10/27 09:51 CDT Column: So perfect for 2020: game-losing touchdown run
Column: So perfect for 2020: game-losing touchdown run
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In the disjointed football autumn that is 2020, it somehow makes perfect sense
that defenders were left celebrating touchdowns by running backs who
accidentally reached the end zone.
Twice in one weekend, once in the Big Ten Conference on Saturday, which led to
Indiana's stunning 36-35 win over Penn State in overtime, and the other in the
NFL on Sunday, when the Atlanta Falcons --- who else? --- flopped their way
through yet another fourth-quarter fiasco in losing to the appreciative Detroit
The Falcons should have learned their lesson from the Nittany Lions 24 hours
Penn State's Devyn Ford got the handoff with a 1-point lead at the Hoosiers 14
and only 1:42 to play in Bloomington in the rivals' first game of the
coronavirus-delayed season. The third-string tailback slowed as he approached
the goal line.
If only he went down, the Nittany Lions could have run out the clock because
Indiana had just one timeout left.
Instead, the sophomore tiptoed into the end zone, giving Penn State an
eight-point lead but leaving Indiana just enough time to tie it and force
overtime, which they did with a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
The Hoosiers then won it on another 2-point conversion when quarterback Michael
Penix Jr. rolled left and dived, barely touching the pylon with the football in
his outstretched right hand and giving Indiana its first win over a top-10 team
in 33 years.
Penn State coach James Franklin defended his running back and refused to blame
the ill-advised touchdown for the excruciating loss. But he also indicated his
players were instructed not to score in that situation.
"We went through that situation this week, we went through that situation on
the sideline and, obviously, we could have handled it better, and I could have
handled it better," Franklin said. "But I don't want to make it about that one
Teammate Pat Freiermuth consoled Ford afterward, imploring him to "stay off
social media, head down and just flush it down, and I'll have your back
"I've been in his shoes in high school once," Freiermuth explained. "It's very
hard to see that end zone open up like that and just think to yourself, ?Get
If it makes Ford feel any better, Todd Gurley II made the same mistake Sunday.
The Lions let Gurley score with just over a minute remaining to get the ball
back, giving Matthew Stafford enough time to drive the Lions to the winning TD
as time expired.
T.J. Hockenson's 11-yard TD grab tied it and Matt Prater nailed a 48-yard extra
point to give the Lions a 23-22 win after an excessive celebration penalty
moved the ball to the 30-yard line.
Trailing 16-14, the Falcons were trying to run down the clock and kick a
chip-shot field goal for the win when they picked up a first down at the Lions
10 with just over a minute remaining.
The Lions had used up all their timeouts on the drive, so their only hope was
to allow a quick TD and they got out of the way as Gurley took the handoff from
Matt Ryan. Only safety Will Harris got a hand on the runner, but he released
Gurley about 3 yards shy of the goal line.
"It was great situational defense awareness right there," Lions coach Matt
Patricia said, beaming.
Gurley realized what the Lions were doing and tried to go down shy of the end
zone, but his momentum carried him too far as he landed on the goal line with
his ball-carrying left hand.
As Gurley fell across the goal line, Lions linebacker Jamie Collins signaled
touchdown as his teammates celebrated around him.
"My job is just going down," Gurley lamented. "I'm taking all the
The Falcons converted a 2-point conversion to make it 22-16, but Stafford had
just enough time to deliver another stunning fourth-quarter dagger to the
Falcons, who fired their head coach earlier this month after becoming the first
team to ever blow back-to-back 15-point fourth-quarter leads.
"I was mad as hell," Gurley said of his game-losing touchdown. "I was trying
not to (score), but my momentum took me in. It's kind of crazy."
And so perfect for 2020.
AP National Writer Paul Newberry and AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed
to this report.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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