Team concept helping Penn State late-season surge

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Coach James Franklin is quick to point out that any individual success his Penn State players may have happens only because of the overall team.

Running back Akeel Lynch rushed for 130 yards on 18 carries against Temple; Bill Belton trailed with 92 more.

Franklin would not single out either player on Tuesday.

''Akeel has done some nice things and I'm pleased with him, but I think the offense goes the way the O-line goes,'' Franklin said.

''We didn't go from Bill almost having 100 yards and Akeel having over 100 yards in a game because they're doing something different,'' he said. ''It's the development and the confidence of the offensive line and getting some of those veteran guys back.''

Offensive tackle Donovan Smith and guard Miles Dieffenbach returned from injuries to play together for the first time this season.

And there was more to it than that, Franklin said.

''It allows us to get guys back to maybe their natural position and allows us to get five guys and leave them at those positions,'' Franklin said. ''It's been a revolving door.''

Penn State (6-4, 2-4 Big Ten) heads to Illinois (4-6, 1-5) on Saturday and closes the regular season Nov. 29 at home against No. 10 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1).

The Nittany Lions enjoyed some ground-game success in wins over Indiana and Temple after four straight conference losses.

But the team was inconsistent in the passing game.

Quarterback Christian Hackenberg was a combined 24 of 55 in those two wins and was 18 of 42 in a 1-point loss to Maryland.

''Well, it's not like those other things go away and everything just falls into place after not being as consistent as you wanted to be the weeks before,'' Franklin said.

''There are still some things that we've got to get cleaned up in terms of footwork, in terms of consistency and route running,'' he said.

Penn State has stayed consistent on defense. The Nittany Lions remain ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in rushing defense (83.1 yards per game) and passing efficiency defense (96.89), No. 3 in total defense (265.6) and No. 4 in scoring defense (16.2).

Franklin noted that defensive coordinator Bob Shoop rotates players along the defensive front and secondary to keep them fresh not only during games but heading down the stretch of the schedule.

He said it all still comes down to the overall plan.

''You'd be amazed when you just run to the football, even if you miss a tackle, there should be at least six or seven other guys there to make the tackle,'' he said.

NOTES: Franklin said injured senior safety Ryan Keiser has been released from the hospital and will return to State College. Keiser fractured a rib in practice Oct. 23 and later was diagnosed with a torn bowel. He underwent multiple surgeries. ''Our players are fired up about that,'' Franklin said. ''I know his family's excited. It's great to have him back with us.''

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