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Penn State

Tim Benz: In bad week for coaches, Penn State's James Franklin's was the worst

| Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, 7:05 a.m.
Penn State coach James Franlkin
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Penn State coach James Franlkin

It was an especially lousy weekend for college football coaches. And a few of them are of local importance.

• Pitt's Pat Narduzzi piloted his team to a 45-14 loss at Central Florida. This defeat comes on the heels of becoming North Carolina's lone victim. The Panthers have lost both of their out-of-conference games to ranked foes — UCF and Penn State — by a combined score of 96-20.

That's bad, considering Narduzzi was pumping up this squad so much that he promised a trip to the ACC title game.

Narduzzi is starting to feel the heat.

At this point, I'm starting to wonder if that's an unfair shot ... at Kevin Stallings.

• Pitt's next opponent is Syracuse. This season, for a change, a lot more right has happened with the Orange than wrong. Head coach Dino Babers deserves a lot of credit for that.

But, man, he mangled the clock against Clemson. Poised for a second massive upset in as many years against the third-ranked Tigers, Babers refused to call any timeouts on defense in his own red zone as the Tigers were about to score and take a 27-23 lead.

The clock ran from 2 minutes, 15 seconds all the way down to 41 seconds. Babers had three timeouts to use.

He took two of them — and a defeat — on the plane with him to back to Syracuse.

• At Texas A&M, coach Jimbo Fisher grabbed a player's facemask in anger.

Now people are calling for his job.

Fisher shouldn't have done that. But a histrionic reaction like that is everything wrong with covering sports today.

Oh, no! A coach grabbed a player by the facemask? The horror. Is the player OK? Is he going to live? Are assault charges pending? When is the trial?

Please. The player, Tyrel Dodson, was involved in an on-field skirmish and Fisher was getting him out of it. This incident wasn't Bobby Knight and Neil Reed.

The feigning of outrage these days is unbelievable. You would've thought Fisher pushed him in front of a bus.

Despite all those examples, the college coach who had the worst Saturday was Penn State's James Franklin.

He was on the verge of being the toast of college football when it looked like his Nittany Lions were about to beat Ohio State.

Eventually, the Buckeyes stormed back to take a 27-26 lead with 2:03 left.

Given the way senior quarterback Trace McSorley had been playing (461 yards from scrimmage by game's end), it appeared enough time might have remained to push Penn State into field-goal range.

But on a fourth-and-5 with only 1:16 left — after back-to-back timeouts to think about it — Franklin made a baffling decision to have a run play sent into the huddle. Miles Sanders was stuffed for just a 2-yard gain to effectively end the game.

I can't imagine a play call like that went in from offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne without Franklin's approval. If it did, shame on Franklin for allowing it.

"Obviously, it didn't work," Franklin said after the game. "That is on me."

Yeah. No kidding, James.

His temper is also "on him" for going after a fan in the stands who questioned the call.

Franklin later apologized for that reaction. The fan was clearly being self-important. But acting like you were going to go in the stands after someone in your own student section?

That's just a bad look.

So was his decision to turn his post-game news conference into a rambling, extended "TED Talk" about being detail-oriented.

I'm not sure if Sanders got a "B" in a class instead of an "A," coach. But I know you get an "F" for giving him the ball in that situation.

Taking that opportunity to shift the point of discussion away from your abhorrent play call, to a filibuster about your kids needing to tighten the screws on little things like turning their cell phones off in meetings was a transparent attempt to blame-shift.

I wonder if Franklin's phone was turned off during all of his meetings. Based on his late-game decision against the Buckeyes, it makes me wonder if Pete Carroll called.

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