Franklin impressed with kicker's response to struggles

Sep. 6—Sander Sahaydak's debut performance as Penn State's starting kicker didn't go well.

Everything he has done after it might have bought him another chance to seize it, though.

While head coach James Franklin insisted no decision has been made on who will handle the kicking duties for the No. 7 Nittany Lions against Football Championship Subdivision foe Delaware on Saturday, he praised Sahaydak for how he dealt with his struggles head-on during the team's postgame meeting on Sunday.

"Sander Sahaydak got up in front of the team on Sunday without me or anybody talking to him about it," Franklin said during his weekly press conference Tuesday. "I usually end practice and I say something, but he said, 'Coach, I've got something to say.' He got up and handled himself really well. Like if it was was my son, very proud of him as a member of this team.

"I just thought he conducted himself really well. I think he has earned everybody's respect, but what he did, and what he said, did it even more."

The sophomore left-footer hooked his only two attempt Saturday, a 38-yarder and 34-yarder. Both came in the second quarter, and senior transfer Alex Felkins handled the place-kicking responsibilities after that. Franklin said after the game that neither of Sahaydak's misses were on "long, challenging field goals," necessitating the switch.

Franklin said he often reminds struggling players of former kicker Sam Ficken's road to redemption after a rocky start to his career. He missed 7 of his first 11 field goal attempts as a first-time starter in 2012, including four of five against Virginia in a game Penn State lost by just one point. But he ended the season hitting 10 of his last 11 attempts and wound up becoming one of Penn State's most consistent kickers of the last two decades over the following two seasons.

He said he reminded Sahaydak of that story this week.

"I just think it's a great example of trusting the process, not getting too high and not getting too low," Franklin said.

Way it is

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown expressed frustration Saturday after Penn State's backup offense converted a fourth down and scored a late touchdown that padded the final score.

"At some point," he said, "it will come back around."

The old-school approach to grinding out the clock when the result has been decided has gone the way of the polar ice caps in recent years, and while he admits every coach has a different opinion on what to do in those situations, Franklin said his policy is clear.

"I believe my responsibility in those types of situations is to get my (backups) in the game," he said. "Once those 2s get in the game, they deserve the right and chance to play and compete. I believe that, from the opening kick to the last whistle, you compete and you play. If you leave your (starters) in, that's a different story; Then you should change how you play. You take knees and you run in situations that you normally wouldn't run in. That's different. But when your 2s go in the game...they should have a chance to compete."

Franklin noted that Brown kept "a majority" of his starting defense on the field in that situation, and flashed a Cover 0 defense, which should allow backup quarterback Beau Pribula to check out of the play as taught and run a better one against that defense. Pribula ended up scoring the touchdown that irked Brown on a 5-yard run.

"Beau should...have a chance to execute a play that has a chance to be successful and then should have a chance to score," Franklin concluded. "I'm comfortable with that."

Nittany notes

Franklin said none of the three key players listed as out for Saturday's game — CB Daequan Hardy, DT Coziah Izzard and DE Amin Vanover — are out for the season. Typically, that's the only type of injury on which Franklin will offer a comment. ... Former Lackawanna College lineman J.B. Nelson earned the team's "Offensive Finisher of the Week" award for his blocking during his first career start. "I thought JB played really well," Franklin went on. "He is a physical dude who can play guard and tackle, so there's flexibility there. There are still a lot of areas where he can grow and get better, but he gives us a presence out there that we need." ... Players of the week from the coaching staff were QB Drew Allar (offense), LB Curtis Jacobs (defense) and receiver Malik McClain on special teams.

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