The flawed thinking that led to James Franklin's ill-fated play-call

Virginia Santiago
October 1, 2018

What a punch in the gut.

Penn State is off next week before hosting No. 21 Michigan State on October 13. Since then, the Nittany Lions have won three straight, all by almost 40 points or more.

McSorley defended the play and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, saying he saw the same opportunity for a gap inside. Ranked No. 2 in the country a year ago in Columbus, it was a 15-point lead that vanished in the fourth of a 39-38 loss.

Offensively, Ohio State is putting up 54.5 points and 599 yards per game.

And it all ended on a highly suspect fourth-down playcall by Penn State that made little sense and hammered the final nail in the coffin for the Lions.

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All the players are frustrated because they think we will be able to get a good result playing here. They were more than we wanted but we did well in the first half.

The fourth-ranked Buckeyes rallied from a 26-14 deficit midway through the fourth quarter to claim the all-important Big Ten East victory, one that could go a long way in determining who goes to Indy for the Big Ten title game.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said his team took note of that remark. "We should have finished that game". "I'm not a negative guy. It's on me. James Franklin". Penn State outgained Ohio State by 200 yards before the break. A targeting penalty on the Buckeyes added 15 more yards and knocked Hamler out of the game. McSorley then connected with tight end Pat Freiermuth on a two-yard touchdown pass in the end zone.

Dwayne Haskins is human. The Nittany Lions averaged only 1.6 yards-per-carry on 19 non-McSorley runs.

"One of the great drives in Ohio State history", Meyer called it. But just like a year ago, when J.T. Barrett led an incredible comeback in Columbus for a 39-38 win, the Buckeyes simply found a way to get the job done when they absolutely had to.

"We're going to grow from this", Sanders said. "They told me if you hit him a lot of times, he's gonna fold". Haskins connect with Binjimen Victor, who weaved and slipped through tacklers for a 47-yard touchdown catch and run that cut it to 26-21 with 6:42 left. It was the first game between top 10 teams in State College since 1999.

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What exactly went wrong for the Buckeyes? Hill with a quick pass to the outside and the receiver picked up a couple of blocks, broke a tackle and went in for a 24-yard score that made it 27-26 with 2:03 left. It stopped Penn State in its tracks and got it out of a rhythm. Juwan Johnson made a spectacular one-handed grab for a 31-yard gain to the Ohio State 17, which set up Jake Pinegar's 34-yard field goal in the first quarter.

McSorley was sacked on the next play, though, then on second-and-14, the playcall was for a deep throw to the right that was incomplete.

Things got weird at that point. Then Penn State tried to get the Bucks to jump offside before calling a timeout of its own.

The teams traded three and outs after that, until Garrett Taylor intercepted a Haskins pass and returned it 45 yards to the Ohio State 28.

Penn State surged after that. Edge defender Shaka Toney had a team-high four pressures, as Penn State's pass-rush was solid on the night, but ultimately it was the 235 yards after the catch that did them in by the end of the game.

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