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Penn State WhiteOuts Michigan, 42-13: James Franklin Called It, 197 Weeks Ago

by on October 21, 2017 11:45 PM

The line of demarcation is Sept. 24, 2016.

That’s the day Penn State lost to Michigan, 49-10, in the Big House.

That loss dropped PSU to 2-2 and made James Franklin 16-14 as the Nittany Lions’ third-year head coach.

Heading into Saturday night's redemption, there was no way quarterback Trace McSorley — or anyone else in the Penn State locker room — was able to WhiteOut the thought of last year's pounding.

“This week it really motivated us. Moreso tonight,” McSorley said after throwing for 282 yards and a touchdown, and running for 76 yards and three more TDs in a 42-13 Whiteout win Saturday night. (Saquon Barkley threw in 108 yards rushing, 53 yards receiving and three TDs for good measure.)

“It really wasn’t talked about that much,” McSorley added. “But we got into the locker room pre-game and it got talked about a couple of times and knew that it was there.”

It’s been 392 days since that afternoon DarkOut of sorts in Ann Arbor. And since that day, Penn State has been 16-1.

To be clear: 16 wins in 30 games before. 16 wins in 17 games after.

That makes No. 2 Penn State 7-0, heading into Columbus, Ohio, for a 3:30 p.m. showdown in The Horseshoe with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

And, since we’re counting, the win came in front of a crowd of 110,823 — the largest in the 355 games played in Beaver Stadium since 1960. (Beating the record of 110,753, set in Penn State’s 40-7 victory over Nebraska on Sept. 14, 2002.)

Penn State is on a 19-1 stretch in Beaver Stadium under Franklin, having won their last game at home in 2014, then going 6-1 in 2015, 7-0 in 2016 and 5-0 in 2017.

The victory over Michigan was Penn State’s 15th consecutive regular season win, the program’s longest such streak since it had 18 straight wins in 1993-95. It was Penn State’s 13th consecutive win against Big Ten foes, the best such string in the 25 years PSU has been in the Big Ten. And it was the Nittany Lions’ 12th straight victory in Beaver Stadium, 10th best in school history.

This is how dominating the Nittany Lions were on Saturday: Their 42 points vs. the Wolverines is the third-most they have scored in their 21-game history with Michigan and equals their largest margin of victory (29 points) in the series history.

Franklin has now beaten all 12 of the Big Ten Conference opponents his teams have faced. Only a Nov. 18 date with Nebraska — a first-time Franklin foe — remains on his punchlist.

Here’s the #awesome beauty of it:

Franklin called it, exactly 197 weeks ago.

The Whiteout, the win, the renaissance.

And while we’re at, he is the (Old) Main Man when it comes to handing out credit for GameDay coming to town and gown.

Call it James’ Big Bang Theory. From his very first Day One press conference, on Jan. 11, 2014 — held in the bowels of Beaver Stadium — Franklin said it was going to happen. Here’s an exchange he had that afternoon with Patrick Woo, a Penn State student at the time and now an executive with the Senior Bowl:

WOO: At Vanderbilt you had to rally the fans to show up at the games. At Penn State you don't have to do that. You'll have at least 90,000 in that stadium.

FRANKLIN: What's the stadium hold?

WOO: 107,000.

FRANKLIN: Is there a reason you said 90,000?

WOO: That's when it's at its worst, but I know you're going to bring it back up.

FRANKLIN: 107,000 from here on out. That stadium will be sold out every single game from here on out.

And #107kstrong was born.

As it turned out, Franklin’s first game on the Penn State sidelines in Beaver Stadium came almost nine months later, on Sept. 6, 2014. Penn State’s foe? Akron, Akron, Akron.

The Nittany Lions won that game, 21-6, and the Beaver Stadium crowd was 97,354.

That was 46 games ago. Since then, Franklin has rebuilt a football program and recruited a community, as well as multi-star stars from around the country. But without his three biggest recruits, none of it may have happened.

McSorley had committed to join Franklin at Vanderbilt. But one weekend in State College changed his mind. Barkley had committed to Rutgers. But Franklin persisted, and Barkley came to Penn State. Then Franklin recruited Joe Moorhead in December 2015 to leave his head coaching job at Fordham to install his RPO offense at Penn State.

All three paid big dividends again on Saturday night. Again. Again. And again.

It was a victory for Penn State. All of it.

“This was for our community, our lettermen, for President (Eric) Barron, the Board (of Trustees),” Franklin said on the field in the moments after the game. “This was a really, really good win for our program on the national stage.” 

And, as Franklin added a bit later in his post-game presser, “it seems to be working out pretty well for us.”

Just as he hoped. And predicted. And believed. Then and now.

This is also what Franklin said at that 2014 introductory press conference 1,379 days ago, when he was named Penn State's head coach, just 11 days after Bill O'Brien headed to Houston:

"I think with everybody pulling the rope in the same direction there is no reason why we can't take this program where everybody wants it to be," Franklin said. "We should take great pride in representing the state of Pennsylvania. We should take great pride in being having the ability to play for Penn State University, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to unite the coaches, we're going to unite the community, and build this program where everybody wants it to be."

And, right now, that's No. 2 in the country. And counting.



Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for StateCollege.com since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PSUPoorman. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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