‘No One Is Exempt From Criticism’: Select Penn State Football Players Fail To Handle Flack Following Michigan Loss
Following a big loss, there’s always a search for someone to blame. In the previous few seasons, Sean Clifford was blamed for Penn State’s stifled success with chants of “We want Drew” raining from the student section.
Following the loss to Ohio State this season, those same fans were criticizing first-time starting signal-caller Drew Allar after his lackluster performance.
Aside from blasting the players, there’s constant blame from fans placed on the coaches. Following nearly every loss, Penn State fans take to Twitter to call for the firing of head coach James Franklin.
The most recent victim of coaching blame is former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who was fired following Penn State’s loss to Michigan. Yurcich went 0-6 against Ohio State and Michigan during his tenure with the program.
No matter who’s taking the blame, one thing is clear: Penn State fans are fed up. As the clock wound down during Saturday’s game, fans began throwing water bottles, Zyn containers, and whatever else they could get their hands on onto the field.
After time finally expired, many of the fans had already left the stadium. Those who stayed behind stood in disbelief, realizing the College Football Playoff was out of reach despite the hype placed upon the Allar era and the 2023 season.
James Franklin and Penn State students alike stood with arms crossed, emotionally processing the defeat and mulling over where to go from there.
As Franklin made his way into the tunnel, he was met with a roar of boos, jeers, and obscenities. A wall of students had gathered around the tunnel to berate the head coach.
“Win a game,” one student pleaded with Franklin.
Offensive lineman Vega Ioane was walking with Franklin down the tunnel, who, upon hearing the taunting from students, defended his coach by yelling right back at the students. Franklin had to put his arm around Ioane and guide him through the tunnel.
James Franklin’s walk through the tunnel sounded much different after a loss to Michigan pic.twitter.com/9yvrxtIFEq— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) November 11, 2023
With tensions running high, it’s clear players and fans were both on edge. Fans have had enough of the increased hype and lack of delivery, and the players have apparently had enough of the fans’ criticism.
In a postgame press conference, defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton expressed his gratitude to the fans who supported the team but his contempt for those who booed.
“Half of them wouldn’t step on the field if they had the opportunity to,” Dennis-Sutton said.
Defensive tackle Dvon Ellies shared a similar sentiment on Twitter following the game.
However, can you blame the students and fans in general for being so upset? No current undergraduate student at Penn State has witnessed a win against Ohio State and Michigan in Beaver Stadium. During the Franklin era, Penn State is a combined 4-16 against those teams.
Not to mention, tickets to the Michigan game were not cheap. On Onward State’s student ticket exchange, student tickets were listed for as much as $600, with many students purchasing tickets in the $200-$300 range.
Fans pay high prices because they care. Penn State has the second-highest attendance average of any college football program so far this year. For schools with more than 85,000 seats in their stadiums, Penn State goes the highest above capacity, with better trends than Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, and Georgia, among others.
Despite the passion behind the fanbase, the relationship between students and student-athletes, particularly football players, has always been touchy. One could argue that students shouldn’t criticize the team because the roster consists of their peers, a group of kids who attend the same school and are working toward the same degrees.
But are football players the peers of the common Penn State student? Yes, the students and the players attend the same classes, but it’s clear the student-athletes are placed on a certain pedestal. For many of them, their tuition is paid for. They have fancy electric scooters, a tricked-out golf cart that takes them around to their classes, and custom backpacks that everyone is jealous of.
By no means is this arguing these “perks” are unnecessary. The fact of the matter is that football players here at Penn State probably do deserve special treatment. They play on national television week in and week out in front of hundreds of thousands of fans every season. Many of them are receiving boatloads of money and perks through NIL deals, too.
Football players and students are not the same. They get put on a pedestal because college football is so important to this university and this nation. However, that pedestal comes with its downsides as well, including criticism and slander from the fans who pay top dollar to watch them play.
While throwing garbage and cursing out specific players by name is inexcusable behavior from fans, the Penn State football team shouldn’t be exempt from boos following a disappointing result. No one, including the fans, coaches, and players, is exempt from criticism.
Now that a few days have passed, the heat of the moment will cool down. Hopefully, fans remember that there are two games left in the season to rally behind this team in its final push for a New Year’s Six bowl game, and hopefully, the players remember that the fans booed because they care, and they’ll cheer even louder when the Nittany Lions win.
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About the Author
The Nittany Lions will face an added challenge bouncing back from a loss with new playcallers this weekend.
The Nittany Lions haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 2019.
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