Penn State is focused on going “1-0” following blowout loss against Michigan

Story posted October 16, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Alex Rocco

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For the second straight season, Penn State jumped out to a 5-0 record and was ranked inside the top 10.

Also, for the second year in a row, the Nittany Lions lost their sixth game moving to 5-1.

While 2021’s loss against Iowa was in heartbreaking fashion, Saturday’s loss to the Michigan Wolverines was pure domination.

Under James Franklin, the blue and white have seemed to let one loss derail the entire campaign and turn what was a promising start into a disappointing finish.

Last year after suffering a 23-20 loss to the Hawkeyes, Penn State had its bye week and then struggled to regain its momentum, failing to Illinois in nine overtimes and Ohio State the following week.

However, this snowball effect isn’t something new for Franklin’s program, as in 2020, they suffered big losses to Indiana and Ohio State to open the year and proceeded to drop the next three games.

So after falling to the Wolverines 41-17 on Saturday, the Nittany Lions are tasked with putting the loss in the rearview mirror and move forward.

“We got to find a way to be 1-0 next week,” Franklin said. “We're going to need everybody in that locker room, everybody in Happy Valley, the Penn State community to stick with us and rally around us.”

During his time in Happy Valley, Franklin has struggled coming out of the bye week, with his record dropping to 3-6.

Leading up to Saturday’s contest, the ninth-year coach mentioned he switched things for his program during the bye week, putting more emphasis on preparing for Michigan and the games that follow rather than recruiting.

Despite Franklin’s proclaimed changes during the off-week, the result remained the same, and the blue and white was dominated.

Fifth-year wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley mentioned he and the rest of his teammates were extremely confident entering the top-10 battle.

“We definitely felt like we could go in here, win and dominate like we know how to, but we didn't execute the way we were supposed to,” Tinsley said. “I didn’t think there was any rust. I think Michigan just played good today. Hats off to Michigan.”

A big factor in the loss was the blue and maize's ability to run the football at will, tallying 418 rushing yards on the day.

In the five weeks leading up to Saturday’s matchup, the most rushing yards Penn State allowed this year was 119 against Auburn in week three.

After the game, Franklin noted he and the rest of the staff need to recruit better in the trenches, claiming his team is undersized and “everyone wants to be Aaron Donald, and they’re not.”

While Franklin acknowledged he needs improved recruiting, that doesn’t help the outcome of any games for the remainder of the 2022 campaign.

Despite losing in a blowout fashion,  Franklin’s mindset was to not yell at his players but tell them he loves them.

“When there's an open wound, that’s not the time,” Franklin said. “I learned years ago as a young coach not to go in the locker room and start talking about what we need to do better [and] what we should have done.”

Penn State entered Ann Arbor with fewer questions than when it left it, and it has several areas to improve upon on both sides of the ball.

Senior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher knows the team has to improve, and the first step in that direction is to hold themselves accountable.

“I think if we can do that, then we'll be able to take the steps we need,” Mustipher said. “If we start getting off track and going crazy after one loss, that's when bad things happen.”

Next week, the blue and white return home to face a 4-2 Minnesota program, which was once ranked in the top 25 and is looking to turn its season around after falling to Illinois.

Luckily for the Nittany Lions, next week’s contest is the White Out Game, and the fans will be in full force.

Penn State has to move forward after the loss to Michigan and turn its season around to avoid another disappointing result to end a campaign.

“We are 5-1,” Franklin said. “That's what we are. Very, very clearly that's where we are. 5-1. The losses aren’t bigger than what they are, and the wins aren't bigger than what they are.”

Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email alex.rocco1702@gmail.com.