The entire college football world loudly and repeatedly proclaimed its verdict of Penn State’s 4th down call last Saturday night: guilty, by way of insanity. Of course they’re right, because the play failed to gain 5 yards. Such is the brutal calculus of football. If it works, it’s smart. If it doesn’t work, then it’s stupid. It didn’t, so it was dumb, case closed.
But we’re not very bright ourselves, here at Film Room. Plus we appreciate the 6th amendment of the US Constitution. So we’re firing up the projector.
Kill The Lights
A common critique post game was that the called run - specifically, runs with RB Miles Sanders - “hadn’t worked all evening”. And that, friends, is objectively false. In fact, there was one situation in particular that worked throughout the game. To wit:
Below is a 3rd down and 13 from the first quarter. PSU catches Ohio State expecting a pass, finds a crease, and picks up 10. If Miles Sanders doesn’t slip, PSU converts.
Here’s 2nd and 10. PSU catches OSU expecting a pass, finds a crease, and picks up 9. If Miles Sanders uses Will Fries to bury the cornerback, he converts.
Here’s 3rd and 13. Let me know when this sounds familiar: PSU catches OSU expecting a pass, finds a crease, and picks up 12. If Sanders uses his convoy of hogs just a bit better, he probably converts.
Objectively, then, PSU’s run call could have worked, because it had worked, or nearly so, several times in this game, from much greater distances than 5 yards. Furthermore, for as hot of a hand as Trace had most of the evening, betting on him completing a pass, or picking up the yards via scramble, certainly was not as foolproof of a wager as the critics would lead you to believe. Here’s a critical 4th and 1, set up beautifully, but batted down by Maryland product Chase Young.
Here’s a 3rd and 2 QB scramble that appears to work, but is actually spotted more than a full yard shy of the line to gain.
And, just as painfully, here’s a 3rd and 5, with 4 minutes remaining, leading 26-21. If PSU converts, the game is over. James and Rahne call a pass - but Trace’s pass is a bit high, and goes off the hands of freshman Mac Hippenhammer, playing for an injured KJ Hamler.
Last but not least - here’s the fateful 4th and 5. Yes, we’ve intentionally cut this gif short lest our guts get spilled all over the floor again. But in Rahne’s defense, it’s there - until it isn’t there, thanks to the E-T stunt. Ifs and buts were candy and nuts...
//incoherent, tortured screaming
Alright then. Here a couple of gifs, from a happier time. Trace McSorley, Fullback Part I
Trace McSorley, Fullback Part II
Hit The Lights
Obviously the call failed, which means it sucks. Duly noted. But daggone - that takes some serious, serious stones to call. It also highlights a key trait of all highly successful play callers - unpredictability. At least, the first time or two. But whatever - James and Ricky can call my offense any day.
(And the answer to the question is, “no” - it has not escaped my attention that last week’s Film Room was about Urban Meyer losing his woobie in critical, must-convert situations. We don’t yet have a woobie. But we’re working on getting one.)