NEW YORK - Penn State's nation-leading run defense allowed Boston College a sizable 285 yards on the ground in the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday. But it was the 2 yards quarterback Tyler Murphy didn't gain on a third-down scramble near the goal line that opened the window for a successful Nittany Lions comeback.
Safety Marcus Allen hauled down Murphy to hold the Eagles to a field goal with less than three minutes in regulation, allowing a 44-yard field goal from Sam Ficken to tie the game and send it into overtime.
The Lions' front seven faced perhaps its toughest test of the season against an explosive read-option rushing attack from Boston College but kept Penn State in the game long enough for the 31-30 overtime victory at Yankee Stadium.
Penn State coach James Franklin said the Eagles' experienced offensive line and tricky play calling "had us thinking and not playing as fast as we normally play." Boston College exploded for three rushes of more than 40 yards against the Lions, who hadn't allowed a rush longer than 25 yards all season.
"But I think as the game went on, we said: 'Look, we don't need to make some of our more elaborate calls. Let's call base defense and let our kids play,' " Franklin said. "I think that was helpful."
Heading into the fourth quarter and trailing by 21-14, the Lions allowed a combined 3 yards on their first two defensive drives, leading to Penn State's game-tying drive with more than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Boston College then threatened to seal the deal with a late touchdown, before Allen shut the door on Murphy, who gained 6 of the 8 yards he needed to gain a first down near the end zone.
"That was a big stop, because we went down and kicked a field goal," safety Adrian Amos said. "And we came out on top. All those little things count. Every point counts. We held them to three instead of seven."
Penn State appeared to be on the ropes late in the third quarter after allowing Murphy to break loose for a 40-yard touchdown, giving the Eagles a two-touchdown lead. But after a season in which the offense frequently struggled to put teams away, quarterback Christian Hackenberg turned the tables by initiating the comeback with a six-play, 63-yard drive.
"They were the ones to pick up the slack today. They did a good job driving the field and making the plays when they had to," senior linebacker Mike Hull said. "It was a total team win."