James Franklin's horrific field-goal call told you everything you need to know
Down four touchdowns, Penn State faced a fourth-and-goal on the Michigan 2-yard line. After the Lions put together their first long drive of the day, it was an obvious decision.
Go for the touchdown, and pray that you can make it a three-possession game. Worst-case scenario, it fails and the Penn State defense gets to try and make a play with Michigan basically on its own goal line. Either way, it was two yards. Two yards with a mobile quarterback, talented receivers and one of the nation’s best tailbacks, no less.
Timeout. Let’s think about this one.
No, seriously. With the play clock winding down, James Franklin debated whether or not he should send out the field-goal unit. He needed more time. Ok, so Franklin took that extra time and realized the obvious move, right?
Nope. He kicked the field goal and avoided the shutout. Good for you, coach.
That conservative-beyond-belief call said it all on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
That’s how indecisive Franklin was. Contrary to what he said and will continue to say, that’s how little confidence he had in his offense. Maybe he couldn’t fathom that zero on the scoreboard any longer.
The thought of going into Ann Arbor and not getting points had to eat at him. After all, Jim Harbaugh set the bar too high for Franklin. He’s the celebrity who went into a traditional power and turned it around. Harbaugh was the one who was flipping out over a miscommunication with his quarterback up 32 points in the fourth quarter.
Franklin, meanwhile, was content to go into Ann Arbor and get points.
Sure, there are a lot of arm-chair quarterbacks every Saturday. Media members always moonlight as coaches. But look at how badly Franklin got ROASTED by media in the press box for that call:
What a ridiculous decision to go along with a ridiculous timeout … Franklin's going to be asked about that after the game.
— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) September 24, 2016
Just not on board with the PSU thinking coming out of the TO…..I'm sure most PSU fans would agree that you don't kick the FG there
— Bob Flounders (@BobbyFlo7) September 24, 2016
And Penn State's on the board … And they look very excited about it.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) September 24, 2016
I don't even know what to say.
— Donnie Collins (@psubst) September 24, 2016
Nobody is denying Franklin’s credentials. He’s the coach. He’s worked his entire career to get to make that call.
Whether or not he admits it, it was a mistake. Down 28-0, a field goal obviously did nothing. It was still a three-possession game. PSU was also down a timeout for that comeback Franklin claimed he was pursuing. Even if he said he wanted to reward his offense with points after having such a good drive, that’s a tough sell.
Are PSU players supposed to feel good that their coach didn’t think they could gain two yards? If I’m Trace McSorley, I’m insulted. If I’m that entire offensive line — the one Franklin keeps praising for their improvements — I’m insulted.
We ultimately don’t know definitively what Franklin was thinking. We do know that he’s now 0-7 against top-25 teams, including an 0-7 mark against B1G East powers Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. In year three, he was supposed to be competing with teams like Michigan.
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Instead, he’s just worried about putting points on the board.
What will Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour think of that? We don’t know. Going into the season, it wasn’t known how hot Franklin’s seat was. Barbour simply said that she wanted to see Penn State compete for B1G Championships.
It was obvious after watching Franklin’s team that the Lions are still nowhere near competing for a conference title. Another blowout loss at the hands of a B1G East rival sunk Penn State to 2-2 on the season. Some might’ve let Franklin off the hook for the Pitt loss because his team came back. Even Saquon Barkley admitted last year’s squad probably wouldn’t have done that.
Still, what’s Franklin striving for at this point? Penn State isn’t Vanderbilt. In case he hasn’t figured it out yet, you aren’t going to gain support by hitting seven wins and getting blown out by top-25 teams. You certainly aren’t going to gain support by NOT getting shut out at Michigan.
Saturday was another frustrating, deflating, embarrassing reminder for PSU fans. For whatever reason, Franklin still can’t handle the big-time.
But hey, at least Franklin got his points.