football Edit

Commits back Franklin, Penn State after frustrating loss to Ohio State

James Franklin
James Franklin (AP Images)

RELATED: Ohio State bottles up Penn State in 20-12 win

Dave Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News got the second question to Penn State coach James Franklin after the Nittany Lions' 20-12 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

It was basically about how Franklin has failed to win big games against Ohio State and Michigan during his tenure in Happy Valley.

“This is probably not the right moment to ask a big-picture question, I’m sensitive to that,” Jones started. “But is it unfair for people to judge this rivalry, the 1-9 in your regime, as a referendum on you overall because I think they might?”

Franklin said: “I totally get it. That’s a good football team. What I’ll talk about is today. We lost to a really good football team on the road, we had our chances, we battled, we weren’t able to capitalize. Big-picture things, I’ll be happy to talk about that at some point but right now I want to talk about, we lost to a really good football team on the road, didn’t make enough plays when we needed them.

“It’s a fair question. I get the question, but right now I’m worried about this game.”

Jones rebutted, asking for another query because he felt Franklin dodged the first one.

“I did answer it,” Franklin said. “I didn’t answer it the way you wanted me to, but go ahead.”



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What can Franklin say?

Despite winning nearly 70% of his games while at Penn State, Franklin is 4-14 against Ohio State and Michigan. He’s 1-9 against the Buckeyes. He’s 3-16 against top 10 teams, winless in 10 tries against top 10 teams on the road.

Penn State won 11 games last season and the Nittany Lions were the Rose Bowl champs - but Ohio State and Michigan both made the College Football Playoff.

Fans have gone from frustrated and angry to maybe resigned to the fact that Penn State - or Franklin - cannot get the team over that largest of humps: conquering the Big Ten’s heaviest of heavyweights regularly.

A side note: As a 2003 Penn State grad from northeast Pennsylvania I receive lots of texts after these losses.

“Same ole,” was one this week. Another: “Not surprised.” Yet another: “Tired of being duped.”

These come from living rooms and man caves filled with Penn State memorabilia, some come from bars, of course. Liquid courage has something to do with this from the fan base - but so does outright frustration at “winning” seasons that still leave fans feeling empty come playoff time.

Maybe one day, Franklin will address these shortcomings. Penn State commits don’t seem to care one bit.

If anything, the loss to Ohio State has motivated them to come out and protect Franklin even more. For many of them, playing for the Nittany Lions means playing for that man.

“I don’t share any concerns with the fans that think that,” high three-star safety Vaboue Toure said. “I’m 100% locked in with PSU and coach Franklin.”

Three-star offensive tackle Garrett Sexton said: “I don't pay attention to the outside noise at all. I believe in my coach and he's a big reason why I committed to PSU. I'm 100% committed and I can't wait to be part of the team. One game doesn't define the season and I'm excited to see how they bounce back.”

For all the commits who responded, that was the message: A loss to Ohio State means nothing in their recruitment.

They’re sticking with the Nittany Lions.

Wide receiver commit Peter Gonzalez said his recruitment is “not affected at all” by Saturday’s outcome. Same for Xavier Gilliam. Same for Kari Jackson. Same for Donovan Harbour.

“PSU for life,” Harbour said. “Coach Franklin is the best there is, hands down.”

Despite Saturday’s loss, the season is still in front of the Nittany Lions. And recruiting is going well, with a top 15 class right now.

They rank behind only - you guessed it - Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten rankings.