What Penn State Coach James Franklin Had to Say Following His Team's 27-26 Loss to Ohio State

By 11W Staff on September 30, 2018 at 2:50 am

“This one hurts, obviously. We didn’t finish the game when we should’ve finished the game. There is no doubt about it, we played a great first half and we weren’t able to finish late in the game.”

You'll forgive James Franklin for being in a bit of shock after watching his team cough up a 12-point lead with eight minutes to play in front of the largest crowd in Penn State history. It was the second year in a row he watched his team surrender a double-digit lead on the way to a loss to Ohio State.

But this one hurt a bit more. It came at home. In front of a white out. And a record crowd.

“Obviously, you second guess some things after a loss like that,” Franklin said following the game. “Should’ve kicked the field goal in the first half, but I felt like trusting our offense rather than putting a true freshman out in that situation. Obviously after the second half it’s easy to second guess that decision. When you play that type of opponent, I didn’t feel like you could beat that kind of opponent kicking field goals. We were going to have to score touchdowns and be aggressive. The reality is, we had opportunities, but we didn’t make plays.”

“I’m pretty upset right now because I am hurting for those guys right in that locker room.”

And he should be. Penn State fans and many in the national media were questioning several decisions he made over the course of the game, including two punts inside Ohio State's 40, another punt on a 4th-and-1 from Ohio State's 49, a curious decision not to go for two when up by five in the fourth quarter, but perhaps most puzzling, his call on Penn State's final offensive play of the game.

Down one and facing a 4th-and-5 at the Ohio State 43, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley lined up in the shotgun with running back Miles Sanders to his left. Penn State called a timeout. Then Ohio State called a timeout. Then Penn State called another timeout.

McSorley, who had already burned Ohio State to the tune of 175 yards on the ground – on the way to a Penn State record performance of 461 yards of total offense, figured to have a pass/run option on the play.

Instead, he handed off to Sanders who ran into the wall that was Chase Young and that was the ballgame.

“They changed looks, so we called a timeout and had some discussions,” Franklin said. “We obviously didn’t make the right call in that situation, and that’s on me, nobody else. Obviously, it didn’t work. We have called something similar like that in other situations, and it broke for big plays, but that is on us. That is on me.”

“Obviously, it didn’t work. We have called something similar like that in other situations, and it broke for big plays, but that is on us. That is on me.”

What about the decision to punt with the ball in Ohio State's end and a little over four minutes remaining in the game? Was there any thought of going for it on 4th down?

“Yeah. Obviously, you can try a 60-yard field goal or you could go for it, but again, if you don’t get it, then you’re leaving them with great field position. So, we thought we’d punt them deep, which we did. I think we punted them to the three-yard line. Obviously, we went for it on fourth down early in the game— didn’t get it. We didn’t go for a fourth down there, pinned them deep, really had a good situation, but then we give up a huge play on first down and it swings momentum. Yes, after the fact, we probably should’ve went for it.”

It's a game that will haunt Franklin for a while. He spoke after the game about the difference between being great – which he thinks Penn State is – and being elite, like Ohio State. Bizarrely, he brought up players not going to class.

“So, we are going to break through and become an elite program by doing all the little things. Lose by one point this year, lose by one point last year, you make that up by all the little things. By going to class consistently so the coaches don’t have to babysit you and we can spend our time developing you as men and as people and as players, and not be babysitting little things.”

Franklin was emotional following the loss, and ended his opening statement with a promise:

“I give you my word, we are going to find a way to take the next step. I can read off all these stats, but the stats don’t matter. We are done being great.”

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