Kyle Carter was on his way to breaking Penn State receiving records by a tight end in 2012.
He ended up breaking his wrist — badly.
The injury came with ligament damage that prevented Carter from catching passes for months. When he finally returned, he was hurt immediately — he nearly broke his arm and hyperextended it pretty — in Penn State’s season opener last season.
Carter’s come a long way since then — through good and bad — and ended his junior season on a good note. The tight end caught what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass in Penn State’s 31-30 win over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
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He said he knew he had beaten the Boston College cornerback and then just had to outleap six-foot Ty-Meer Brown for the ball, which he did.
“I’ve always had the ability to do stuff,” Carter said. “I just have to be able to make the play when it’s there, when the opportunity is given to me, to convert on the opportunities I’m given. That’s definitely something that’s going to help my confidence. Going into the offseason, it’s a big thing.”
Carter was effective through much of the evening. He finished with three catches for 30 yards and was moved all around the line of scrimmage — as a traditional tight end, split out and in the slot. He was kept in to block and threw them with precision.
But Carter saved his biggest contribution for last.
“I’m really happy for him,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “That was a huge catch and he came through for us when we needed him.”
Defense bends uncharacteristically
Penn State came into the game with the nation’s top-ranked run defense having allowed just over 84 yards per game this season.
But Boston College had success running the ball, especially behind five fifth-year senior offensive linemen. The Eagles finished with 289 rushing yards and got off to a quick start. Jon Hilliman galloped around the left side of the Nittany Lion defense for a 49-yard touchdown run and Murphy added a 40-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter.
“I think they had a lot of time to game plan,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “They did a lot of shifts and got us out of some of our defenses that we would normally run and it was just challenging getting everybody back on the same page after all those shifts.”
Lucas serves first-quarter suspension
Jordan Lucas started the Pinstripe Bowl on an exercise bike along Penn State’s sideline.
One of Penn State’s most experienced defenders, Lucas was suspended for the first quarter due to a violation of team rules. Franklin said Lucas missed curfew earlier this week while visiting family in New York.
Lucas’ presence was felt when he returned. He was juked badly on Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy’s 40-yard touchdown run in the second half but redeemed himself with a critical sack later in the game that helped flip the field position and set the stage for Penn State’s comeback.
“We are going to hold guys accountable,” Franklin said. “But it wasn’t a big deal. He showed up a few minutes late.”
Belton was one of a handful of players who did not finish the regular season healthy.
Joined by linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda and cornerback Christian Campbell, Belton looked as healthy as he had been since the season opener on Saturday. All four players returned to action in the bowl game.
Belton finished with 22 yards on six touches and chipped in a crucial blitz pickup on Christian Hackenberg’s first touchdown pass. Bell turned in four tackles while Cabinda and Campbell each added one.