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James Franklin battles reporter over decision-making following Michigan loss

Penn State football coach James Franklin had a heated exchange with a reporter following Saturday’s loss to Michigan.



Penn State football, James Franklin, Michigan football
Nov 11, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin walks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another season where Penn State football loses to both Michigan and Ohio State. Tensions have boiled over since the Nittany Lions fell to the Wolverines 24-15 inside Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon. Much like earlier this season in Columbus, as well as in years past, there were a handful of decisions from James Franklin and the Penn State coaching staff that left Nittany Lions fans scratching their heads.

But fans weren’t the only ones questioning the in-game decision-making from the Penn State sideline. After Saturday’s loss, James Franklin got into a fiery exchange with a reporter who questioned the logic behind going for two following the Nittany Lions’ two touchdowns.

Penn State was chasing points all afternoon against Michigan football

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Penn State defense holds its own against one of the best teams in the nation, only to eventually crack after the Nittany Lions offense fails to establish any semblance of rhythm in the biggest game of the year. It’s a game script that has repeated itself numerous times throughout the James Franklin era of Penn State football.

Such was the case again Saturday against Michigan. While by no means perfect, the Nittany Lions defense played well enough to keep Penn State in the game against the No. 3 team in the country. But once again, the Penn State offense couldn’t get out of its own way, struggling to score 15 points in another fragmented performance on the national stage.

It became apparent early that points would be hard to come by for the Nittany Lions, after a 13-play, 66-yard drive ended in a field goal at the Michigan three-yard line. Penn State football subsequently tried to steal points wherever it could, going for two on both of its touchdowns on the day. Both conversions failed, including an interesting swinging-gate call that closed the door on any hopes of a final-minute comeback.

James Franklin gets into heated exchange with reporter over two-point conversion calls

It’s been a difficult 48 hours since Penn State football suffered a fatal blow to its Big Ten title and College Football Playoff hopes for 2023. Obviously, no one was happy about the second loss of the season, and tensions reached a fever pitch as fans booed James Franklin and the Nittany Lions off the field.

Emotions continued to run high in the press room, particularly when Franklin was asked about the decision to go for two twice during the game.

“We felt like points were going to be hard to come by,” Franklin said. “We were down by four. We wanted to put ourselves into a position to get back to a field goal game. Those were all the numbers we worked through from an analytic standpoint as a staff, and everybody was comfortable that it was the right thing to do. Obviously, we didn’t pick it up.”

However, the conversation became more combative when the reporter pushed back about the second two-point conversion attempt.

“You don’t agree with it. I’m just telling you that’s the decision,” Franklin said. “We’re trying to get back. We’re trying to get points. We felt like points were going to be hard to come by. We wanted to get it back… I’ve answered your question.”

You can watch the entire exchange on the Basic Blues Nation YouTube channel.

Nittany Lions fans get their pound of flesh

Evidently, Penn State football fans were not the only ones frustrated with the in-game decision-making Saturday. On Sunday afternoon, James Franklin fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich after two and a half seasons in Happy Valley.

“We thank Mike for his contributions over the last three years, but feel it is in our program’s best interest to make a change at this time,” Franklin said in a statement. “We wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

While this likely won’t change much with only two games left in the year, it illustrates how tensions have boiled over in Happy Valley. Penn State football will face Rutgers and Michigan State to close out the year.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.