Special Teams Struggle In Close Win Over Indiana
The special teams unit had quite the interesting afternoon in Bloomington.
Given the start to the game, it was somewhat surprising to see special teams have such difficulty against the Hoosiers. KJ Hamler took the opening kick back 56 yards to put the Nittany Lions in striking distance immediately.
The punting units on both sides of the ball had difficulty throughout the game. DeAndre Thompkins muffed a punt early on before KJ Hamler took over returning duties, only to muff two punts. Luckily, those receivers fell on all three of the muffed punts before the Hoosiers could get there.
On 4th and 5 in the first quarter, the Nittany Lions dialed up some trickery that really didn’t trick anyone at all. Gillikin took the snap and ran with it before getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
The extra point attempt that would’ve given Penn State a 27-20 lead in the third quarter was blocked, as Pinegar kicked the ball right into the outstretched hand of a defensive lineman.
Then, with 49 seconds remaining in the game after the Hoosiers brought the game to 33-28, Indiana converted an onside kick. The first attempt at the onside kick was recovered successfully by Penn State, but James Franklin had called a timeout before the play started. On the second attempt, the ball fell through the hands of Nick Scott and was gobbled up by the Hoosiers.
Any one of these plays could’ve gone horribly wrong for James Franklin’s squad. The conditions probably played a factor in all of these mistakes, but Indiana didn’t have the same problems.
Gillikin’s run was the result of a bizarre and totally ineffective play-call. The struggles in the punt return game are basically inexcusable, especially when a fair catch is called. I’m not sure what to make of Pinegar’s problems in the kicking game. Nick Scott’s decision to field the onside kick was probably just a mental mistake in the moment, but it allowed the Hoosiers another shot at the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Special teams will surely be a point of focus for Franklin and his coaching staff this week in practice. Luckily, the unit didn’t cost the Nittany Lions a victory this week.
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