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 eight days left — is the No. 8 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 8 moment: James Franklin’s first Penn State win at Croke Park Classic
Penn State’s Croke Park Classic win over Central Florida in 2014 was a game of firsts.
It was the first time a Nittany Lion quarterback ever eclipsed 400 passing yards in a game — Christian Hackenberg had 454. For freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, it was his first collegiate action. (He started his sure-to-be record-setting career with 11 catches for 165 yards.) And Penn State’s trip to Ireland marked the first time the program ever played a game outside the United States.
But, most importantly, the Croke Park Classic marked James Franklin’s inaugural game as Penn State’s head coach — and the Aug. 30, 2014, game ended in stunning fashion.
Along with a one-yard touchdown run by Zach Zwinak and a 79-yard passing score from Hackenberg to Geno Lewis, kicker Sam Ficken chipped field goals from 22 and 33 yards away to help Penn State mount a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.
But the Nittany Lions couldn’t hold onto that advantage, and Ficken was needed a couple more times. Trailing 24-23, Penn State had a minute to drive down the field and put Ficken in position to win it — and that’s exactly what Hackenberg did.
On a 4th-and-3 from Penn State’s 33, Hackenberg scampered eight yards for a first down with 30 seconds remaining. The towering sophomore then completed three straight passes, getting the ball down to UCF’s 19-yard line with three seconds left.
Franklin trotted Ficken out on the pitch, and the placekicker didn’t disappoint. He hit from 36 yards out as time expired, and the entire Penn State sideline rejoiced.
Franklin hugged and picked up Ficken in celebration as fireworks went off and chaos surrounded them.
The coach earned his first win at Penn State, and it was enjoyed by both Franklin and Penn State’s traveling fanbase.