Penn State football chat with Joe Juliano

Penn State football chat with Joe Juliano

    Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our weekly Penn State chat, coming this week only on a Wednesday. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled time next week
    After completing its non-conference schedule against Army with a 20-14 win, Penn State returns to Big Ten competition -- this time for good -- on Saturday when it hosts Indiana at Beaver Stadium, the last of a five-game homestand.
    The Nittany Lions re-enter conference play riding a four-game winning streak. While that looks encouraging, plenty of questions still remain about the ability of the offense to move the ball with any consistency. They were outgained last week by Army and fell to 95th in FBS in scoring and 116th in the nation in total offense.
    he joe, with hackenburg struggling as much as he is, do you think it's more likely that he will stay for his senior season?
    I'm still thinking that Hackenberg is staying for his senior season but my conviction in this opinion is slowly fading. I'm increasingly convinced that the offense is not suited for his set of skills. A guy with his talent shouldn't be hailed as a fine "game manager." However, I have to realize that the Nittany Lions have played three games when it has been raining for nearly all of the contest, so that does limit what you're able to do through the air. I'd be eager to see if it's nice weather Saturday, whether Hack will be allowed to air it out against an Indiana pass defense that ranks next-to-last in the nation.
    I don't know if you saw last Sunday's game story, where I mentioned Franklin's monologue at the end of his press conference that we (the media) were asking questions that begged for a negative response and that he wasn't going to provide one. The bottom line is that he sees the same problems in the offense as the fan base does, but he doesn't want to specify what those problems are with his fan base, the folks that buy the tickets and pay ticket fees and buy all the Penn State paraphernalia.
    What Franklin -- and nearly every college football coach -- doesn't realize is that we the media serve the fans. We're not trying to throw him off with crazy questions. We get your e-mails every week and most of them talk of your dissatisfaction with the coaching and what's been happening. So we're asking the questions on your behalf, not to make ourselves look good. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts on this.
    how likely do you think it is that the john donovan gets fired during this season or before next season?
    There is no chance that John Donovan gets fired during this season, none at all. Franklin is incredibly loyal to his people and that seems to be the same for his assistants' attitude toward him. Donovan worked with Franklin at Maryland and at Vanderbilt before joining him again at Penn State so there is a connection and a friendship. Franklin said after the Temple game he would get more involved in the offense and he said after Saturday's game he's still involved but to what degree, we don't know. But he's going to work with Donovan, and we'll see if the offense gets better.
    According to the advance weather forecast, it's supposed to rain in Happy Valley on Friday but then clear up on Saturday. Dry conditions should help the Nittany Lions perhaps open up their offense a little bit more, maybe even see them take multiple shots downfield. Indiana's defense is one of the worst in the Big Ten but its pass rush is pretty decent, so the offensive line will have to improve upon its performance against Army, where Hackenberg was sacked three times.
    The offensive line lost its best player, center Angelo Mangiro, in the second half of last week's game due to injury. Franklin has not updated Mangiro's status for Saturday. If he can't play, Wendy Laurent will take over at center. Franklin said Laurent played well last week after entering the game. But any change doesn't help the cohesion that the offensive line has been trying to build all year. Offensive tackle Andrew Nelson continues to recover from what we believe is a knee injury. It doesn't seem likely that Nelson will be back this week.
    Is anyone out there excited about Penn State's return to Big Ten play? The Nittany Lions won their first conference game last month -- what seems like eons ago -- over Rutgers to stand 1-0. Indiana has a talented offense but its defense, as we mentioned, is near the bottom of the Big Ten. So unless Penn State's offense goes completely numb, it should put up some points on the Hoosiers, who are averaging 32 points allowed.
    What are the top 3 issues on offense? If Franklin could fix any it would be?
    The No. 1 issue -- and you've all heard if before -- is the offensive line. After hearing in pre-season how everyone had improved in training camp, the line played a shockingly bad game against Temple, allowing 10 sacks. So the coaches have been trying to build the line back up, get it to come together and communicate better. The second issue is the inability of the wide receivers to gain any separation against their defenders, somewhat puzzling to me because I think the wideouts do have some skill. And the third thing is injuries, which is out of the coaches' control. But those are the three big issues.
    Pretty abysmal showing on saturday. I have to think they'd play better if the statue was back. Any thoughts?
    Yes, I thought their play was pretty abysmal.
    Penn State's five-game homestand ends Saturday with the Indiana game. Then the Nittany Lions will take their first trip out of Pennsylvania the following week and take on top-ranked Ohio State. I don't think the Buckeyes have looked all that impressive this season but the main thing is that they're 5-0, and found a way to win last week at Indiana thanks to the amazing Ezekial Elliott, who scored on TD runs of 55, 65, and 75 yards. Not bad.
    what is difference between Obrien's offence and Franklin's offense that has effected Hackenburg so much?
    O'Brien's offense was a 100 percent pro-style offense, letting the QB drop back and let fly on different varieties of routes. The tight ends were mostly pass-catchers not blockers and it was more like the passing game set up the run. Hackenberg was a drop-back QB in high school and thrived in this offense. It was amazing he played so well in his first career game, against Syracuse at Met LIfe Stadium, considering he had left high school less than 3 months earlier. Franklin is more of a short to medium range offense who likes a quarterback who can run (something he doesn't have Hack doing). He went more to the pass last year, he's been emphasizing the run this year, at least until the offensive line proves it can block on a consistent basis. Basically, Hack isn't allowed to let it fly in this offense although he might be allowed to if we see nicer weather.
    The Nittany Lions have another road game after Ohio State, traveling to Baltimore to play Maryland on the Ravens' home field. Then comes a return home for a Halloween matchup against Illinois and its new head coach, Delaware County native and former Widener head coach Bill Cubit. In November, the Lions head to suburban Chicago on the first Saturday for a meeting with surprising Northwestern.
    We've talked so much about the Penn State offense in the first 45 minutes, let's move the discussion to the defensive side for a minute. The Nittany Lions defense has picked up almost where it left off last season, ranking 15th in the nation in total defense (284 yards allowed per game) and 18th in points allowed (15.8). End Carl Nassib is second in sacks at 8.0 and tied for fifth with 10.0 tackles for loss. Tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson also have been solid. Regarding Zettel, check out the Zettel piece I wrote for Penn State Insider at Philly.com/sports. It was our first interview with him since his father passed away last month, and he thanked everyone for their support during that difficult time.
    Special teams are once again in the news for Penn State. Chris Gulla had a fine punting game against Rutgers but has taken a step or two back since then. An interesting sequence against Army came when Gulla shanked a punt out of bounds for 12 yards. On his next punt, Gulla boomed one for 46 yards but decided to run downfield behind the first wave of would-be Penn State tacklers. Gulla put a good hit on the Army return man but wobbled off the field and did not see any more action as a punter or a holder. Franklin has been talking all year about consistency in the punting and kicking games, but still hasn't seen it.
    From what I've seen, Penn State is an 8-point favorite over Indiana. I'm thinking they'll put up at least 27 on the Hoosiers, I'm figuring 27-17. An interesting aspect of this game is that both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in turnover margin. Penn State is plus-8, with three turnovers (2 INT's, 1 lost fumble) and 11 takeaways. That's tied for eighth, but Indiana is tied for fifth at plus-9 (2 turnovers, 11 takeaways).
    Do you get the sense that CJF has been keeping some things in the back pocket (besides, obviously, the injuries - Andrew Nelson may be deceased for all we know) for the conference schedule, or is what we've seen thus far all they've got?
    That's a fair point, JCD. I'm not sure if they're holding anything back but I haven't really thought about it. I would think with their struggles on offense that they'd have to pull out virtually all stops to win games like they did against Army and SD State. But it would be interesting to see if they did have "some things in the back pocket."
    Well that's all our time for the day, thanks to all of you for joining the chat. I hope we'll be back next week at our regular time -- 1 p.m. on Thursday. Enjoy the games this weekend and we'll see you next week.
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