Immediately, minutes following every Penn State game, we’ll take a closer look at the turning point in each game. You can find our more in-depth stories after speaking with coaches and players on centredaily.com
Another week, another game-changing return by Penn State wideout KJ Hamler.
Teams are going to soon learn not to kick it Hamler’s way. It cost Appalachian State the upset and, on Saturday, it cost Kent State all the momentum it had just built. Sure, Penn State ended up winning 63-10 — but Hamler’s return helped spark that.
Let’s set up the play first: Late in the second half, QB Trace McSorley threw a pass that deflected off the hands of Miles Sanders and into the arms of a waiting Kent State defender at the 7-yard line. The Golden Flashes wound up with a field goal to cut the Penn State lead to 21-10. Only 35 seconds remained in the first half.
Kent State was ready to head into halftime with a manageable deficit and the momentum on its side. Then the kicker booted it out of bounds, James Franklin opted to have him re-kick it — and, as some in the press box shook their heads, he sent it right toward Hamler.
You know what happened next. Hamler — who’s arguably the fastest player on this team — juked, avoided several would-be tacklers and sprinted up the right sideline. Kicker Colten McFadden tripped him up 52 yards later on a diving, touchdown-saving stop.
But the damage was done. Hamler had set Penn State’s offense up beautifully with 25 seconds left in the game with Penn State on the Kent State 43-yard line. Two McSorley completions and a 13-yard McSorley TD run later, the Nittany Lions increased their lead to 28-10.
That was essentially the end of the game. Instead of taking an 11-point deficit into halftime, and instead of ending the half with a score, Kent State went into the locker room trailing 28-10.
It was a team effort to put those points on the board and score so quickly — but, once again, it all started with Hamler’s return. That was the turning point to the game.