Injuries Seal Penn State’s Fate, But Signature Win Eludes Franklin

“What I did learn a long time ago when you play ranked teams, is there’s a difference between playing ranked teams and top-five teams. Those top-five teams are top-five teams for a reason, and they played like it today.”

James Franklin acknowledged the elephant in the room upon the game’s conclusion — one every fan could clearly see. Michigan was the better team, and it played like the better team. As for the Lions? Well, regression is a good place to start.

Penn State hasn’t had to play a team as talented as Michigan since being blown out by Michigan State at the end of last year. I’m sure similar sentiments were shared after that game as well. “Michigan State was the better team. Penn State was simply out-played.”

Let’s be honest, the odds were stacked against the Lions from the start. All three starting linebackers sidelined with injury. A starting cornerback missing his third game of the year. Then another starter is ejected before his backup suffers a season-ending injury. Penn State’s 2016 campaign is beginning to resemble Murphy’s Law more than sheer misfortune. But, even in such a one-sided affair, questions linger about decisions made. Like wasting a timeout only to settle for a field goal on fourth and two down by 28 points. Would it really have mattered much if Penn State opted to go for it? Likely not. But the air of conservatism Franklin exudes as a decision maker can’t be ignored. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. Worse, we’ll hear the same excuse. “That was a mistake on my part,” Franklin said after the game. “I second-guessed myself.”

But at the end of the day — even from an optimist’s perspective — what did we really expect? It’s a shame to lose in such embarrassing fashion, but this isn’t the Penn State team we grew to know in the preseason. “That wasn’t us out there. Not at all,” Trace McSorley said. He hit the nail on the head, because that was not Penn State. That display was merely a shell of what this defense could’ve been. The definition of Murphy’s Law is this: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Right now, that adage poetically describes this team’s current situation.

“Our linebacker situation, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it,” Franklin said. “We’ve got some decisions to make on the defensive side of the ball, especially at linebacker.”

Nobody knows when Brandon Bell or Jason Cabinda will return. Honestly, nobody could’ve seen this scenario materialize. It’s fair to wonder when Penn State might get that elusive ranked win, because in its current state, this team will not compete with Ohio State. It will not compete with Iowa. I’m trying to remain optimistic, but it’s tough.

The team’s freshmen showed what they’re capable of, though. Cam Brown turned in ten tackles on a national stage, meaning the bright lights can only help the young defender. But this program has a long way to go this season if it wants a respectable finish. Big Ten defenses are no joke, and the Lions simply couldn’t handle Michigan’s. You can’t blame the linebacker situation for letting your quarterback take six sacks.

This team certainly has talent, but didn’t have enough of it playing today. We can point fingers, but everyone had a part to play in this loss.

I just hope this program can rebound. If it can’t, Big Ten play will be a long, arduous nightmare.

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About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected].

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