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Turning Point: The New Jersey Special Fail

When you are stuck in a rut it is hard to break out of it. Just ask Rutgers.

Penn State v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

The Lions were leading by just three points heading into the final three minutes of the first half versus Rutgers. An interception by Garrett Taylor gave Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense a short field to work with, just 28 yards from paydirt. Four plays later a 6-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth extended the lead to ten.

McSorley led the offense 79 yards in less than a minute to tack on a field goal as time expired in the first half, Penn State leading 13-0.

On the first possession of the final half, the Scarlet Knights forced a punt. The Rutgers offense then took the ball 82 yards all the way down to the Penn State 2 yard-line, facing a 4th down. The drive to that point ate up 7 minutes of game clock.

Let’s pause here because we are about to watch a young man, who tried his best, drop a wide-open pass for a touchdown that could have brought his team to within 6 points in the second half. The same young man, Gio Rescigno, led the offense down the field to that point.

It was a very unfortunate play for Rescigno, and while it was somewhat comical for Penn State fans, a major relief as well, it is not my intention to pour salt in the poor guy’s wound.

Neither team played particularly well on Saturday so there are plenty of plays that could be broken down which would make some pretty great players look not-so-great. The Penn State defense, as a unit, held its own.

While Brent Pry’s squad allowed 82 yards on the drive, it was also a classic example of ‘bend but don’t break’ in terms of giving up yards but not points. Rutgers was stopped on three consecutive run plays from the Penn State 2 yard-line, forcing the tough decision to go for it on fourth down.

And on that fourth down play, you could say that the defense bent about as far as it could without breaking. Okay, maybe it broke and then Mr. Rescigno fixed it for us. Either way, the Lions survived the threat and added a touchdown to go up 20-0 two possessions later.

At the snap of the ball there are ten players from either side bunched up near the ball. On the outside, John Reid is matched up with a wideout on the far left, who runs out of the back of the end zone to draw Reid with him.

That leaves just two Penn State players left of the ball to defend eligible receivers. While it appears that Jan Johnson was responsible for covering Rescigno, since he was the player closest to him when he dropped the ball, it is more likely a mistake by Garrett Taylor.

Yetur Gross-Matos is standing up on the far outside of the defensive line and Garrett Taylor is just inside of him. Taylor, the safety, typically is responsible for the second furthest outside eligible receiver. With Reid locked up outside on the widest eligible receiver, that means Taylor has to run with Rescigno should he go out for a pass.

Standing up opposite the center is Micah Parsons. He should run with the running back. As you can see, the freshman linebacker got lost on the play. It doesn’t appear that he was concerned with reading his keys, as he stepped forward at the snap of the ball then bought the action to his left before realizing the play was going the other way.

Jan Johnson was locked up with the tight end (89) that was off the line of scrimmage to the right side at the start of the play. At the snap, Johnson followed his man as he cut across the formation, then was the first to realize that there was an open receiver in Rescigno.

Here’s the play on 4th and goal from the 2.

The end result was good for the Lions since the ball was dropped. Had it been caught, Rutgers would have been down just six points at home against a team that was not exactly lighting it up.