2017 Rose Bowl: USC's Clay Helton and PSU's James Franklin bring stability and success
LOS ANGELES – Just several weeks ago, both USC coach Clay Helton and Penn State coach James Franklin were sitting in respective hot seats.
While Helton’s squad dropped three of its first four contests this season, Franklin’s team started with a 2-2 record, following a pair of 7-6 seasons to begin his tenure in Happy Valley. But with proud traditions for programs like USC and Penn State, there’s no room for mediocrity.
So, what have they done lately? Helton and the Trojans have won eight consecutive contests while Franklin and Co. are currently on a nine-game winning streak. Now they’re preparing their teams for the 103rd Rose Bowl on Monday in Pasadena.
“You could make an argument that their program and our program may be two of the hotter teams in college football at the end of the season, and both had similar stories,” Franklin said. “So I don’t know if you could have written a better script for the Rose Bowl game with USC and Penn State coming together, how our seasons went, how we kind of took off at the end of the season and our fan bases and all those type of things.”
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Helton and Franklin can relate with one another. Both USC and Penn State have had to overcome strict sanctions in recent years while building their programs back to national powerhouses.
Helton is the fourth USC head coach since the 2013 season, but he’s added some stability to the helm of the program. Franklin also took over PSU following three quick coaching changes between 2011-13 but has silenced any rumors about his job security.
After watching tape of Penn State’s season, including its comeback win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship, Helton had nothing but high praise for the high-energy Franklin.
“To overcome the adversity they did in that game being down [28-7 in the first half],” Helton said, “just shows the resiliency of that team and a tremendous leader in Coach Franklin of what he’s been able to do this season, especially down the stretch.”
It was all a dream ...
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As he looks forward to leading his team out of the tunnel Monday, Helton said he’s especially excited to share the moment with his senior class, which has been through all the drama to get to this point.
“This has been by far one of the most special teams I’ve ever been associated with,” Helton said. “And a group of guys that I dearly love and this will be our last time together, with some seniors that have not only had our team’s back, but has had my back through some really tough times.
“So, these are members of my family and it’s the last time you get to play a game with them. To do that last game in the Rose Bowl Game, that’s a story and a fairytale in itself.”
Without looking at any notes, Helton will proudly tell you how USC is going for its 25th Rose Bowl victory in 34 chances. Or how his team can be just the 12th to ever in the 124-year history of the program to top Notre Dame, UCLA and win the Rose Bowl in same season. Safe to say, he realizes the history and tradition that goes along with the ‘Granddaddy of Them All.’
“It’s bigger than both teams,” Helton said. “I grew up wanting to be a part of this game, and at some point in time I am going to look up and I’m going to go back to being a 12-year-old kid for a second and just let the goose bumps happen and just enjoy the moment. Because it’s hard to get here.”
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