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Penn State Football: Comeback Falls Short As Nittany Lions Fall 24-17 To Georgia

by on January 02, 2016 4:31 PM

With 1:52 to go in regulation Penn State had the ball and 78 yards to move the ball with the game on the line.

Which itself was perhaps the most amazing aspect of anything that happened on a mild Saturday in Jacksonville.

Nearly three hours earlier a close game would have been almost expected between two teams not known for putting points on the board. But with Penn State and Georgia tied at 3-3 early in the second quarter a crushing blow to Christian Hackenberg's right shoulder eventually sent the junior quarterback to the locker room just a few plays later.

And with Hackenberg headed down the field and into the dark, so too it seemed Penn State's chances went with him.

Georgia sensed the swing, or perhaps could simply seem a deflated sideline across for the Bulldog bench. Either way it was a quick 3-play 72-yard drive and a 44-yard touchdown pass that turned the tide and a close game into a 10-3 lead. 

With Penn State reeling, Georgia went 7-plays and 58 yards to extend the margin even further. The Nittany Lions struggling to move the ball and Penn State's defense was surprisingly out of sorts in its own right. As the whistle blew to end the opening 30 minutes of play, Georgia raced off the field to a cheer as Penn State made its way to the locker room unsure of what the second half would bring.

The answer, an unexpected comeback.

Penn State would try, and fail to convert a mid third quarter completion on fourth down and in turn gave the Bulldogs just 56-yards to pay dirt. A 21-yard scamper by Sony Michel gave Georgia its final points on the day and seemingly the final nail in the coffin for Penn State's afternoon.

But like all bizarre games, one full of interim coaches and missing players, this too was far from over.

A 9-play, 75 yard drive seemingly out of nowhere ended as a 17-yard leaping grab by Geno Lewis on 4th and 12 gave Penn State life and cut the Bulldog lead to just 24-10 seconds into the game's final frame.

McSorely continued his up and down play with a fourth down conversion to Geno Lewis for 16-yards and a first down. The fresh life eventually lead to a 20-yard touchdown reception by DaeSean Hamilton with 6:14 to go in the game that suddenly turned a 24-3 margin into a 24-17 contest.

It was then when Penn State's defense reared its head, holding Georgia to two drive in the fourth quarter of no more than 9-yards. A final 10-play drive ended as Georgia opted to attempt a 4th and 2 conversion but was stuffed behind the line to give Penn State the ball back with just under two minutes to play.

McSorley tried, but 10 plays and 36 yards proved to be too little as his deep throw into the endzone with 8 seconds to play was batted down and the comeback bid with it as the clock expired.

In relief McSorley finished the game with 142 yards passing on 14-of-27 attempts and 2 TDs. Saquon Barkley ended his season with 75-yards including a 29 yard scamper in the second half. Chris Godwin added 133 yards receiving on six receptions and broke the 1,000 yard mark on the year. 

Penn State finishes the year at 7-6.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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