Key Play: Indiana's Disastrous Fake Punt Attempt

By John Morgan on November 19, 2019 at 9:30 am
Nov 16, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen reacts from the sideline during the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Indiana 34-27.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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Penn State held off a pesky Indiana team on Saturday 34-27. Matt wrote about Penn State's glorious 18-play drive that sealed the win and that drive alone had multiple key plays. The Nittany Lions have played in several close games this season and deciding on a key play hasn't always been easy, but this week, one play stood out from the other plays.

Trailing 20-14 in the third quarter, the Hoosiers faced a crucial 4th-and-1 on their first drive of the half. After calling a timeout, Indiana lined up in an interesting punt formation. The freshman long snapper Sean Wracher had one lineman to his right lined up by the ball with a group of five players to his left. 

Punt1

This is where the confusion seemed to start as Wracher snapped it directly to tight end Peyton Hendershot. It was clear that Hendershot was not ready for the ball and the group of players to the left all broke free. This also meant that there was no one to block the five Penn State defenders lined up on the line of scrimmage.

Punt2

Hendershot initially bobbled the ball which sealed his fate. As the Indiana players broke free, all of the Penn State defenders ran to the ball.

Punt3

It was then that the Penn State defenders swarmed to the ball and group tackled Hendershot for a four-yard loss. After the game, Indiana head coach Tom Allen confirmed it was a mistake by the freshman long snapper. As Hendershot was halted in his tracks, punter Haydon Whitehead could only look on wondering what happened.

Punt4

Two plays later, Journey Brown darted to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 27-14 lead. Burning the timeout beforehand was an insult to injury for Indiana, but it was a break that the Nittany Lions needed and took advantage of. For the Hoosiers, it was their second special teams mistake of the day (the muffed/not actually muffed punt return by Whop Philyor being the first) and both gaffes lead to Penn State touchdowns. 

For your entertainment, here's one more look at the costly play.

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