It would be easy to just point to the missed field goals here, but there were many other short-comings from the Nittany Lions that formulated Saturday’s loss. Let’s look a little deeper…
Play 1: Sacked For a Loss of 10
On their 2nd drive of the game, Penn State had 3rd and 6 at the Virginia 13, Matt McGloin was sacked for a loss of 10, turning what could have been a 30 yard field goal into a 40 yard field goal that Sam Ficken missed. A conversion, or even an incompletion, would have given Ficken a better shot from closer range.
Play 2: Steven Bench Debut
Following an incomplete pass by McGloin, that saw him take a shot to the arm, the freshman QB was called on for his first career play: a 4th and 4 from the Virginia 33. There was no way the staff was going to try a 50 yard field goal and it’s not like a 4th and 4 with a freshman QB is a guaranteed coversion. However, if McGloin had converted or Bench would have pulled off a four yard play, Penn State would have been inside the 30 with another set of downs. It might not seem like that big of a moment, but in a one-point game, it doesn’t take much.
Play 3: 1st and Goal From the 5
This was a set of downs that changed the game, more so than one play. With first and 5 from the goal, Penn State ran Derek Day for two yards before McGloin threw incompletions to Gilliam and Robinson from the 3 yard line. On 4th down, Ficken missed a 20 yard field goal, but SO much could have gone differently in the three plays before that.
Play 4: The Dropped TD
During the time that Steven Bench was in for McGloin, he had an incompletion to Allen Robinson that could have easily been a touchdown. It’s unclear how much the defender affected the play, but Bench hit Robinson in stride down the right sideline for what would have been a touchdown. That drive resulted in zero points.
Play 5: 3rd and 16
Trailing 16-10 in the 4th quarter with just under 5 minutes to play, Virginia QB found tight end Jake McGee for a 44 yard gain down the middle of the field. That extended the drive that would later give way to the game-winning touchdown. Had the PSU defense held on 3rd and 16, UVA would have likely punted, completely changing the game.
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