Since the debate won’t seem to end, I’m going on the record with my thoughts on the James Franklin “controversy” from the end of WVU’s loss to Penn State.
As we all know, PSU head coach James Franklin let his team score one final touchdown with six seconds left in a game that was already well in hand by that point. Doing so allowed the Nittany Lions to cover the betting line entering the game that Penn State winning by 20.5. Penn State won 38-15 after being up 31-15, a 16-point advantage, prior to that score.
Did this move by Franklin impact the outcome of the game? Obviously not. But it definitely became part of the conversation about the game when it was over. And it shouldn’t have been. Why? Because Franklin did nothing wrong.
My initial reaction while covering the game at the time remains my stance now. It also aligns with what Franklin had to say when he finally spoke on the matter on Tuesday, three days after the game. WVU head coach Neal Brown offered his thoughts right away.
“I wouldn’t have done but it doesn’t bother me. Stuff like that comes back around,” said Brown. Most of that downplays the issue, and tells the West Virginia fans going nuts over it on social media to cam down, but that last part maybe peeks how Brown truly feels about it.
But honestly, what Franklin said is right on the money.
“I believe that my responsibility in those types of situations is to get my 2s in the game,” Franklin said to defend the call. “And I think once those 2s get in the game, then they deserve the right and the chance to play and compete. That’s what I believe. I believe that from the (opening) kick to the last whistle, you compete and you play.”
If Brown and WVU didn’t want to see another touchdown go on the scoreboard, the Mountaineers defense could’ve stopped Penn State’s backups. And that’s why I mostly lean with Franklin here. If Penn State kept Drew Allar and its starters in the game just to rack up stats in the final minutes, I would absolutely say that’s bush-league and poor sportsmanship. That is not what happened. It’s also what Franklin said too.
“Now, if you leave your 1s in, that’s a different story. Then you should change how you plan. And you take knees and you run in situations that normally would run in, that’s different,” Franklin further explained his reasoning.
Franklin then pointed out that Penn State’s backups, including QB Beau Pribula, who ran in for his first college touchdown with six seconds left, “get a limited amount of reps.”
“They should have a chance to compete,” Franklin said. “And I believe that not just from a Penn State perspective if we’re ever in (West Virginia’s) situation, I see it the same way. This isn’t me looking at it just from our view. I have a bunch of other things I could say, but I’m just going to leave it at that.”
He added that getting Pribula in there against a majority of West Virginia’s starters was beneficial for the second-year player’s development.
“I think Beau being in there and being able to run the offense, they went to Cover 0, which is hard to run when you go cover 0, they should have the ability to check, draw a Cover 0 plan and have a chance to execute a play that has a chance to be successful against Cover 0 and then should have a chance to score. So I’m comfortable with that.”
The other end of it all that neither Brown or Franklin addressed, although I did on Twitter (X), is that, like or not, style points could matter to Penn State. The Nittany Lions have hopes of finally making the College Football Playoff after being so close several times since its inception. Penn State plays in a Big Ten that often has two power house programs above them, certainly in recent years. A Rose Bowl title was only celebrated so much because their fans want in the playoff and a conference title.
Winning the Big Ten would give them an inside track at getting in, assuming they aren’t tripped up otherwise, but it’s possible this Penn State team could be awarded an at-large type spot with or without a Big Ten championship. That’s how good this Penn State team is and that’s been proven to be possible based on the track record of the playoff committee.
So with all of that said, Franklin’s top priority this season is to get his team in the best position possible to get in the dance. Something not on his list of responsibilities is worrying about the feelings of West Virginia coaches, players or fans.
I think Franklin gave a thorough explanation here and way too much is being made out of it all. I also remember eras of elite Mountaineer football that included blowing out team after team without a care. That extra touchdown is not going to impact WVU’s season in any way.
What do you think? Has your opinion changed at all based on what Franklin had to say?