After the Penn State game, James Franklin delivered what has been universally seen as a cheap shot of sorts.
James Franklin said when Pitt beat Penn State last year it was like they won the Super Bowl— John Clark CSN/NBC (@JClarkCSN) September 9, 2017
"For us this year it was like beating Akron" pic.twitter.com/TiC362Ax4q
Kind of ironic, of course, considering that Franklin recently stated that every game for Penn State was the Super Bowl. But I digress.
It's worth pointing out that, while some Penn State fans incredulously insist that wasn't the case, the quote was seen as not only a low blow by Pitt fans but also by some national media, who have absolutely no skin in the game.
John Feinstein called it arrogant. USA Today had an article, calling it a shot. Famed basketball writer Dick Weiss called it a shot. A writer for the Tennessean says Franklin is full of it. Surely, there were more.
Beyond those folks, a gaggle of other outlets, including SportsCenter, didn't entirely print that it was a shot but noted the quote on Twitter and elsewhere, virtually acknowledging it as a shot. And while Rich Eisen took a poll on his Twitter account and about 2/3 of the nearly 10,000 respondents looked unfavorably on Franklin's comments. Eisen also didn't crush Franklin directly but did acknowledge that Pitt's 'Super Bowl,' if there was one, was against Clemson and not Penn State last season.
Either most of us are wrong here and Penn State fans are correct in their assertion that it wasn't a cheap shot or vice versa. I'll let you make that call.
On Monday, it was Pat Narduzzi's turn to weigh in. His reaction?
Pat Narduzzi was asked about his reaction to James Franklin's Akron comment: "You'd have to ask him. They went low, we went high."— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) September 11, 2017
My general reaction is that I honestly don't care if Franklin said that. Did I think it was tasteless? Sure. But he's allowed to say whatever the heck he wants and, by the way, Pat Narduzzi has rubbed some folks the wrong way, too, in the past. But the idea of Franklin and Penn State fans to essentially play dumb here and act like this wasn't a shot is kind of amusing. It all sort of reverberates back to the idea of many Nittany Lions fans that often have this strange notion that their team is above the fray and is the standard-bearer for justice and purity when quotes like this sort of show that nothing is further from the truth.
That's what irkes me more about this. I didn't like Franklin's comments but they didn't throw me into a complete tizzy, either. But the suggestion that this is nothing more than Pitt fans taking his comments the wrong way is beyond laughable.
As I said in one of the comment threads, if he intended to not make it a cheap shot, he would have simply left Pitt's reaction to winning the year before completely out of it. If he wants to take the approach the game is no different than any other, that's a view taken by most college coaches around the country. However, he chose to say that the game was Pitt's Super Bowl last year and that was the key to it.
Take the cheap shot all you want - just admit as such. Penn State won the game and a year of hearing 42-39 surely provided some amount of frustration for them, including Franklin, whether he wants to particularly admit it or not. Some would even suggest they were entitled to such a low blow because a rivalry includes some hatred and some back and forth barbs. But to take a cheap shot and then pretend as if it wasn't one is just kind of silly.