Penn State Practice Notebook vs. Michigan: November 10

Story posted November 12, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Emma Holtz

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Improving play explosiveness and physicality up front was just one of the messages that Penn State football’s head coach James Franklin told a crowd of journalists at Holuba Hall on Wednesday evening.

Here are the three most prominent takeaways from Wednesday’s practice leading up to the noon showdown between the Nittany Lions and University of Michigan Wolverines in Beaver Stadium.

1). Penn State wants to establish a passing game and running game balance.

Franklin said he has little concern for what is perceived as the “proper” definition of a balance between passing and running the ball on the Nittany Lions’ offense.

“What I want to be able to do is throw it 75% of the time to win it or be able to run it 75% of the time to win it, depending on what the game needs and what the game calls for,” Franklin said.

He shared his goal to strengthen both offensive aspects so the team can rely on either strategy, depending on the game trend. Throughout the 2021 season, Penn State has favored the passing game due to a running game seeming to miss a rhythm from game-to-game.

Franklin acknowledged quarterback Sean Clifford’s experience during his tenure in the position as an advantage to mold the offense and be flexible when needed.

“There’s experience that comes with that, certain pressures, certain looks, certain defensive coordinators,” Franklin said. “He’s gained all those experiences.”

2). Explosive plays in the run game are trending positively.

Franklin said that the Blue and White’s running game could be changed dramatically with more explosive runs per game. Parameter blocking and the ability to break tackles are two key factors that Franklin mentioned that are seeing improvement.

Running back John Lovett spoke highly of the Penn State defense helping to train the frontline as well as help the running backs, wide receivers and tight ends execute.

“We battle with them every day,” Lovett said.

Lovett’s biggest piece of advice for the young running backs on the roster is patience. Second-year running back Keyvone Lee has been an important piece of the Nittany Lions’ offensive puzzle.

“As you start to understand football more, the game starts to slow down, everything just gets a lot easier… more natural for you,” Lovett said.

Franklin said that he noticed that Lee has improved his decisiveness, which is positive for Penn State ahead of facing a Wolverines defense ranked sixth in the NCAA in total defense.

3). Facing a Michigan running game means plenty of defensive preparation.

Tackles-for-loss are important defense touchpoints for Franklin, who said that the defense’s job is to get the opponent out of its rhythm.

“Whether that is with sacks, or whether that is with tackles-for-loss, you want to get people off schedule, and that can put them in a more of a predictable situation,” Franklin said.

The current status of Michigan’s top running backs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards is uncertain. Penn State’s defense should be focusing on senior running back Hassan Haskins as a sneaky threat in Michigan’s bag of tricks.

“He’s more powerful than you think although he’s an undersized guy,” Franklin said. “[Michigan] does a really good job of getting the extra yards and falling forward.”

Penn State’s secondary needs to follow through on big tackles and stops to stifle a Michigan offense poised to rely on brute strength and experience to carry them through on Saturday.

Emma Holtz is a second-year majoring in public relations. To contact her, email