There's no doubt James Franklin is a great football coach, and he's done an unbelievable job so far during his Penn State tenure. He has the Nittany Lions back in the national conversation, playing in huge primetime games and competing for Big Ten titles. That being said, he hasn't quite got them among the elites of college football, the Alabamas, the Ohio States, the Clemsons.
Saturday night's game vs. the No. 4 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Happy Valley is the perfect example. Penn State was in full control late in the game, leading 26-14 on their home turf with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In the blink of an eye the Buckeyes scored two quick touchdowns to go up 27-26, shocking the home crowd and forcing Penn State to have to drive down and kick a field goal to win. After getting across midfield, the Nittany Lions faced a 4th-and-5 on the OSU 43-yard line with 1:22 left, and this was Franklin's dumbfounding play call:
How you don't throw it there is mind-boggling, but Penn State clearly thought they were going to catch the Buckeyes off guard with a run-pass option and get them to focus on the bubble route on the left side of the field. If it worked, Franklin is hailed as a genius, but not only did it not work, it went for negative yards. How do you not put the ball in the hands of quarterback Trace McSorley, who had 461 total yards of offense by himself on Saturday night? Let him throw it, let him run it, either way, McSorley has to be the one making the play. Just a terrible call by Franklin, who made sure after the game to call out everyone on his team, including himself to be fair, about focusing on 'the little things.' Okay, coach!
Not on the 'little things' list: Throwing the ball on 4th-and-5 with the game on the line.
Again, Franklin did shoulder much of the blame, going as far to say as it was on him afterwards.
"We obviously didn't make the right call in that situation, and that's on me, nobody else. We didn't make the right call, and obviously, it didn't work. We have called something similar like that in other situations, and it broke for a big play. But that's on me."
Yeah, obviously. Franklin may be right about everything he said, but after such a gut-wrenching loss, one that featured an all-time head-scratching call by the coach himself, maybe save the little things preaching for the locker room.