Penn State fires offensive coordinator John Donovan

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State coach James Franklin fired offensive coordinator John Donovan on Sunday, and the Nittany Lions will immediately begin a national search for a replacement.

Penn State (7-5) never rose above No. 100 in total offense during Donovan's two seasons. It ranked No. 111 last season and, despite returning a majority of starters, is currently ranked 108th in total offense and 101st in scoring offense.

Pass protection has been a problem, with quarterback Christian Hackenberg getting sacked 82 times.

"I have tremendous respect for John and the work he has put in over the last five years," Franklin said in a written statement. "I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future."

The timing of Donovan's firing came as a bit of a surprise, as it came less than 24 hours since Franklin said after Penn State's 55-16 loss to No. 5 Michigan State that an evaluation of his staff would happen "between now and the bowl and after the bowl."

Donovan, who also was the tight ends coach, and Franklin began working together at Maryland in 2001. They coached together at Maryland, Vanderbilt and Penn State for more than a decade -- from 2001 to 2004 and then again from 2008 until Saturday.

In the past five seasons, however, Donovan's offenses never rose above No. 80 in total offense.

It was not immediately made clear who would take over the offensive coordinator duties for Penn State's bowl game, but Franklin said earlier in the season he planned to take on a larger role within the offense.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.