Franklin: Only 41 Scholarship Players Left For Pinstripe Bowl
With the NCAA sanctions limiting Penn State football to 65 scholarships to begin the season — 20 fewer than the standard allotment of 85 — first-year head coach James Franklin was forced to compete in one of the nation’s top conferences with one hand tied behind his back. Now, after a full season of injuries and redshirts, only 41 scholarship players remain on the available roster as the Nittany Lions prepare to face Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in Yankee Stadium.
On Monday, Franklin joined The Jim Rome Show on CBS Radio to discuss his first-year experience, the major hurdles the team had to overcome, and the challenge of competing at the highest level of college football with less than half the talent of its opponents.
“You think about all of these kids who have been through and what they perceived is unbelievable,” Franklin said. “We ended the season playing with 41 scholarship players, we started the season with 65, and then you take out the redshirt guys and the guys who were injured. It was some real challenges. We started out 4-0 and were able to hide some of our deficiencies. As the season went on people were able to identify and attack them.”
Despite the limitations, Penn State nearly upset No. 4 Ohio State in late October, taking the playoff-bound Buckeyes to the brink in an eventual 31-24 double-overtime loss at Beaver Stadium. If it wasn’t for a slew of questionable calls from officiating, The Nits might have walked away with a remarkable upset.
“There was a field goal kicked in that game that was kicked with four seconds after the clock ran out,” Franklin said. “There was an interception that was highly questionable, so you never know. You win that game, momentum swings, confidence swings and our season could turn out completely different.”
For Franklin, Penn State’s performance against one of the best teams in the country signifies the determination and potential of the nation’s second-youngest team, which will only get better with 15 additional bowl practices and the restoration of the full allotment of scholarships for the 2015-16 season.
“You also look at what Ohio State has been able to do,” Franklin said. “Very talented, very well coached, impressive program and we were able to go toe-to-toe with them. I think that is a perfect example that illustrates what we are capable of doing and where we are going.”
With a Top-10 recruiting class arriving at University Park next season, including 12 four-star commitments, it won’t be long before Franklin and Penn State are back competing on an even playing field. But for now, the team and its fans can take pride in knowing a handicapped squad just defied the odds and earned a trip to a bowl game.
Photo: Cameron Hart/ Penn State