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Penn State's James Franklin stops just short of criticizing refs

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State coach James Franklin wanted to talk about the officiating. But he didn’t. He wanted to express his frustration over two missed calls during an emotional, double-overtime loss. But he didn’t want the accompanying fine or the wrong attention.

“I’d love to come in here and tell you how I really think,” he said during the postgame news conference at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, “but that would not be appropriate.”

It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines after No. 13 Ohio State slipped past Penn State 31-24 in double overtime Saturday. Officials failed to overturn a first-quarter interception from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg that clearly hit the ground -- which led to an OSU touchdown -- and referees also missed an expired play clock in the second quarter when the Buckeyes nailed a 49-yard field goal.

“All that equals 10 points, right? Yeah,” Franklin said, pausing. “I would love to come in here on a weekly basis and tell you exactly what I think. And it goes against everything about who I am; I tell people the truth. But I’m not able to do that. I’m not able to do that.”

Referee John O’Neil and replay official Tom Fiedler addressed both calls after the game. With the expired play clock, Fiedler said that was not a reviewable play. On the interception, the play was not “thoroughly reviewed” due to technical difficulties on the two replay feeds. The in-house replay system worked, but the officials said they were unable to use those.

“We can’t create our own rules,” O’Neil told a pool reporter. “The replay rules are clear that we have to use the equipment provided.”

Those calls obviously weren’t the only reasons for the Penn State loss. The Nittany Lions didn’t reach the red zone until the fourth quarter, and the offense couldn’t generate much momentum in the first three quarters.

But it seemed as if those calls only complicated matters for an emotional Franklin. He was asked if he planned to file any grievances with the Big Ten but also declined to address that.

“Guys, I know you would love for me to give you a sound bite that not only would sell papers for you guys but would also give me a big fine. I’m not going to do it,” he said. “I’m going to focus on the things I can control, which is our players and our coaches and our program and loving these kids and coaching them.

“So I would really appreciate if we didn’t have any more questions about that stuff. I’d appreciate it.”

Franklin wasn’t asked about the calls again during the 13-minute postgame news conference. But it’s clear the loss took its toll. The head coach opened up with a long, 16-second pause to compose himself once his voice cracked.

The calls clearly played a role in the game, but this wasn't entirely unprecedented for Big Ten teams. Michigan was hurt in the fourth quarter against Rutgers a few weeks ago when a critical catch was ruled incomplete, and there was also the Wisconsin-Arizona State debacle last season. The 2012 season wasn’t exactly a banner year, either.