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Ranking the performances of IU defenders on the most important TD ever allowed

Saturday was a big day for people with Devyn Ford on their college fantasy football team

NCAA Football: Penn State at Indiana
IU’s Bryant Fitzgerald reacts to Devyn Ford’s fourth-quarter touchdown during Saturday’s game.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know what the cross-section is between fans of the Atlanta Falcons and Penn State football, but make sure you’re checking on those people in your life.

No, I’m serious. Call them right now and then venmo them $8 for some comfort food or OTC sleep aids or something.

You see, both teams this weekend were not good enough at scoring touchdowns when they wanted to, and they were too good at scoring touchdowns when they didn’t want to, a mind-numbing concept which will put your brain in an Inception-level pretzel.

“You see that pylon over there in the corner of the Memorial Stadium end zone? As long as it’s standing upright, you know you’re in reality. Even if it wobbles and starts to tip, you’re safe until it falls over. But if it touches the ground? Congrats, you’re actually dreaming.”

IU’s defense forced three turnovers and largely held non-Sean Clifford ball carriers in check in Saturday’s 36-35 overtime win over No. 8 Penn State, but one of the unit’s best plays was when it allowed Penn State running back Devyn Ford to scamper into the end zone from 14 yards out with 1:42 to play in regulation, giving the Hoosiers’s offense almost a full two-minute drill to try to pull off its biggest win this century. By allowing Penn State this scoring drive that took just [checks notes] one play and five seconds, IU’s defense gave IU’s offense as much time as possible to match Penn State on the scoreboard and force overtime.

Here, enjoy this tweet from Penn State student newspaper The Daily Collegian, whose social media editor – like Ford – probably didn’t initially realize what Ford had just done.

Without further ado, here are the nominees for The Best Supporting Actor in a Defensive Role in a Loss Involving a Top-10 Team:

5. DL Jonathan King #18

You see the IU helmet in the middle of the line, the one where the two white stripes are parallel to the hash marks?

Well, that’s King, who almost immediately faced the IU sideline once the ball was snapped, turning his left shoulder into Penn State’s offensive line. Look, I never played D-line. I don’t know, it may have had something to do with being like 5’2” and 120 pounds as a freshman in high school.

But I don’t think this is usually a recommended pass-rush strategy, which is why it was perfect. King turned his back to the gap where Ford would inevitably run. In fact, King doesn’t turn around to see Ford until a second or two after he scored.

4. LB Micah McFadden #47

If you watched IU’s win, or even any of the highlights from the win, then you can’t miss McFadden. You can’t miss McFadden because he’s standing right where Ford ran through on his jaunt to the end zone. The screenshot above was taken as the ball was being snapped.

Now look where McFadden was roughly one second into the play:

McFadden went full high school dance on this play.

To the left
Take it back now, y’all
One hop this time
Right foot, let’s stomp
Left foot, let’s stomp
Cha cha real smooth

Fueled by a Sprite and two Lofthouse cookies that the Central High School Parent Teachers Association had purchased and set up in snacks table in the corner of the gymnasium, McFadden was out here one-hop-this-timing, then left-foot-two-stomping, then five-hops-this-timing.

More than anything, he really nailed it when DJ Casper yelled “Freeze!”

Like a father of three with overly developed Dad Senses, McFadden put on the breaks and got over one lane just before the speed trap on the interstate, while the guy driving the souped-up, red Honda Civic with underglow and a lift kit just drove 93 miles per hour into the teeth of the state of Georgia’s finest. Here’s your speeding ticket, Devyn Ford. We’ll see you in two weeks if you choose to appeal.

3. DL Jerome Johnson #98

Some advanced analytics dork out there is going to pull up some stat called Line of Scrimmage Win Rate Forced After Snap Trench Pull Rate On Downs Adjusted and it’ll show that Jerome Johnson’s value is way below expected, but only because Johnson really sold his fake effort on this play. Johnson, who’s IU’s best interior defensive lineman, was lined up at IU’s 18-yard line to start the play and he was literally driven off the TV screen on the play, descending into the ether somewhere around the 3-yard line. We’re talking about a 15-plus yard block intentionally allowed by Johnson, and it was glorious.

It looks like Ford’s final act before crossing that fateful goal line was admiring the “block” his offensive lineman was putting on Johnson. I’m only half-kidding when I say that Johnson’s effort in letting himself getting pushed back may have caused Ford to score, because by the time Ford turned around he was about two and a half yards from the end zone, and by then it was too late.

Sure, take the run block win, Penn State. It’ll help your Line of Scrimmage Win Rate Forced After Snap Trench Pull Rate On Downs Adjusted.

Johnson’s effort may have helped IU win, you know, the game.

2. Husky Bryant Fitzgerald #31

Fitzgerald went full poop dollar on this one. It’s second semester senior year, sometime in mid-April and the weather just cracked 50 degrees for the first time in months, so it might as well be 80 degrees on campus. It’s a Thursday and he doesn’t have any Friday classes, so along with his roommates, they decide to try their hand at the legendary poop dollar prank.

After planting the bait on the sidewalk across the street (a $5 bill because they want this to work but it’s not an outrageously high sunk cost), they grab a few cold ones and go up to their second-floor rooftop. Not even 10 minutes later, some poor freshman who used up all of his meals points by early March walks by and can’t help himself. As the freshman realizes what a terrible mistake he’s made, Fitzgerald, who’s been filming the whole thing for his Instagram story, climbs down from the roof and SPRINTS to see his masterpiece up close and personal.

That was Fitzgerald on this play, all-out sprinting from the 11-yard line to the end zone, realizing how Ford saw the $5 on the ground and was already thinking what combo meal he was going to buy with the money at Taco Bell later that night.

Look at Fitzgerald, hands up signaling touchdown, making sure everyone knew that freshman had to go find a sink and some high-grade dish soap immediately.

And the Oscar goes to...

LB Cam Jones!

Here’s what Jones did after Clifford snapped the ball:

  1. Left foot – small step backwards
  2. Right foot – small step backwards
  3. Left foot – medium step backwards
  4. Right foot – sidestep
  5. Left foot – Reposition

Jones actively took five (5) steps to get out of the way of Ford, simultaneously facing the gap where Ford would explode through while walking further and further away from it.

It was art, really.

It was like masterfully turning down an invite to a party that you really don’t want to go to by actively making your day as busy as possible with nothing that really matters.

“If I just go to the gym at 4 p.m., then turn my phone off and take a nap at 7, waking up around 8:30, there’s no way I’ll respond in time to make it. This is GREAT.”

Cam Jones was driving his parents’ 2011 Toyota Sequoia on a road trip out West, knowing full well that one of his buddies in the backseat really wanted to stop at this famous rest stop in Montana, even though no one else in the car really wanted to go. As his friend is droning on about how cool This Really Big Wooden Chair is, Jones put on his turn signal, got in the fast lane and gunned it to 90 mph even though, Cam, what are you doing, this is our exit.

“Oh man, that’d be a real shame if I intentionally missed the exit. Real shame.”

By intentionally sabotaging a few smaller group project meetings and assignments for his business communications course, Cam Jones let the National Merit Scholar in his group feel forced to take command of the group and do the entire project alone, giving the group the A+ that they all wanted. He got to the desired outcome by putting in minimal effort at a key time.

Cam Jones succeeded by, on one key play, actively doing nothing, and damn if that isn’t the American dream.