James Franklin didn’t want to hear it at the time.
Late in the fourth quarter of Penn State’s game at Indiana this past Saturday, a member of Indiana’s chain gang— assistants to the officials who establish where a drive begins and how far an offense has to go to get a first down— was trying to talk to Penn State’s head coach.
“The chain gang guy was talking to me and typically you guys don’t get to know those personalities,” Franklin said. “They’re pretty much the same guys. Just like here at Penn State we’ve got guys who have probably been doing it for 30 years.”
Of course, Franklin was a little busy.
“He’s saying, ‘you know what’s funny?’ Franklin recalled to reporters at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “I’m kind of giving him that body language demeanor like ‘I don’t really want to get into a conversation with you during the game’, but he doesn’t read my body language.”
Again, the man said, ‘you know what’s really funny?’
He then told Franklin he was a pastor.
“So now I have to listen, right?” Franklin said. “He goes, I’m a pastor at a church, and two years ago you were here, and you were talking on the sideline about don’t score, don’t score, don’t score, and I’ve never heard a coach in 30 years talk about not scoring.”
Penn State fans should know the exact moment Franklin referenced. In 2020, Penn State had a late 21-20 lead over Indiana in Bloomington, and all it needed to do was run out the clock to start the season 1-0. Well, Devyn Ford scored a touchdown, and Indiana tied the game in regulation and won it in overtime.
“Then you go on the field,” Franklin remembers the pastor telling him, and you’re screaming don’t score, don’t score, don’t score, and then you scored, and, obviously, you know how it plays out over time and how the game plays out.
So what was the point of all this?
It turns out the pastor has used this story for his sermons on multiple occasions.
Now how would that tie into a sermon?
“What he says is, ‘what may look good in this moment may not be the right thing for you down the road,'” Franklin said. “So finally, the message kind of comes. But it was just an interesting interaction after all these years. I’ve never really had that kind of conversation and during the game.”