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James Franklin: Iowa Fans’ Injury-Booing ‘Not Right For College Football’

At his post-practice media availability Wednesday night, James Franklin didn’t shy away from addressing comments made by Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz earlier this week.

Ferentz sent well wishes to Nittany Lions who were hurt, including Sean Clifford and PJ Mustipher, but also defended fans who booed other Penn State players. The head coach noted that several players who went down were quickly back on the field plays later, and he added that Iowa fans “smelled a rat ” to insinuate that several Nittany Lions were taking dives to slow Iowa’s momentum.

Franklin vehemently defended himself and his team against those allegations Wednesday night. He opened his statement by telling everyone watching to remove themselves from their Penn State or Iowa fandom and addressed things from a “strategy standpoint” and “common-sense perspective.”

“How does this strategy make sense against a huddle team? People use this strategy to slow people down — spread offenses, tempo offenses,” Franklin said. “That strategy did not make sense in this situation. In our six years of playing [Iowa]…4-2 with our record. Has that ever shown up? In my eight years as a head coach, has that showed up?”

Franklin said that Penn State’s defense was playing “lights out” and even held Iowa to a field goal after turning the ball over deep in its own territory.

Along with that massive stop after Clifford’s first interception of the afternoon, the Nittany Lions’ defense did in fact have yet another stellar performance. Brent Pry’s group held Iowa to 305 total yards of offense and finished the afternoon with three sacks and 11 tackles for loss.

After questioning why such an impressive defense would need to slow down momentum against a huddle offense, Franklin added that the booing of an injured college athlete just doesn’t have a place in the sport.

“Put yourself in the shoes of a parent. Your son is down on the field for an injury and the stadium is booing them,” Franklin said. “Is that good for college football?”

Franklin specifically noted PJ Mustipher, who went down with an injury that now ended his season, was booed as he limped off the field early in Saturday’s contest.

The head coach said there wasn’t any strategic advantage for Mustipher to go down and “fake” an injury. Further, it wouldn’t make sense for his backup, Dvon Ellies, to go down and fake an injury, either. Iowa fans also loudly voiced their displeasure when Ellies was attended to on the field for what seemed to be a knock to his shoulder.

“Would it make sense for the backup defensive tackle — we’ve already lost our starter — to send him out of the game for a play?” Franklin said. “I don’t think so.”

Finally, Franklin addressed Arnold Ebiketie’s injury. He noted that Ebiketie, “maybe [Penn State’s] best defensive player,” went down with an injury that arguably looked the worst from his perspective. The star Temple transfer was clearly mocked by Iowa special teams coach LeVar Brooks as he went down with an injury that Franklin said could’ve been cramping.

Franklin went on to list injuries for Devyn Ford, John Lovett, Jonathan Sutherland, and, of course, Clifford. All of those players were knocked out of the game with their respective injuries.

“It was a physical game. Was there a bunch of injuries? I get it,” Franklin said. “I’m telling you, we don’t coach it, we don’t teach it…There was a bunch of injuries in-game, but 70% of those guys never returned.

“All I’m saying is, I don’t think this is right for college football…It’s not different than a player going down in practice. When a player goes down in practice, what did coaches used to say for 100 years? ‘Get up, you’re fine!’ Well, what if he’s not?”

Besides Mustipher, Franklin didn’t go into any specifics on the four other players who were knocked out of the contest at Kinnick Stadium. As for Clifford, Franklin said he’s dealing with something “not uncommon” for quarterbacks, and Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux are currently splitting reps.

Franklin’s speech, as it were, was passionate and even written down on a hard copy. Still, he repeatedly noted that it’s not to be taken personally by Iowa, its players, or its fans.

“I wasn’t attacking the University of Iowa. I’m trying to protect college football,” Franklin said. “I don’t think that’s the right thing for our game.

“I got tremendous respect for their program, their head coach, he’s been doing it a long time. But I felt like after the game I had to say something, because when I got my starting defensive tackle PJ Mustipher down on the field and he can’t play for the rest of the season — he’s my captain — and they’re booing him,” Franklin continued. “I don’t think anybody would feel good about that.”

Franklin’s full five-minute statement on the booing and Ferentz’s comments can be watched here. His comments come in at approximately the seven-minute mark.

The Nittany Lions have a chance to recover from some of those injuries with a bye this weekend. They’ll then begin the second half of the season with the Homecoming game against Illinois. That will kick off at noon on Saturday, October 23, on ABC.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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