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Penn State coach James Franklin insists he called controversial timeout for personnel reasons

| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 7:09 p.m.
Penn State coach James Franklin celebrates a touchdown with Saeed Blacknall during Saturday's win over Georgia State.
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Penn State coach James Franklin celebrates a touchdown with Saeed Blacknall during Saturday's win over Georgia State.
James Franklin and Penn State prepare to take the field against  Georgia State at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017.
Getty Images
James Franklin and Penn State prepare to take the field against Georgia State at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 16, 2017.

STATE COLLEGE –– James Franklin has been criticized over the last few days after he called a timeout just before Georgia State attempted a late field goal with Penn State leading 56-0.

On the surface, it appeared Franklin called the timeout to ice Georgia State's kicker and preserve what became the Nittany Lions' second shutout win of the season.

After the game Saturday night, however, Franklin said he called the timeout because of a personnel issue and not because he was icing the kicker. Penn State's fourth-team defense was on the field, and that unit hadn't practiced blocking a field goal.

“I was not icing anyone,” Franklin said again at his press conference Tuesday. “I want to be as clear as I possibly can be.

“I've been doing this 23 years. We've never worked a fourth-team field goal block. I'm on the headset. The defense is talking about how those guys won't even know how to line up. I'm shaking my head. You know, the recommendation is to get the second team in there. I call the timeout.”

A lot has been said and written about Franklin's decision, which he referred to as “Field Goalgate” and “Timeoutgate.” Popular sports talk radio host Mike Francesa lambasted Franklin for calling the timeout.

“It's 56-0. Let him kick the ball! And then try to lie about it. What a stooge. What he hasn't got is any class, because why would you do that to a kid up 56-0?” Francesa said of Franklin on his WFAN radio show. “What the heck do you need to block it for? Let the ball go through the uprights, you jerk.”

Receiver Brandon Polk will not have to worry about blocking field goals. He is just happy to be playing and blocking opposing players.

Polk has looked more comfortable in his return to the field after missing most of last season with an undisclosed injury. Polk played in the first three games of the season before his injury, for which he was granted a medical redshirt.

Now, after working all offseason to get back on the field, Polk has impressed in the first three games of 2017. He has three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown, with perhaps his biggest impact coming as a downfield blocker.

At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Polk is one of the team's smaller receivers. But that hasn't stopped him from trying to block the bigger defensive backs and linebackers.

“I take a lot of pride in (blocking) because I know the people out there who are blocking for me, like they are going to give everything they can,” Polk said. “So for me, even being a smaller guy, I'm going to give everything I can for them. And if I don't give them the best block, then I'm frustrated and mad at myself because I know that if they were put in that situation, they are going to do their best for me.”

One of Polk's blocks, in particular, stood out to Franklin.

Last week against Georgia State, running back Saquon Barkley caught a short pass from Trace McSorley and turned it into an 85-yard touchdown. Franklin gave Polk partial credit for the touchdown because of a key block he made in the secondary.

“(Polk) is on the opposite side of the field,” Franklin said. “He sprints down, catches Saquon and gets in front of a defender, and then goes into the end zone and celebrates.”

Franklin added: “I'm very pleased with him.”

Matt Martell is a freelance writer.

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