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Penn State took some lumps in their loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday. Not only did their perfect record take a beating with a 23-20 loss, but the Nittany Lions lost some key players to injuries throughout the game including starting quarterback Sean Clifford and leading defensive lineman PJ Mustipher. Clifford returned to the sidelines in street clothes in the second half and Mustipher later returned on crutches.
But Penn State also lost a number of other players including safety Jonathan Sutherland and running backs John Lovett and Devyn Ford, On many occasions, other key players were down on the field and came off the field for smaller stretches of game time.
And Iowa fans were not happy to see it. Believing Penn State players were staying on the ground to disrupt any potential momentum by the Hawkeyes offense, Iowa fans regularly booed the injuries. The boos became louder as the game went on, coincidentally as Iowa was having the momentum swing more and more in its favor on its way to a come-from-behind victory.
Penn State head coach James Franklin took exception to the boos and reacted to it in his postgame comments on Saturday.
“I do have a little bit of a hard time with our players getting hurt, and the fans and the coaches and the staff booing our players,” Franklin said (according to Lions 247). “They don’t run a tempo offense. It was not part of our plan. Obviously, we didn’t want Cliff, PJ, Lovett, Ford, and Sutherland, guys that play significant football for us to get injured.”
Franklin took particular aim at Iowa’s fans and reminded them that teams that fake injuries usually do so against teams that run up-tempo offenses. Iowa’s offense is far from that.
“But to all the Iowa people out there, that was not part of our plan,” Franklin said. “It would not be. You don’t run a tempo offense.”
Franklin has always been one to take things with his players to heart. When his players succeed, he celebrates with them. When they hurt, he hurts with them, and for them. So when his players are legitimately injured, he goes to bat for them, as he did in his postgame comments about Iowa’s fans.
“If one of those kids would have been significantly hurt, and you’re booing them, I’ve got a hard time with that, but I’ve got my own issues to deal with.”
Franklin’s comments may come off as nothing more than sour grapes to some, but he does have a valid point. These are college athletes and Penn State doesn’t have a history of having players fake injuries the way some other programs may. And there was never any video evidence to suggest Penn State players were suddenly being instructed to fall to the ground and pretend to be injured (if there is, feel free to share).
As for Franklin’s own issues to figure out, he has a bye week to figure out how to get his team ready for a rebound against Illinois in two weeks. Some players may not be available as a result of an injury during the Iowa game, which should help prove to Iowa fans that maybe those weren’t fake injuries.