Penn State Football: For Kyle Carter, Penn State's Win Was A Personal Victory Too
As Penn State tight end Kyle Carter cut left across the endzone on third-and-11, he knew that the offense had dialed up one of coach Bill O'Brien's favorite plays. Why O'Brien likes that play so much, Carter doesn't know. But what Carter did know, was that in the redzone, and in overtime, it was only matter of time before one of the Nittany Lions' most practiced plays would make an appearance.
"I knew that Christian looks right, first on that play," Carter said of the eventual game-winning touchdown. "Then he looked at me and it came in there pretty fast, he pinned it in there."
"As soon as we go out there I check the safeties every play and I saw that they had split safeties and I knew that meant I had that post route in there. I planted my right foot and saw the ball in the air, I knew I might get hit so I just tried to absorb it all with my body."
Carter would make the pass, a 15-yard bullet to the front of the endzone. Carter would get hit too, but the ball never shifted in the grasp of one of Penn State's most talented tight ends. When it was all said and done Carter rose to his feet, yelling skyward in celebration. An interception in the endzone on Illinois' first play from overtime would seal the deal and Penn State's second win in conference play.
For Carter the celebration was a personal one as well. In 2012 Carter had 36 receptions for 453 yards and 2 touchdowns but injury caused him to miss the final two games of the season. In Penn State's opener against Syracuse this year, Carter almost broke his arm. As a result, Carter has been somewhat limited in the offensive game plan and his 14 receptions for 186 yards are a far cry from his breakout 2012 season.
"He broke his wrist at Nebraska," O'Brien said following the game. "So he missed all of spring practice and he wasn't really at full strength all summer. It was a pretty bad wrist injury, no excuse for it. I think he's really done some good things lately but he is coming off an injury."
"Then he goes into the Syracuse game and we fake the field goal and the guy lands on him and he almost breaks his arm, so he misses some time there. I don't think it's any fault of his own. I think he is a heck of a football player and made a big catch for us there at the end. I love coaching the kid, he is a smart guy, a good student, a team guy. He is a fun guy to coach."
So when Carter saw that ball headed his way, and when he finally heard the whistle blow and the referee signal the touchdown, it was as much a personal victory as it was a team win.
"It was definitely personal, just for myself," Carter said. "I think about my season every day and trying to get back to where I was last year and just trying to go out there and make plays again and making that play really helped me out a lot."
Last season Carter was a pillar for Penn State, and after Saturday's catch, Carter is hoping that finally the rock has come back to Penn State's offense.