Penn State’s Friendly Fire Issue

In our exclusive Frame Game gallery, we break down a key fourth-and-1 mistake in the Nittany Lions’ loss to Northwestern.

It was pretty much do or die when Penn State faced fourth-and-1 at its own 30 in last weekend's home game with Northwestern.

Trailing 23-6 in the fourth quarter, the Lions had to go for it. And, following a Wildcat timeout, they did.

What happened will go down as the stuff of legends -- just not in a good way. Running back Bill Belton was dumped for a 2-yard loss, and closer examination by BTN revealed that PSU guard Brian Gaia actually blocked teammate and tackle Andrew Nelson on the play.

Screenshots hit social media about 15 seconds later, and Penn State's already struggling offensive line became the butt of a slew of jokes. (“Hey, at least Gaia showed good form.”)

The play left many Nittany Lions fans wondering exactly what the heck happened. And we're here to show you, courtesy of our Frame Game gallery.

You can check out a series of stills from the entire play below.

The bottom line, in our opinion?

Needing a measly yard, Penn State got way too cute. The Nittany Lions went with an unbalanced line, sending Nelson (a tackle) from his typical right side position to the left side, inside left tackle Donovan Smith. Then the staff had Gaia pull toward that cluster.

Remember, Gaia played defensive tackle last season, so this marked his fourth game at offensive guard at the college level (he missed the previous week's action vs. UMass). And he was being asked to pull into an unbalanced line?

And Nelson is a redshirt freshman who was playing in only his fifth career game. Is it any wonder two such inexperienced linemen would find themselves in such an awkward position on such a complicated play?

Speaking of the play, it could not have developed any more slowly. Watch the replay, and it almost looks like slow motion.

Of course, none of that excused what happened once Gaia locked Nelson up. After initial contact, which could be justified as an honest mistake by a guy with limited experience, he kept right on blocking him until after Belton was tackled.

Remember to click the expand button in the lower right of the gallery window for full-screen images.

iOS users, view here.


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