STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – James Franklin leaned down and squeezed his oldest daughter, Shola, like he never wanted to let go.
Penn State rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to send No. 2 Ohio State packing, 24-21, setting off one of those wild scenes we’ve become accustomed to in college football.
Just minutes after Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was sacked on fourth down, ending any hope the Buckeyes had of pulling this one off, the field was a sea of blue-and-white-clad Penn State fans.
For Franklin, the last 2½ years probably seemed more like dog years, as he weatd massive scholarship reductions and back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two with the Nittany Lions.
Franklin’s been a regular on coaching hot seat lists since the start of the season, which probably isn’t fair when you consider this is the first year Penn State has been back close to the full 85 scholarships.
Barbour and Penn State president Eric Barron both came out publicly in support of Franklin three weeks ago.
Franklin never wavered in his belief he had the right kind of kids in the program, and perhaps that was never more apparent than on Saturday night, when the Nittany Lions made two huge special-teams plays to fight back from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Penn State sideline erupting in celebration, Haley looked over at his head coach, and it was then that he realized how big this was for Franklin.