Much was expected of James Franklin at Penn State when he replaced the coach that replaced the legend, Joe Paterno. Bill O’Brien was only around for 2 seasons before he was back in the NFL, and the Nittany Lions raided Vanderbilt for his replacement.
At Vanderbilt, James Franklin was a miracle worker and did things that nobody else has ever been able to do. In three seasons as the head coach for the Commodores, he led them to three bowl games. Although his first season was a 6-7 finish, his next two teams produced identical 9-4 records. Going 9-4 once at Vanderbilt will get you noticed, but doing it back to back will get you a new job.
Penn State was all too willing to take Franklin off of Vanderbilt’s hands.
Things haven’t worked as well at Penn State as was expected. The Nittany Lions finished 7-6 in back to
back season leaving fans on message boards proclaiming that James Franklin can’t coach.
Coaches that can’t coach, don’t take Vanderbilt to three straight bowl games.
Whatever your opinion is on James Franklin, he was definitely on what they call the hot seat which means his job was in extreme jeopardy.
Penn State fans are used to winning just like a number of other big time programs. A 7-6 record just doesn’t cut it at Michigan, or Ohio State, or Florida State, or any other of the top schools in college football. When your fans are used to competing for national or conference championships and you finish with a record that is barely above losing, the natives tend to get restless.
The fans are impatient at Penn State. They want a winner and they want it now and if James Franklin can’t get it done, then maybe they should fire the guy and hire somebody else.
This season, the Penn State Nittany Lions were starting over at Quarterback. Their Offensive Line has been a problem since the Sandusky scandal cost them some scholarships. They just haven’t had much depth up front. Running Back had been a problem since their top Running Back, Silas Red, decided to finish his career at Southern Cal. That was in 2012, and finally in 2015 Saquon Barkley came along and ran for over 1,000 yards.
The 2016 season started off badly for Penn State and James Franklin. After a somewhat shaky start
against Kent State which they did win, 33-13, the Nittany Lions lost their second game. They renewed their rivalry against Pittsburgh and lost 39-42. Penn State fans will argue that a loss is a loss and there’s no such thing as a moral victory. But, Pittsburgh threatened to blow the doors off the game and embarrass their old rival, but Penn State fought back gamely.
Penn State barely beat Temple and the Owls beat them in 2015 for the first time in modern times which should have motivated the Nittany Lions to blow them out. But, the game was competitive and Penn State finally prevailed, 34-27.
Then, Michigan happened. The Wolverines are good, not much doubt about it. They just clouded up and rained all over Penn State and they humiliated the Nittany Lions, 10-49.
James Franklin’s seat was getting hotter and hotter.
The Minnesota Gophers are not a bad team and with a favorable schedule they are 5-2. They could be 6-1 if not for an Overtime loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions.
But, maybe where things turned around for Franklin and Penn State was against Maryland. The Terrapins were horrible in 2015 and they fired their coach and hired Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator DJ Durkin. The changes have been instant and they won their first 4 games impressively. Penn State was not so impressed and tore into them with a fairly convincing 38-14 beating.
Still, Penn State was a huge under dog to the highly ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the game was at
home in Happy Valley.
The night was cool and it was raining. It was a defensive battle from start to finish and in the end, it was a special teams play that scored the last Touchdown.
Penn State surprised the Ohio State Buckeyes and may have removed James Franklin from the hot seat for at least the rest of the season.
Moving to 5-2 on the season and with a very favorable remaining schedule, there is the possibility that the Nittany Lions could finish with a 10-2 record.
Saquon Barkley ran for 99 yards on only 12 carries against Ohio State. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for a Touchdown and ran for another, but the real star was the defense. Linebacker Brandon Bell had 18 tackles, and other Linebackers Jason Cabinda had 13 tackles and Manny Bowen had 12.
Defensive End Garrett Sickels had 3 and 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 and a 1/2 Quarterback sacks.
It was a total team win against the mighty Buckeyes and it could have saved James Franklin’s job.