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Turning Point: A Run On Third And Long Sets Up The Game-Winning TD

Miles Sanders is a pretty good player and Ricky Rahne is a pretty good play-caller. Also, blocking is useful.

Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin scored on its third offensive play of the game to take a quick 7-0 lead. Brent Pry’s defense only allowed three more points the rest of the way. The outcome was not decided until very late in the game, but momentum switched sides early in the second quarter.

Penn State held a 10-7 lead when it took the ball for its second possession in the second quarter.

On the opening play of the series Miles Sanders ripped off a 17-yard run to move the ball from the Penn State 40 across midfield to the Wisconsin 43. With difficult wind conditions, the Lions needed to gain 15 or more yards to get Jake Pinegar within range to try a field goal.

Two plays later the Lions found themselves facing a 3rd and 7 at the Badger 40. Just before the snap of the ball, Trace McSorley and Miles Sanders turned to their left to get the final signal from the sideline. It was a similar play call as the one that Ricky Rahne made against Ohio State, facing a similar down and distance, on the final offensive play of the game.

It looks pretty easy, when your running back has the ability to bait and juke both the cornerback and safety. Had Sanders continued to run in a straight line toward the first down, he would have had three defenders to deal with. The play probably would have been stopped short, outside of Pinegar’s range for a field goal.

Had Sanders immediately given away his intention to cut outside, it is likely that the defensive backs would have adjusted their angles. Instead, he dipped his head and shoulders to the right while cutting to the left, to the wide open green grass.

Left guard Steven Gonzalez did a great job on the defensive tackle on his side, sealing the inside hole for Sanders to run through. Will Fries, moved from right tackle to left tackle during the week, did a good enough job on the inside linebacker to take him out of the play. On the outside, tight end Pat Freiermuth occupied the defensive end just long enough to allow the play to work.

At the snap of the ball there were immediately just four players on the Wisconsin defense outside the left hash mark. Will Fries and Pat Freiermuth took care of the first two. Miles Sanders handled the corner and safety all by himself.

Here is the entire play and replay.

Freiermuth was rewarded for his work on the next play when he caught a 14-yard pass to set up the touchdown. Miles Sanders jumped over a mass of bodies for the score two plays later.