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Penn State Football

‘A Play That We’d Never Run’: One of the Biggest Plays in Penn State History Resulted From an Accident

Photo by Brian Spurlock: AP Sports

Penn State fans have seen the clip by now.

With barely a minute gone by in the fourth quarter of the 2016 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, Penn State trailed Wisconsin, 31-28, but was driving and had the ball at Wisconsin’s 18.

Needing 10 yards for a first down, Penn State got a lot more.

Trace McSorley threw the pass. Saquon Barkley— running past future NFL Defensive Player of the Year TJ Watt— caught the ball and walked into the end zone.

Penn State took its first lead of the night, and the only lead it would need on its way to winning what’s still the only conference title of the James Franklin era.

It’s a clip that Penn State fans have watched many times, and with the 2023 season opener a little more than a week a way, people are watching it a little extra this time of year.

Considering what the result ended up being, one would think that the play wasn’t an accident. But according to a former Penn State assistant, that’s exactly what it was.

“We literally ran a play that we’d never run,” current Old Dominion head coach Ricky Rahne told the Athletic’s Grace Raynor. “In practice, in anything. We’d never run it.”

Rahne is best known to PSU fans for his time as offensive coordinator from 2018-19. In 2016, he was the quarterbacks coach. The man who Rahne succeeded at offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead, was calling the plays.

“He calls a play that— he miss calls a play…” Rahne told the Athletic. “We’d never run it. We had no idea.”

Rahne pointed out to the Athletic that Penn State “had a pretty good system and obviously great players.”

“Trace (McSorley) just kind of drops back and throws a touchdown— throws the game-winning touchdown pass to Saquon (Barkley) on a play that was miss called and we were all panicking.”

“I remember Joe (Moorhead) being like “oh, they’ll figure it out. They know what to do. And they did. And he was right.”

Yes, he was.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the final product.

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