Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 21, 2018 at 1:28 am.

Seniors who re-established program play last home game

This group of seniors will always be special to Penn State coach James Franklin.

He realizes this class of 21 players helped him finally re-establish the program as a national powerhouse, capable of contending for Big Ten championships and playoff berths.

While No. 12 Penn State (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) won’t be playing for a national championship, they can still potentially earn a New Year’s Six Bowl berth with a win against Maryland (5-6, 3-5) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

Franklin was in a reflective mood on Tuesday, instead of wanting to look ahead.

“You look at what (this senior class) have been able to accomplish at Penn State,” Franklin said. “They came to Penn State at a very tough time, we all did, and really battled and worked like crazy to work through it. You look at their record, I think all things considered, maybe one of the most impressive senior classes in school history.”

The 21 Nittany Lions who’ll be honored before kickoff went 37-14 over their combined four years in Happy Valley. That mark covers a 24-3 stretch from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 21, 2018 in which the Nittany Lions won a Big Ten championship and barely missed out on a playoff spot in back-to-back seasons.

Although this season has been a bit of a comedown with losses to Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan, Penn State players still see the opportunity to play in a New Years’ Six game.

“It’s hard at times to not think about the end, especially with it being so close at this point,” senior quarterback Trace McSorley said. “I think that’s kind of one of the things that we’re kind of there at this point. This is the end of these senior times and my time here at Beaver Stadium, and I think that’s something that it’s tough to not think about it, understanding the magnitude of it all and everything that’s gone into it.

The Terrapins put all they had into a game against the Buckeyes a week ago but 535 yards of offense and 51 points weren’t enough to beat Ohio State.

“They really try to create conflict,” Franklin said. “These guys are causing conflict with their motions and shifts and trades and speed sweeps and fake speed sweeps and inside zone, pin-and-pull schemes. They do a nice job. They have an absurd number of explosive runs and that’s going to be challenging.”