James Franklin Has Lots of History With Bowl Games

Pig Trail Nation

Arkansas head coach, Sam Pittman (left), and Penn State head football coach, James Franklin (right) shake hands in front of the Outback Bowl Trophy in Tampa Bay, Florida.

by: Tyler Priddy

HOT SPRINGS — The Arkansas Razorbacks will be facing off against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium for the Outback Bowl Championship in Tampa.

Before being titled after it’s new major sponsor, Outback Steakhouse, the bowl was originally called the Hall of Fame Bowl between 1986-1994. Sam Pittman will meet Penn State’s Head Coach, James Franklin, on the field on New Year’s Day. One thing to know, is Coach Franklin has been to nine bowls himself since beginning his head coaching career. This will be the first bowl meeting between the two schools.

Franklin has been to a number of championships and bowl games since his coaching career began with the Vanderbilt Commodores. During his three seasons with the Commodores, Franklin went to the Liberty Bowl, Music City Bowl, and the BBVA Compass Bowl. The 2011 Liberty Bowl consisted of the Cincinnati Bearcats against the Commodores in Franklin’s first season with Vanderbilt. The results of the game ended with a Bearcat victory of 31-24. The Music City Bowl against the NC State Wolfpack ended with Franklin’s Commodore victory of 38-24. With Franklin’s last season with Vanderbilt in 2013, he successfully won the BBVA Compass Bowl against the University of Houston Cougars 41-24, thus, leading him to a bowl championship every year during his career with Vanderbilt.

Franklin went to coach for the Nittany Lions in 2014, and since then has made a record of attending bowl games with Penn State. The first being the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl during his first season. Penn State was invited to play the Boston College Eagles for the Pinstripe Bowl. Penn State was not favored because of their offense, but was known to have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The longest run of the game was by Chris Godwin which was 72-yards. It was an intense game that led into overtime, and had a final score of Penn State 31-30. This had become Penn State’s first Bowl victory since the 2010 Capitol One Bowl.

Franklin went to the 2017 Rose Bowl in Pasadena to play against the USC Trojans. This would be the first appearance of Penn State in the Rose Bowl. The bowl was nearly a complete sellout with over 95,000 attendees. Franklin’s Lions entered the game with a record of 11-2. While Franklin had an amazing record in 2016, the Nittany Lions lost the Rose Bowl 52-49. Franklin went to the 2017 Fiesta Bowl with a record of 10-2. Penn State played the University of Washington Huskies in Glendale, Arizona, on December 30, 2017. Penn State left University of Phoenix Stadium with a victory over the Huskies 35-28. Franklin entered the 2019 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas on December 28. Penn State played against the University of Memphis Tigers. This would be the first meeting between the two teams. Franklin’s Lions entered the Cotton Bowl with a record of 10-2. Penn State ended the Bowl with a victory of 53-39.

This will be Franklin’s third time to be invited to Florida with Penn State, with his first invitation being to Jacksonville. The 2016 Taxslayer Bowl featured the Nittany Lions and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 2, with Penn State entering holding a record of 7-5. This was after Franklin’s second season with Penn State in 2015. Like Georgia, Penn State had a well-built defense, particularly along the defensive line with All-American defensive end Carl Nassib and tackle Austin Johnson. Under Franklin, Carl Nassib was awarded a number of honors that included the Lombardi Award, Lott IMPACT Trophy, Ted Hendricks Award, and became Penn State’s 13th unanimous Consensus All-American. Franklin lost his first bowl meet at EverBank Field 24-17. 

Franklin’s 2018 season with Penn state ended with a record of 9-3. He landed an invitation to the 2019 Orlando Vrbo Citrus Bowl against the SEC’s Kentucky Wildcats. The same teams had met before at the 1999 Outback bowl where Penn State won 24-16. Both teams entered the bowl with a record of 9-3, with Penn State having a slight edge over the Wildcats as the favorite. While the Nittany Lions stayed ahead until the fourth quarter, Franklin became criticized when he chose to kick a field goal instead of going for the conversion on fourth-and-7 from the 14-yard line with 4:12 remaining and the score at 27-21. As the game progressed, Kentucky fired back, and Franklin lost his second bowl in Florida 27-24. 

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