Terps Still Special For James Frankli

November 26, 2017 GMT

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — James Franklin was going to become a head football coach. That much is certain.

Seven years ago, it seemed like it would be on the sidelines he patrolled Saturday, in the quaint confines of Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

Obviously, his career path — and a change in plans within Maryland’s athletic department — took him a different way. But the former Terrapins offensive coordinator and disciple of Maryland coaching great Ralph Friedgen wound up back in College Park with Penn State and a convincing, 66-3 win that he insisted didn’t feel like vindication.


“This place,” he said, “was very good to me.”

The road to Vanderbilt — the head coaching job Franklin ultimately took when things began to unravel with Friedgen’s staff after the 2010 season — was one that took some sharp turns. A young wide receivers coach at tiny Idaho State in 1999, Franklin interviewed for the same position at Maryland in 2000, but only while visiting his mother on spring break, and even then, only because he had a friend on the coaching staff. Maryland wasn’t going to go through the expense of flying him in from Idaho to do the interview, he said.

He wound up getting in on the ground floor of Friedgen’s run of dominance in the early 2000s, and after a few years away, came back in 2008 as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, with the head coach-in-waiting designation.

But, the Terrapins fired Friedgen after the 2010 season, which sent Franklin to Vanderbilt and, ultimately, to Penn State, which scored 66 points for the first time since the 2008 opener against Coastal Carolina and the first time against a Football Bowl Subdivision program since posting 67 against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 9, 2000.

“This was really my first big break in the profession,” Franklin said. “I had a great experience, won 36 games in three years here. I had a great experience at the University of Maryland, and I’m forever indebted for that opportunity. Coming back, it was nice to be back. But I’m focused on Penn State and what we need to be better.”

Fake news?

Connor McGovern wasn’t about to let his regular season end earlier than he would have preferred.

The sophomore center from Larksville left the game with an apparent right knee injury in the first quarter, and the Big Ten Network reported that he would not return.

Alas, he did. McGovern returned to the game on the first Nittany Lions drive after halftime.


The Lake-Lehman graduate appeared to initially injure the knee on a 5-yard Saquon Barkley run on first down. McGovern blocked Terrapins defensive end Brett Kulka to the ground, evidently taking a blow to the leg in the process. McGovern got up limping, but headed back to the huddle.

McGovern’s loss, however temporary, was felt. The Nittany Lions averaged 7.2 yards per play with McGovern on the field in the first half, and he threw several key blocks. The biggest came on a blitz pickup which helped quarterback Trace McSorley run for a 22-yard gain in the first quarter.

All in the family

Barkley’s second touchdown rush of the second half came with some help from Penn State’s McPhearson gang.

Senior running back Josh McPhearson knocked the ball free from Terrapins kickoff return man Javon Leake on a short Tyler Davis kickoff after Penn State claimed a 38-0 lead. The ball hit the ground and rolled free until Josh’s brother, freshman cornerback Zech McPhearson, fell on top of it.

Josh is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship in the spring and has been one of the Nittany Lions’ more reliable special teamers all season. Zech was recruited by Franklin’s staff as one of the east coast’s better cornerback prospects in the 2016 class, and he has begun to see more action on special teams with his brother in recent weeks. It was Josh’s first career forced fumble and Zech’s first fumble recovery.

“I didn’t know Zech recovered it until I went to the sideline,” Josh McPhearson said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s a special moment for me and my brother. It was really unreal.”

One more for

the ‘run-ons’

When then-head coach Bill O’Brien had few scholarships to hand out and what he thought would be years of playing short-handed ahead of him back in 2013, he sought to build depth through aggressive recruiting of what he labled “run-ons,” the now famous term he gave to his hustling group of walk-ons.

The last two members of that group made their mark Saturday.

Linebacker Brandon Smith led the Nittany Lions with five tackles, and tight end Tom Pancoast caught a 4-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Tommy Stevens in the third quarter to give Penn State a 52-0 edge.

Nittany notes

Penn State got the two players it lost to injury during the Ohio State game back, albeit in only limited roles Saturday. Defensive end Ryan Buchholz saw some early action on third down in pass-rush situations, but he didn’t make a tackle. Tackle Ryan Bates also played, but in a new position, at right tackle and with the second team once the backups were in the game. ... After missing the Nebraska game for undisclosed reasons, receiver Irvin Charles played Saturday and dropped two passes. He didn’t play special teams. ... Senior Nick Scott started at safety with senior Troy Apke suspended for the first half after being called for a targeting penalty in the second half against the Cornhuskers. Apke played in the second half, though. ... Maryland converted just one of its 15 third-down attempts. ... Franklin said redshirt freshman Dae’lun Darien played offense, defense and special teams.

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dcollins@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100, x5368

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