James Franklin Stands By Fourth Down Call, Discusses Senior Day At Weekly Press Conference
James Franklin had a slew of topics to discuss with reporters on Tuesday at his weekly press conference, but his stance on the controversial decision to punt rather than go for it on fourth down late against Illinois, along with notes about senior day, highlighted them all.
The incident in question came late in the fourth quarter against the Illini, with Penn State still leading 14-13 with just under two minutes to go. After Christian Hackenberg came up a yard short after keeping the ball on a third and five rollout, the Nittany Lions were faced with a fourth and one situation. Rather than go for it, Franklin opted to punt, giving the Illini possession at the team’s own 28 yard line. Illinois proceeded to march down the field, and kick the game winning field goal with 13 seconds remaining.
Naturally, Franklin received boatloads of criticism for his decision, but his comments during the press conference backed up the disputed call.
“If we don’t convert and get the first down, then that sets them up in great position to hit a field goal,” Franklin said. “Our strength is defense, and looking back, you can second guess, but it’s the decision we made, and It’s the decision that we’re comfortable with.”
Obviously, hindsight is 20/20, and there are many ways to look at the decision to punt. Of course, many have thought that Franklin simply could have gone with a quarterback sneak, as the team needed mere inches to get what would have been a monumental first down. At the same time, however, Franklin’s point about field position is also correct. If the Nittany Lions were to come up short, Illinois would have had well over a minute to go roughly 25 yards, setting up for the game winner. In a sense, the decision was a double edged sword of sorts. If Franklin goes for it and fails, he is lambasted. If he punts, which he did, he receives criticism. The team had plenty of other opportunities to win the game, and did not do so. An entire game does not hinge on one single play call.
Enough about that, how about we discuss more cheerful topics.
Senior day is approaching, and this one is a bit different, as this year’s group of seniors are some of the last remaining members that endured the nightmare that was the events of Fall 2011. Franklin shared his feelings about Saturday.
“With this being my first senior day here, I feel like it will be as hard as any other one I’ve had to go through,” Franklin said. “But being here, and understanding Penn State’s history and tradition will make this one special. I know what these seniors have gone through, and I want to send them out the right way.”
Senior linebacker Mike Hull, who has been integral to the success of Penn State’s stifling defensive unit, shared his sentiments about his last game in Beaver Stadium.
“I’m really just thankful for my time here at Penn State,” Hull said. “I’m especially thankful that I was able to go through it with some of my best friends.”
On what is left to accomplish at Penn State, Hull remained rather brief.
“We’ve accomplished so much,” Hull said. “I just want to go out there and beat Michigan State on Saturday, that’s all I really want to do.”
Saturday’s game against Michigan State will be filled with emotion, as the seniors take their final steps onto the hallowed grounds of Beaver Stadium. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m.