STATE COLLEGE — Not long after Penn State’s shutout win at Maryland on Friday, Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said he believed his team’s effort to be one of the more complete ones he’s seen during his six-year tenure.
Franklin reasserted that statement during Tuesday’s weekly press conference, saying his conclusion was drawn not by just one particular unit’s performance, but Penn State’s (4-0, 1-0) collective effort.
“I thought the guys were ready to play,” Franklin said. “I think we’ve created good depth to keep guys fresh. The most important stat you have is scoring offense and scoring defense, and we obviously did well in those areas. Our special teams have been pretty clutch all year long, and we’re going to need them to continue to be.”
No. 12 Penn State will attempt to recreate its Maryland performance this weekend when Purdue (1-3, 0-1) visits Happy Valley for homecoming.
The Boilermakers and third-year head coach Jeff Brohm began the season with Big Ten West aspirations. But as Purdue enters its fifth week, those goals have taken significant hits.
Last week’s 38-31 loss to Minnesota was Purdue’s second in as many weeks, and mounting injuries have sidelined several key contributors. Purdue lost quarterback Elijah Sindelar and All-American wide receiver Rondale Moore to injuries against Minnesota. The duo will miss Saturday’s game against Penn State.
Franklin said Sindelar’s and Moore’s absences will prove challenging when evaluating film and scheming for the Boilermakers.
“The changes, you could make arguments whether it’s a positive for Penn State or not, but it is concerning when you watch tape and you say this is not the team that we are going to see on Saturday, not only from a personnel standpoint but also stylistically,” Franklin said.
Penn State defensive tackle Robert Windsor said even though Purdue will be without its most dangerous offensive weapon in Moore and its quarterback, their absences haven’t altered the defense’s preparation.
“Well, as you know, their QB is out, their best wide receiver is questionable, but that’s not going to change our approach at all,” Windsor said. “We’re just going to play how we play defense — hard-nosed defense and we’re expecting a lot of pass.”
Through four games, Penn State’s defensive unit has yet to yield a first-quarter point, and it’s only surrendering 7.5 points per game this season. The Nittany Lions rank 14th nationally and fifth in the Big Ten in total defense (274.5 yards per game).
“The thing that’s most surprising to me is how we swarm to the ball as a defense,” Windsor said. “There’s the running back, and (he is) surrounded by a bunch of blue and white (jerseys), so that’s been really impressive to me.”
HBO will be entrenched with Penn State’s football program this week as it’s taping its 24/7 COLLEGE FOOTBALL docu-series episode that will air on Oct. 9. While the crew will add more cameras and microphones than usual to the football complex, Franklin said the only noticeable difference will be the extra equipment.
“We have our own WPSU around so much and they do such a fantastic job for us,” Franklin said. “The more we kind of went through it, I said, ‘You know, the reality is, it’s not going to be a whole lot different than what we already have.’”
Windsor echoed Franklin’s observations.
“I think it’s going to be fun to watch just because it’s about us, but nothing’s really changed,” Windsor said. “It’s just another camera in the room. Everyone is kind of going about their business as usual.”
Elton Hayes covers Penn State for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.