My Name Is…Johnny Wishbone
For those who don’t understand the process, remember that this is a process. James Franklin didn’t get to where he is now by not knowing what to do. He’s an extraordinarily gifted people-person and oversees a very talented group of assistant coaches. It takes time. Franklin is most definitely the right man for this job at this point in time.
The fact of the matter is that no team can win in this conference without being able to successfully run the football. Franklin hasn’t experienced Big Ten football enough to understand this yet, but he will grasp the concept very soon.
Obviously blood can’t be drawn from a stone. If a base rushing scheme can’t work because of the personnel on the line, then it can’t work. But there are ways to work around such a problem.
In the 2001 season when nothing was working on offense, Joe Paterno used the bye week to institute the wishbone offense, which ironically came into play against Northwestern – Penn State’s opponent following that bye week. That shift jump-started Zack Mills’ offense and began a stretch in which Penn State won five of its next six game, including wins over Ohio State and Michigan State. (Oh wait, sorry Mark Emmert. Strike that last sentence.)
Surely Franklin is not going to do anything that drastic related to the ’ole three-back ’bone, but the point is that something needs to change. Perhaps a (gasp) fullback should be inserted into the backfield to run a bit of (gasp) I-formation. Or, maybe John Donovan should return to what was somewhat working late in the Rutgers game and all day against UMass – those plays that allowed the ball carrier to begin the rush from outside of the box/pocket with laterals and the like.
Does any team in football still have a fullback? Sam Gash, Brian Milne and Jon Witman must be rolling over in their (virtual) graves when they watch what has become of the game today.
Remember how in the season preview it was discussed that Christian Hackenberg experienced a shoulder injury during preseason camp and it was questionable if he had fully recovered from it? Looking at his regressing-by-the-week accuracy, if the shoe fits…
That skip-pass to Bill Belton was a Donovan McNabb special. Surely some of Hackenberg’s misfires this season have been due to the lack of time he has in the pocket. But that one, which caused a noticeable tiff between the two on the bench immediately thereafter, was downright awful.
The good news for Penn State fans is that this coaching staff has much better cohesiveness than that of the previous two administrations. There won’t be a coordinator screaming into the headset that his players “suck” (yes, John Butler did that last season). And there definitely will not be a duel effort in place in which one coach calls the running plays and another calls the passing plays.
Franklin has a very sound structure in place. It just needs time to grow and it definitely will. For the here and now, though, Franklin and Co. need to watch the Northwestern game film, learn whatever needs to be learned from it, and then burn it. Have a bonfire. And never speak of it again.