Following several injuries to Nittany Lions players during Saturday’s marquee matchup between No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Penn State, boos started to rain down onto the field from the Hawkeye fans in Kinnick Stadium.
This fan reaction has sparked a debate between the two programs. Were these injuries legitimate, or was there some strategy involved?
After the game, Penn State head coach James Franklin said he doesn’t think booing injured players is “the right thing for college football.” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeye fans “thought they smelled a rat.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Franklin once again denied his players faking injuries to slow Iowa’s tempo.
“How does this strategy make sense against a huddle team? People use this strategy to slow people down — spread offenses, tempo offenses — [Iowa] huddles,” Franklin said. “In our six years playing them… Has that ever shown up? In my eight years as a head coach, has that shown up at Penn State?”
James Franklin with a lengthy quote on the boos from the Iowa crowd following injuries. pic.twitter.com/Wbd9yBzDnf
— Justin Morganstein (@JmoTweets_) October 13, 2021
During Saturday’s loss, the Nittany Lions lost five players to injury — including starting quarterback Sean Clifford and starting defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher. Though those guys were unable to return to action, several Penn State defenders were slow to get up but quickly got back in the game.
Those were the instances that the Iowa fans and sideline took issue with.
One Iowa assistant coach even mocked a Penn State player for taking a dive on the field following a big offensive play for the Hawkeyes:
We know Penn State had some legitimate injuries in this game, but this 54 seconds of video was especially entertaining.
I believe this player walked off the field shortly after this clip ends… Let's just say the Iowa coaching staff wasn't buying this one. pic.twitter.com/YC6RPQaIi8
— Mark Freund (@MarkFreundTV) October 10, 2021
With several of his players going down with serious injuries, Franklin didn’t appreciate this reaction from the fans and Ferentz’s staff.
“I do have a little bit of a hard time with our players getting hurt and the fans, the coaches and the staff booing our players,” Franklin said in a postgame press conference. “… It was not part of our plan. Obviously, we didn’t want Cliff, PJ, Lovett, Ford and Sutherland, guys who play significant football for us, to get injured.”
When asked about Penn State players going down, Ferentz said the Iowa fans “aren’t stupid” and “know what’s going on” when those players come back in the game a couple plays later. The longtime Hawkeyes coach said that this is only the second time in his 23 years he’s seen “that kind of stuff” going on.
While it appears neither side is budging on their interpretation of how things went down, the truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle.
With Saturday’s big-time win, the Hawkeyes propelled themselves into the No. 2 spot in the nation and the Nittany Lions slid to No. 7.