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Penn State Football: Franklin's Annoyance of Two-Point Criticism a Good Reminder of Something Else

by on November 12, 2019 4:30 PM

James Franklin didn't leave much room for interpretation on Tuesday that criticism directed at his decision to go for two in the third quarter against Minnesota still annoyed him.

"...Going for two in that situation. We looked at the classic two-point chart, which said go for it," Franklin said during a long closing statement at the end of his weekly press conference.

"We used our analytics stuff, which said go for it. We decided to go for it partly because we're on the road, not playing as well as we thought we should be at the time, and if we picked up the two-point conversion, it increased our chances and put us in a better situation. If we didn't pick it up, we still were going to have to overcome those points at some point.

"A lot of these decisions are not clear-cut. There's some that are. But there's a lot that are not clear-cut. It's a gut feel. And what I struggle with is when those decisions -- and again, I already told you the two-point chart said go for it and the analytics stuff said go for it. But then opinions are stated as facts. And I struggle with that."

Franklin's extended thoughts on the decision Tuesday were likely prompted following questioning by two reporters on Saturday who appeared to chafe Franklin with their blunt delivery and strong opposition to the two-point attempt.

At the time, a successful two-point conversion would have turned a 24-19 game into a field goal difference of 24-21 with plenty of game remaining. In turn the ramifications of Penn State being down by three instead of four could have potentially changed play calling for the remainder of the game. For example instead of going for it on fourth down and throwing it to KJ Hamler in the end zone, Penn State could have opted to kick the ball to make it 31-23.

If the remainder of the game played out the same way, Penn State's final drive could have ended with a game-winning field goal.

While all of these things are true, they do disregard an undeniable truth that it's much easier to know which decisions worked and which ones didn't following the game. If Penn State scores on its two-point attempt and kicks the game-winning field goal, the decision to go for two is hailed a smart move.

It is a reminder of a truth as old as football itself: Because a play didn't work, doesn't mean it was a bad call.

"I'm not saying I'm always right," Franklin added. "But it's easy after the fact to say that that was a bad decision when we don't -- when we don't execute."

In reality, while the two point attempt had some butterfly effect for the rest of the game. It's much easier — and perhaps more accurate —to point a critical finger towards Penn State's red zone execution. In the long run, the Nittany Lions win this past Saturday if their six red zone trips had ended with more than two touchdowns. Penn State was also on the wrong end of three interceptions, two of which arguably were the result of mild to seemingly obvious pass interference.

In the end an after-the-fact criticism of Penn State's two-point attempt might hold some water, but it also benefits entirely from hindsight, something not available as decisions are being made.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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