A Literal Game of Inches

Opinion/Story posted October 25, 2020 in CommRadio, Sports by Andrew Field

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It’s cliché, but in this case, it rings true. Football is a game of inches.

When Michael Penix Jr. gets flushed out of the pocket and scrambles left towards the pylon, he only has one possible option. With his receivers covered in the end zone, a last ditch effort to lay the ball out for the goal line is the only resort. Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker closes in and dives in tandem with the IU quarterback.

The initial response from the referee was a touchdown. The ball hit the ground, but the question was, did it hit the ground before it crossed the plane? That was what Ron Snodgrass and his team had to determine, and since the call on the field was a touchdown, it would have taken definitive evidence to overturn it. Evidence that Snodgrass and the crew did not think they had.

The reaction from both sides were polar opposite, the Hoosiers’ bench jumped in jubilation, while the Nittany Lions walked toward the tunnel and prepared for the long trek back to State College.

Penn State head coach James Franklin could only get a look at the play on the jumbotron. The whirlwind of an ending gave Franklin a lot to process while he sat down to answer questions from the media.

“From what I was told, it could’ve went either way, but if it’s something that could’ve went either way, then it’s inconclusive, and the call stands,” Franklin said.

As a result, the Indiana Hoosiers defeated the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions 36-35 in overtime for their first win against a top-10 team since 1987, when they beat No. 9 Ohio State. Thirty-three years and 42 consecutive losses to teams ranked in the AP Top 10 later, the Hoosiers found a way.

Indiana head coach Tom Allen decided to go for two after the Hoosiers tied up the game on a Penix Jr. touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Whop Philyor in overtime. They previously went for two in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 28. Similarly, Penix Jr. used his legs and found just enough of a crease to run through and score.

The athleticism by Penix Jr. was put on display, and even though he did not run the ball many times, he cashed in on the opportunities he had.

Penn State had an opportunity to win the game on multiple occasions, and it came no closer than when Jordan Stout missed a 57-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the fourth quarter by, well, a foot rather than an inch.

Stout had previously hit a career long of 57 against Pittsburgh last year, and after two missed kicks earlier in the game by Jake Pinegar, Franklin decided to opt for Stout. It was a decision that almost paid off, but in the end, it came up just short.

The final play of the game will be remembered for the pain and joy that it caused. It will be analyzed, talked about and broken down frame-by-frame, repeatedly showing different angles and different perspectives, an inch one way or an inch the other and the more conclusive it gets.

That’s what football is, and that’s what it has been. When it comes down to it, these teams experienced a roller coaster of emotions, and they were separated by an inch.


Andrew Field is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email aaf5329@psu.edu.