What James Franklin said about Michigan football after the game

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. — Before the season, very few people expected much of Michigan, though Wisconsin and Penn State were strongly expected to rebound from a moribund 2020 campaign, though the Wolverines were only anticipated to have modest improvement.

Now, through 10 games, Michigan is 9-1 with wins over both, with both coming on the road.

At the outset of the year, Penn State was garnering praise across college football, having taken down the Badgers in Week 1 and Auburn in Week 3. After quarterback Sean Clifford suffered an injury at Iowa while up 17-3, PSU lost that game and three more, with the latest coming at the hands of Jim Harbaugh and the resurgent maize and blue.

After the game, James Franklin praised his team, but noted that the Nittany Lions were plagued by one aspect that the Wolverines have recently struggled with — scoring touchdowns compared to field goals.

“I want to give Michigan a bunch of credit, obviously a really good football team that we battled for four quarters,” Franklin said. “I thought defensively, we did enough to give us the chance to win the game. We really limited points, limited explosive plays, obviously there until the end. From a special teams perspective I thought we were aggressive, called the game in a way that we felt like give us a chance to win, one play which led to some points, and then obviously one fake that did not.

“On offense, we were able to move the ball. But obviously, too many situations where we had to settle for field goals in the red zone. We gotta find a way to score more touchdowns. In 2021, you’ve got to be able to score touchdowns. So give Michigan a bunch of credit. We battled. That’s a good football team. But we didn’t find a way to win the game.”

While he notes that his offense was able to move the ball, it was quite limited. The reason for that? Michigan’s defensive front.

The Wolverines had seven sacks in the game, led by Aidan Hutchinson with three and David Ojabo with two. Though PSU marched down the field on the first drive, it was in large part due to a fake punt moving the chains, as the aforementioned duo was in the backfield on nearly every snap.

“We knew their defensive ends were going to be a problem,” Franklin said. “We had plans to chip them for most of the day, we had plans to screen them as much as we could. And then obviously, staying with the run game and not going away from the run game. I thought for the most part we battled. But obviously, Sean got hit too many times. But those two defensive ends, you can make the argument maybe the best combination of two D-ends of the country.”

Penn State threw just about everything it could against the Michigan defense thanks to the amount of pressure that the front was able to get. Franklin notes that the lack of a run game made that difficult, and while he says they’ve ‘gotta move the pocket,’ that is precisely what it was doing on Saturday to avoid Hutchinson and Ojabo. With limited success.

”They have two of the better defensive ends in the country,” Franklin said. “We’ve gotta be able to run the ball more consistently so it takes the pressure off of the passing game. We’ve gotta move the pocket. We’ve gotta have enough things in the package to move the pocket, to change the launch point up as well. All those things are really important.”

Penn State is now 6-4 on the season with losses to Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio State.

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