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Turning Point: Punting Is Winning

Barney Amor pinned Rutgers deep, the Penn State defense took care of the rest.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With Penn State holding a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter, thanks solely to special teams and defense, the Lions’ offense was once again stopped in tracks. Facing a 4th and 4 from PSU’s own 39-yard line, James Franklin opted to punt and try to pin Rutgers’ offense deep, despite how shaky Barney Amor had been punting up until this point in the game. All ten of Rutgers’ points had come as a result of starting out with good to great starting field position, so making the Scarlet Knights have to drive the actual length of the field was ideal. Plus, pinning Rutgers deep and having Manny Diaz’s defense bring the pressure on a young, and increasingly rattled Rutgers QB Gavin Wimsatt could perhaps produce a turnover deep in their own territory, giving the Nittany Lion offense a short field to work with.

Sure enough, that’s precisely what happened: Amor nailed his best punt of the day, hitting a 58-yarder that was downed at Rutgers’ 3-yard line. A few plays later, a pressured Wimsatt threw up a deep ball to the right sideline, which landed right in the hands of Johnny Dixon, who seemingly had a pick-six, before it was called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty following the interception. Despite having the pick-six erased, the PSU offense was able to drive the mere 30 yards to the end zone and get their first touchdown of the night, as Sean Clifford hit Tyler Warren on a lovely crossing route with no red jerseys in sight.

The Lions’ first offensive TD gave them a 21-10 lead, from which they never looked back. Sometimes, punting is indeed, winning.