Franklin, PSU settled in for home opener

Penn State head coach James Franklin. (Joe Hermitt/

After swiftly navigating through several questions about his first gameday in State College this weekend, James Franklin briefly mistook a question about the landscaping of Penn State’s practice fields.

“We’re trying to move into our house and we just hired a landscaping crew, so I thought we were getting real personal here,” Franklin joked.

The Nittany Lions’ first-year coach may still be settling in to Happy Valley, but he hardly admits to having many jitters heading into his first Beaver Stadium matchup against Akron Saturday.

Franklin said the team has transitioned well getting back to its traditional practice schedule following a 26-24 win over Central Florida in Dublin, and anticipates just a brief period of unusual excitement when taking the field this weekend.

“Your first run out there, I think the walk, there will be some juice and some excitement there,” Franklin said after practice Wednesday night. “I think when you first run out of the tunnel and first come onto the field, that first 30 seconds will be a moment [when you feel] the magnitude of it. But after that, we’ll be on to the game.”

Franklin added that he’ll try to make eye contact with his wife and kids in the stands prior to kickoff. But he acknowledged it will likely be “a little harder to find them in this stadium,” compared to his old home field at Vanderbilt Stadium, which holds just over 40,000 — less than half of Beaver Stadium’s capacity.

Nonetheless, the social media-savvy Franklin has already begun lobbying on Twitter for “Nittany Nation” to open Penn State’s home slate in full force against the Zips.

Franklin, a well-respected recruiter, maintained a strong pitch for the Lions’ fan base to sell out against the MAC squad, despite Beaver Stadium selling out just once in 2013 against Michigan.

“You know me, I’m the ultimate optimist. We’re going to keep talking about having 107,000 fans there, what a statement that is when you’re able to do that for out-of-conference games, how important that is for our team,” Franklin said. “I’ll never be satisfied until it’s sold out every game and we have the highest GPA in the country.”