Unsolicited, coach James Franklin ended his remarks at Penn State’s weekly news conference with a tutorial of almost 500 words explaining his staff’s philosophy on late-game clock and timeout management.
I’ll put a full transcript below. But in summation, Franklin had four primary points:
(x) He will never call a timeout after a first down because during the final two minutes, the clock stops until the chains are set (the remainder of the game it is only until the ball is set). “So, you have plenty of time to get a play called,” Franklin said.
(x) He believes officials usually will “give… the benefit of the doubt” for players getting out of bounds to stop the clock late in games.
(x) He will ensure he is on the sidelines next to the official in such situations – in case he rules the player stayed inbounds (allowing the clock to roll) so he can then call a timeout.
(x) He will, if at all possible, save a timeout in his pocket in case a field goal that is not kicked on fourth down is blocked or botched in some other way. “So we still have a chance to… kick a field goal… to win the game.”
All logical, intelligent and seemingly-savvy policies. They make sense. Few would have too many logical qualms, if at all.
But it’s so much the content of the discussion but the “why now?” Franklin’s voluntary tangent suggested he’d heard criticism about late-game clock management Saturday.
Penn State did not use a timeout until there was 17 seconds left. After one ensuing play, another timeout was not called until three seconds remained. Sam Ficken hit a 36-yard field goal as time expired.
As wonderfully skilled in PR as Franklin seems to be, this was a blunder. He took something that was a non-story – and made it a story.
Only a guess here, but Franklin making a point to address this Tuesday, to me, shows he was burned by those who were saying he bungled the timeout situation, and he was itching to fire back. (He also, in my guess, was eager to point out that the official who did not stop the clock when Geno Lewis went out of bounds on the game’s penultimate play was in the wrong).
After this quasi-rant (although he hardly came off as “angry,” per se), looking back at Franklin’s postgame remarks Saturday take on a whole new meaning. To wit-
When asked about the final 10 seconds: “I’m not going to get into some of the things that went on during the game, but I thought the guy was out of bounds. If he did wind the clock, he wound it late.”
Later, in that same answer: “There’s no doubt, there were some issues throughout the game, and that was one of them.”
In referring to PSU’s lack of working headsets early in the game, while UCF’s were left on: “I wouldn’t know if I would necessarily describe it as a surprise, but it was interesting.”
Again, although they momentarily raised my eyebrows while sitting in Croke Park Stadium postgame, in the end, there were too many positive things to talk about than to get into them that day.
The bottom line is the Nittany Lions won the game. So the lack of first-quarter communication or proper clock-stopping or ball-spotting skills by officials all were rendered moot. Lord can only imagine how big of a story all would have been had Ficken’s field goal been kicked only about a yard to the right. Similarly, I fret to wonder how big of a deal Franklin himself might have made of each of the perceived transgressions had he lost his PSU debut.
I still go back to no-harm, no-foul. Yes, I’m sure a vocal fringe of the Twittersphere or the Internet was blasting Franklin for what they say were late-game gaffes. Lunatics online will call you names and say mean things. Trust me, I know. It happens. But it wasn’t out in the mainstream, at least from what I could tell.
Now, it is. This very blog post is living proof. Now, all eyes, for better or worse, fair or not, are going to be on Franklin’s clock management. One honest mistake, it’ll exponentially blow up.
If I had to guess, Franklin came into Tuesday’s presser armed with that answer to a question nobody bothered to ask. And the fact no reporter – over 30 minutes and two dozen questions – cared to inquire to Franklin about late-game timeout usage on Tuesday says it wasn’t on the top of anyone’s mind.
Now, it will be.
(Full transcript of Franklin’s unsolicited remarks after taking questions from the Beaver Stadium media room Tuesday):
I do have a couple things that I’d like to address more about philosophy and also some rules that really are not specific to this game, but I just want to make sure that you guys kind of understand kind of where I’m coming from with some things.
Talking about understanding two‑minute and handling two‑minute situations and things like that, we will never use the time out for first downs because when you get a first down during two minutes, the clock will pause, and the clock will pause not till just the ball is set, but the clock will pause until the chains are set.
So you have plenty of time in our system to get a play called without losing any time off the clock. So that’s how we will do things from here on out.
The other thing is, the way the rules are written and the way our philosophy is, we’re going to try to catch the ball and when we catch the ball outside the numbers, we are going to get as much yardage as we possibly can and get out of bounds.
The difficult thing that happens sometimes is you have to decide, is the player going to get out of bounds, and the clock will stop and stay stopped; or, will they mark on the field forward progress and forward progress will stop.
In two‑minute situations, they will typically give the receiver the benefit of the doubt and if he’s trying to get out of bounds, they will allow the clock to be stopped.
So what I will typically do, I will run down the sideline and I will stand there and if the official goes like this like this, that means the clock is stopped and that the receiver had gotten out of bounds. If not and they wind the clock, I’m going to be right there to call the time out.
The other thing is we will typically safe a time‑out for a couple reasons. We’re going to typically try to center the ball and then be able to call a time‑out, and then on top of that, we will safe a time‑out that we may go into the locker room with or that we may go into the end of the game with at half‑time; or, because if you’re going to kick a field goal on any other down but fourth down, we are going to save a time‑out because if they happen to block the field goal and we recover it, we have a chance to call time out and now still be able to kick a field goal with maybe one second to go in the game.
Just so you guys kind of understand our philosophy and our believes and also understanding of the rules, we think those things are really, really important. So I did want to cover those guys with you, as well.