James Franklin said 35 players were out for Penn State vs. Rutgers

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Penn State blanked Rutgers on Saturday, but it was anything but easy for the Nittany Lions. The backup quarterback story of Christian Veilleux replacing an injured Sean Clifford was the headliner, but James Franklin said after the game it went much deeper than the backup quarterback rising to the occasion.

Franklin said his team was without 35 players for one reason or another, including 21 of which were suffering from flu-like symptoms. Fortunately for Penn State, none of the players appeared to be suffering from COVID symptoms but having so many players out for practices as late as Friday was a big concern for Franklin and his staff.

“We faced as much adversity in this game as I’ve been around. We had 35 guys out for one reason or another. 21 guys because of the flu. 14 guys who had the flu and played through it,” Franklin explained in his postgame media session. “Thursday, it looked like a hospital ward in there. There was IVs everywhere.”

As late as Friday, Franklin was still a little unsure just what kind of availability his team would have to work with on Saturday afternoon. That included Veilleux not being available.

“Friday was the same way – we didn’t have a scholarship quarterback at Friday’s practice,” Franklin explained. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen. So, the way the guys stuck together, a bunch of guys that played and hadn’t played all year long in significant roles. I’m just really proud.”

Veilleux replaced Sean Clifford late in the first quarter. Clifford was among the players suffering and battling through some illness factors, on top of potentially having an arm injury as he left the game. Fortunately for Penn State, Veilleux was prepared to step into action against Rutgers and lead the offense to four touchdown drives, including his first three career touchdown passes.

Penn State will need to get rested up and in good shape for the regular-season finale. Penn State hits the road to face Michigan State, with the Spartans coming off an embarrassing loss to Ohio State in Week 12.

Kickoff for Penn State’s road game at Michigan State has been set for 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

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