the Nittany Lions’ 24-15 home loss to Michigan last week. The defeat exposed a sore subject that has been brewing all season: a conservative offensive approach.
On Sunday, Penn State fired Mike Yurcich, who had been the offensive coordinator since 2021.
Sharing the role will be tight ends coach Ty Howle and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider. During games, both will remain in their usual roles, with Howle in the booth upstairs and Seider on the sideline, Franklin said.
“They both will have a role in play-calling,” Franklin said.
Additionally, graduate assistant Danny O’Brien, who played quarterback at Maryland when Franklin was the Terrapins’ offensive coordinator, will help oversee the QBs. Yurcich also served as the quarterbacks coach.
Franklin added that he hopes to have a new offensive coordinator in place before Penn State’s bowl game.
The Nittany Lions will try to figure out how to add more punch to an offense that includes two of the Big Ten’s top 10 rushers, Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton.
Drew Allar has thrown for 21 touchdowns with just one interception but averages only 6.3 yards per pass. That figure pales in comparison to Big Ten quarterbacks such as Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (10.3) and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord (9.3).
In the Michigan game, Penn State’s unwillingness to throw downfield was particularly evident. Allar completed 10 of 22 passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, which came with 1:59 left, when the outcome was essentially decided.
On Monday afternoon at Rutgers, coach Greg Schiano also was peppered with questions about the Scarlet Knights’ conservative approach following a 22-0 loss at Iowa.
“The way we’ve played the game has allowed us to be in every single game this year going into the fourth quarter,” Schiano said. “In the past, that wasn’t the case. To me, that’s incremental improvement.”
Rutgers’ offense was able to generate only 127 total yards and seven first downs. The Scarlet Knights never crossed the Hawkeyes’ 40-yard line as nine of their 11 possessions ended with a punt.
Schiano said he has not considered benching quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who completed 7 of 18 passes for 93 yards with one interception against the Hawkeyes.
The slate in November is tough with Rutgers having to face the defenses of Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa, which are ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 8, respectively, in yards allowed per game in the FBS.
Penn State is 31-2 all-time against Rutgers, including wins in each of the past 16 meetings. The Nittany Lions beat the Scarlet Knights 55-10 last year in Piscataway, N.J.
–Field Level Media