STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — James Franklin hoped all week his team would start fast and play with the passion it hadn’t yet found early in games this season.
The usually subdued coach pushed the right buttons.
Before Penn State’s 34-27 win over Temple on Saturday, Franklin hopped around inside Beaver Stadium’s limestone-lined tunnel, trading shoves and screams with a handful of players before they took the field.
“It’s cool seeing coach Franklin get so pumped up,” wide receiver Chris Godwin said. “He’s a fiery guy, he’s very passionate about what he does and that kind of leaks into our locker room seeing your leader as excited about the game as we are.”
Trace McSorley completed 18 of 24 passes for 287 yards with one touchdown and rushed for another as Penn State’s offense scored on three of its first five drives. Penn State (2-1) didn’t let up despite losing its best player on the first play of the game.
Star running back Saquon Barkley hobbled off the field favoring his left leg but was able to return for the second half.
By then, the Nittany Lions needed him.
The Owls (1-2) trailed 21-10 at halftime but took advantage of a handful of Penn State miscues in the second half.
Delvon Randall intercepted a McSorley pass and returned it deep into Penn State territory to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Phillip Walker. Two drives later, Temple took possession deep in Penn State’s territory when a punt bounced off of Nittany Lion gunner Amani Oruwariye. Jahad Thomas scored his second touchdown of the day three plays later to cut Penn State’s lead to 27-24 with 8:10 left.
Barkley took it from there. He burst up the middle, used two stutter-steps to make defenders miss and outran Temple defensive backs for a 55-yard score.
“I didn’t stay up last night thinking about I’m going to shove them and push them to start fast,” Franklin said. “It’s just kind of what I did, trying to have some fun with them, trying to loosen them up. I think we did start out better.”
PASS HAPPY VALLEY
McSorley’s 52-yard dart to Chris Godwin, who ran a post route through soft spot in Temple’s zone showed that the feisty quarterback is more than just a player who will succeed with his legs and the short passing game.
McSorley often stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure to spread the ball around. He hit seven different players and showed off his willingness to throw deep on a sideline ball to 6-foot-6 Mike Gesicki, who made a nice one-handed grab.
The Nittany Lions entered the game without five starters. Linebackers Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell, wideout Saeed Blacknall, cornerback Grant Haley and defensive end Evan Schwan all were out with injuries.
It forced the Nittany Lions to play sophomores Jake Cooper and Manny Bowen and seldom-used junior Brandon Smith for most of the game. They were mostly effective, holding Temple to just 38 rushing yards.
TEMPLE: The Temple defense, so good a year ago, is still a work in progress. The Owls are still searching for playmakers after losing seven starters from that group. They gave up 403 yards with 253 in the first half.
PENN STATE: It was a must-win for Franklin, whose short tenure at Penn State hit its lowest point after the Owls routed his Nittany Lions in last season in Philadelphia.
TEMPLE: The Owls host Charlotte at Lincoln Financial Field.
PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to begin the Big Ten season against the Wolverines. Penn State has lost two straight to Michigan.
AP College Football: http://collegefootball.ap.org