STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s not hard to get James Franklin fired up.
Sometimes his day starts at 3 a.m. when he can’t keep his mind from wandering to recruiting or play calls on a routine trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
He’s like a wind-up toy at practice pacing the field at a frantic pace to see all the position groups within a 10 minute period. The eight-year head coach can dust off his soap box and wax poetic about the Big Ten Conference alignment or the detriments of releasing a depth chart with a passion few people can match.
Thrust him in the center of a “faking injuries” debate, and the coach will give you a five minute prepared statement in direct response to Iowa’s fans booing injured Penn State players. (Oh by the way, PJ Mustipher will miss the rest of the season thanks to one of those injuries at Iowa).
“Is the good for college football?” Franklin asks while losing his voice.
The question brings up a good debate (and Franklin has all the evidence). Should we really be booing kids who are injuries in a college football game no matter what it looks like?
Here’s (in part) what Franklin had to say on the matter:
“Now put yourself in the shoes of a parent and your son is down on the field for an injury and the stadium is booing you,” Franklin begins. “Is that good for college football?
“Now again from a strategy standpoint, would it be strategic for us to tell PJ Mustipher to go down and fake an injury? One of our best players, one of our starters, one of our captains. Does that make sense? If you’re going to do it, you wouldn’t do it with your starter or captain.
It was a physical game. Was there a bunch of injuries? I get it and how it may have looked. I’m telling you we don’t coach it, we don’t teach it. It was a bunch of injuries in the game, but 70 percent of those guys never returned. All I’m saying is I don’t think this is right for college football.”
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz defended the Hawkeyes fans on Tuesday for booing Penn State players who were injured in Saturday’s game.
The longest tenured college football coach insinuated that Penn State players were faking injuries and said that the Iowa fans “aren’t stupid” and knew what is going on. In a one minute answer on the topic, he also said the fans “smelled a rat” and “responded the way they responded.”
“I mean our fans aren’t stupid, they’re watching,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “They know what is going on. I’ve been here 23 years, I think that’s only the second time we’ve seen that kind of stuff going on. I know it’s a topic nationally right now, nobody knows the answers to it.
“I also know for a fact that people – there are two people in our building – that have been places where [faking injuries is a thing]. Scuba or dive and turtle were the code words for it, so it goes on.
“We don’t coach it, haven’t really been exposed to it, but our fans thought they smelled a rat, I guess. I don’t know. They responded the way they responded.”
Where to go from here?
These two programs are firmly at opposite sides of this faking injury debates.
On one hand, you have Franklin defending three of his captains who were knocked out of the Iowa game never returning. On the other, you have Ferentz defending fans for booing PJ Mustipher, who played his last game of the 2021 season.
On the PSU side, Franklin expounding on the health of college football and the mental toll on athletes and their families. On the Iowa side, Ferentz expounding on his limited exposure to teams who actually faked injuries.
These are young men looking to make a future playing football professionally. That takes a lot of reps and snaps to prove to an NFL team that you’re one of the 400 college football players worth taking a shot on this spring.
Why would a player personally want to sideline themselves in a top-5 matchup, with the whole country watching, with a slim lead, just to fake an injury?
To what? Slow down momentum of an Iowa team that couldn’t score on it’s first chance of the game from the 5-yard line after a Sean Clifford interception on his first pass of the game?
It never makes sense. No matter how you slice it, Penn State didn’t need to fake injuries.
It needed it’s third-year starting quarterback to play the second half to extend the one touchdown lead. It needed PJ Mustipher to plug up the middle of the defensive line. It needed John Lovett in the backfield to help a struggling Ta’Quan Roberson. It needed Jonathan Sutherland as Iowa’s Nico Ragaini dashes through the secondary for a 44-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Put this thing to bed
In a normal season, Iowa would finish middle of the pack in the Big Ten West and this wouldn’t be a story past the Sunday following the game. But with a down West division, Iowa’s perfect record and easier second-half schedule looks like the Hawkeyes will make the Dec. 4 trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
If Penn State can run the tables and beat top-10 ranked Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will also have a date in Indy.
All this injuries fodder and hate between the fan bases, suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. There’s bulletin board material, and no love lost between Franklin and Ferentz.
Penn State (5-1) is currently on a bye week, and is set to host Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 23 at noon. The game will be broadcast on abc27 with a special pregame show live from outside Beaver Stadium starting at 11:30 a.m. with the abc27 sports team.