Blue White Illustrated

February 2022

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 23 of 67

2 4 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 2 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M The Nittany Lions will boast a wealth of experience in 2022, but they also have some big questions to answer, especially up front I n the news conference following Penn State's appearance against Arkansas in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, James Franklin was asked how he would characterize the way his team finished its 2021 season. There were a lot of words he could have chosen, but he was speaking to an audience that extended well beyond the media room at Raymond James Stadium, one that included fans, players, parents and administrators. Surely, none of those people were satisfied with the way things had gone. Just as surely, none were looking for the head coach to end his final postgame presser of the season by echoing the in- creasingly agitated online discourse around Penn State's pro- gram. So, Franklin chose his words carefully. "It's not what we hoped for," he said. Well … no, it wasn't. Not even close, really. After winning its first five games and rising to fourth in the national polls, Penn State dropped six of its last eight contests, including a 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Razorbacks. The Nittany Lions were without their best player on of- fense and more than half of their starting defense in the bowl game, but in many ways the loss to the Razorbacks mirrored the regular season, games in which all of those missing players were present. The Lions struggled to run the ball, squandered some red zone opportunities, had trouble scraping together points, put too much pressure on their defense and weren't able to counter when the opponent started making plays in the sec- ond half. Following the game, Franklin took ownership of the team's shortcomings. While noting that the Lions had been dealt a bad break in the form of midseason injuries to leaders such as M AT T H E R B | M AT T @ B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M A Lot On The Line

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