Penn State’s Hangover Habit Strikes Again; Nittany Lions Lose 18-20 (9OT)

Head coach James Franklin’s Penn State teams are now 3-5 following their first loss of the season.

What makes this disheartening statistic even worse are the three wins Franklin does have coming off a loss are against Buffalo, Temple, and Indiana. The latter Penn State barely won, 34-27.

It’s a habit that has cost some of Franklin’s best teams even greater riches than the ones they eventually settled for. Everyone remembers the grueling losses to Michigan State in back-to-back years in ’17 & ’18. Nobody really cares about the loss that was buried in the 0-5 start last year, but it was still there.

And there there was today. Nobody could have imagined today.

Even with a battered and bruised football team, we all thought they had enough horses to handle a 2-5 Illinois squad with a first-year head coach, at home. We were wrong.

Credit the Illinois team for sticking to the game plan of wearing down an already depleted defense and keeping a inconsistent, but potentially lethal Penn State offense off the field.

But this loss feels deeper than the obvious X’s and O’s you could point to for why the Nittany Lions fell short in what seemed like 9 rounds of purgatory hell.

Perhaps it is the fact that Penn State fans, mostly, were pleading with their athletic administration, Board of Trustees, and anyone else who would listen that James Franklin is the right man for the job for perhaps the remainder of his coaching career. While that still is my belief, a loss to a far-less talented football team feels like a sucker punch to the stomach. It also provides at least a little doubt, if not a lot of doubt, in the back of your mind.

Sure Franklin will continue to recruit his tail off and bring in some of the best players in the country. Sure he will surround himself with all of the analytics and coaches to be able to make the right decisions. Sure he won’t always get so unfortunate with injuries and penalties at the most crucial of moments.

But what if his teams can’t break this hangover habit? Even after a BYE, why does a loss appear to hangover them for another week? In a college football season where one-loss was not a death sentence for the Playoff, but two surely was, why did they come out flat?

Those are the questions you have to ask yourself when you can’t find a way to get three yards for a 2 point conversion more times than a unequivocally worse opponent.

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