We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 22 days left — is the No. 22 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 22 moment: Penn State beats Rutgers for James Franklin’s first Big Ten win
Five interceptions on defense and an unanswered second-half comeback — yep, James Franklin would take it.
In Franklin’s inaugural Big Ten game, he notched his first of many conference wins as Penn State edged Rutgers 13-10 on Sept. 14, 2014.
It wasn’t a graceful display of football by the Nittany Lions; 1.9 yards per rush and a five-yard punt by quarterback Christian Hackenberg saw to that.
Rutgers went up 10-0 before halftime, and Penn State — despite two second-half field goals by Sam Ficken — still trailed late in the fourth quarter.
But with three minutes to go in regulation trailing 10-6, Hackenberg found Geno Lewis. The wideout snared Hackenberg’s pass on a 7-yard slant and ripped through a couple Rutgers tacklers, racing 53 yards down to the Scarlet Knights’ 27.
A minute later — facing a 3rd-and-12 on Rutgers’ 29-yard line — Hackenberg connected with Lewis again for a 23-yard gain, setting up a go-ahead 5-yard touchdown run by Bill Belton.
Then, with 50 seconds remaining, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova tossed his fifth pick. Penn State safety Ryan Keiser flew in front of a Rutgers receiver to catch the floating pass, spoiling the Scarlet Knights’ Big Ten debut.
It also sealed Franklin’s first Big Ten win at the helm, a victory celebrated by Penn State on Rutgers’ home turf. Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood was left scowling on the sideline, while Franklin hugged his players and assistants.
Just three games into Franklin’s tenure, Penn State’s future looked bright.