Hamilton still a factor for PSU

UNIVERSITY PARK — It might have been impossible not to feel good for DaeSean Hamilton when he caught a 54-yard flea-flicker pass Saturday at Indiana.

Seemingly a forgotten man — stats-wise, anyway — in Penn State’s potent offense as the season has progressed, Hamilton’s catch helped the team grab a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The 45-31 come-from-behind win helped the Nittany Lions stay on path for a possible Big Ten championship and perhaps a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Penn State’s playoff hopes would be stronger if not for a 42-39 loss in week two at Pitt, and a costly play in that game remains stuck in Hamilton’s mind.

“The drop against Pitt still haunts me to this day,” he said Wednesday. “You just have to make sure it never happens again.”

The Lions had the ball with three minutes to go in the Pitt game when quarterback Trace McSorley lofted a long pass to Hamilton, who had a step on his defender at the Panthers’ 25. Had Hamilton caught the ball, he might have scored, but at the very least it would have given Penn State terrific field position inside the 20.

Instead, Hamilton had the ball bounce out of his hands, McSorley later threw an interception in the end zone and Penn State lost.

In one of the most emotional moments of the season for the Lions, Hamilton teared up when talking about his drop after that game.

Hamilton actually had a big game at Pitt, catching eight passes for 82 yards. But over the next seven games, he caught a total of only 10 passes for 161 yards.

It seemed like such an odd twist of fate for a receiver who led the Big Ten with 82 receptions two years ago, the second-highest single-season total in Penn State history.

Asked after Saturday’s game about Hamilton not being as much of a factor in the offense lately, coach James Franklin disputed it by saying, “DaeSean has had a big year for us in so many different ways — leadership, production, work ethic, blocking, receiving.”

Hamilton hasn’t had as much statistical success, but the junior has emerged as one of the leaders on a team that includes several outstanding young receivers.

“It’s the respect that the guys have shown me,” Hamilton said. “It’s just what comes along with being here for so long and knowing the ropes of college football and what it takes to be successful on Saturday. So I’ve embraced that role.”

He may never be able to forget about the drop at Pitt, and if that loss ultimately keeps Penn State from a playoff berth, Lion fans will never forget it either.

Still, Hamilton continues to play a key role on the team, and as Saturday proved, he will have chances to help the Lions win games and must be ready for when the opportunity arises.

“I can’t really change what happened in the past,” Hamilton said. “It really helped on Saturday that I made that catch on the flea-flicker just to spark our offense in the fourth quarter to get us the lead back.”

Notes: Right guard Connor McGovern practiced this week, so it would appear he’ll be ready to play Saturday at Rutgers after getting injured against Indiana. … RB Saquon Barkley is one of 10 finalists for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation’s top running back. Barkley leads the Big Ten with 1,113 yards rushing.

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