Key Play: KJ Hamler's Run on Ends Michigan's Comeback Bid

By John Morgan on October 23, 2019 at 9:13 am
Oct 19, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) runs with the ball after a catch for a touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines during the fourth quarter at Beaver Stadium.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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For the second straight week, Penn State faced a third and three, late in the fourth quarter, needing a first down to ice the game. Last week, Noah Cain's run against Iowa sealed the Nittany Lions 17-12 victory. This week, the Lions turned to a different ball carrier.

After Ronnie Bell was unable to come up with a potential game-tying catch, the Nittany Lions took over with 2:01 remaining in the game and needing a first down to end the furious Michigan comeback. Noah Cain made his return on the drive, and after runs of five and two yards, the Nittany Lions needed just three yards to essentially ice the game with 1:51 remaining. 

Penn State lined up with both tight ends, Pat Freiermuth and Nick Bowers in the game as Sean Clifford stood in his customary shotgun formation with Cain to his left. Prior to the snap, K.J. Hamler came in motion to Clifford's right.


As Clifford received the snap, Hamler reversed his course to take the ball. Center Michal Menet, left guard Steven Gonzalez, and left tackle Rasheed Walker pushed the line to the right. Freiermuth and right guard C.J Thorpe pulled to their left to lead the way for Hamler.


Hamler took off with the ball as Cain ran off to his left, occupying defensive back Josh Metellus. Michigan linebacker Khaleke Hudson quickly recognized Hamler had the ball and started his pursuit. 


This left Bowers in a one-on-one with Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Bowers was able to push Hutchinson off to the left, leaving Thorpe, with a head of steam, free to lay a devastating block on Jordan Glasgow. Freiermuth was able to seal off Hudson giving Hamler the crease he needed.


Michigan defensive back Brad Hawkins was the lone player with a chance to stop Hamler, but he lowered his shoulder for the big hit, which Hamler was able to bounce off of and gain the first down.


For the second straight week, Freiermuth took over the officiating duties signaling a first down as Clifford threw a celebratory fist pump before getting the crowd into it as they let out a collective sigh of relief.


It wasn’t easy for the Penn State offense, but Hamler came up with two huge fourth quarter plays on the way to 7-0. It was ugly for much of the second half, but with the game on the line, the Nittany Lion offense flexed their muscles for the second straight week against a tough defense and got the first down they so desperately needed.

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