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Even Pat Narduzzi Backs James Franklin’s Defense Of Penn State’s Injuries

Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi certainly doesn’t agree with Penn State too often. Still, he’s clearly backing the Nittany Lions after Iowa accused them of faking injuries to slow down the Hawkeyes last weekend.

While speaking with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Johnny McGonigal on Thursday, Narduzzi wound up fielding a question about cramping and dove right into a defense of Penn State head coach James Franklin.

“I don’t agree with James Franklin on a whole bunch, but James, I’ve got your back,” Narduzzi said. “When you’re not playing a fast-tempo offense, a team that huddles…[accusations of faking injuries are] a bunch of baloney.”

Iowa fans booed Penn State’s injuries profusely when the two teams clashed at Kinnick Stadium last weekend. A few days later, head coach Kirk Ferentz defended the boos and said fans “smelled a rat” after some Penn State players returned to the game after going down.

“Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt — nobody. But I think probably it’s a reaction to, you know…There were a couple of guys that were down for the count and then were back a play or two later,” Ferentz said on Tuesday. “Our fans aren’t stupid. They’re watching, and they know what’s going on. I’ve been here 23 years. I think it’s the only second time we’ve seen that kind of stuff going on.”

Ferentz’s defense still doesn’t make much sense. The argument crumbles when you look at the stat sheet and realize Iowa’s offense achieved just a 33% success rate against Penn State — the 11th-lowest in the nation among qualified teams. Huddling on offense isn’t indicative of a high-tempo attack, either.

While meeting with the media on Wednesday, Franklin refuted Ferentz’s statement with a five-minute prepared speech. He noted that about 70% of Penn State’s injured players didn’t return to the game against Iowa on Saturday. Captain and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher even had his season ended after sustaining an injury during the Hawkeyes’ first drive.

Franklin went so far as to say booing injuries hurts the game and spirit of college football entirely.

“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?”

Although Iowa emerged victorious on Saturday, it’s possible these two teams could meet again to vie for a Big Ten title, but Penn State would likely need to run the table and win its remaining six games. Either way, it feels like there’s a rivalry brewing between these programs.

At the end of the day, it’s pretty astonishing — and telling — to see Pitt agree with Penn State in this day and age. With no future matchups planned, the two teams’ long-running non-conference series has seemingly run its course for now, but the Panthers and Nittany Lions’ relationship remains interesting and intertwined. Perhaps one day, the decades-old rivalry will get revived.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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