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The Turning Point: Another Return

Quadree Henderson provided Pitt with the spark they needed, as well as some breathing room, with a pivotal kick off return for the second week in a row.

Penn State v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

In a 42-39 Pitt victory yesterday, it is hard to pinpoint exactly one play that turned the tide for good, but that’s our job and we’ll give it a shot. We could go the easy and lazy route and say Ryan Lewis’ game-clinching interception was it. We could go with DaeSean Hamilton’s drop right before that, which could have given Penn State a late lead. Instead though, we felt like, for the second week in a row, it should go to a Quadree Henderson kickoff return.

Late in the third quarter, Pitt was in control of the Nittany Lions, 35-21, and things looked bleak for Penn State. With a Chris Blewitt 50-yard field goal miss, Penn State suddenly had life. They drove down and scored to pull within a single score, instead of being down 17. Then, a rare James Conner fumble, deep in Pitt territory kept the momentum ball rolling for the blue and white. The Panther defense held strong, but still, Penn State pulled within four points. Panther fans got that old familiar feeling of a game slipping away. That’s when Henderson stepped up and decided to make sure Pitt kept doing things they have been doing since Pat Narduzzi took a close game.

Nittany Lions kicker Joey Julius booted the kickoff down to Henderson, inside his own 5-yard line. The sophomore bolted straight ahead and then found a huge seam to the left side and darted that way. He used his speed to avoid Julius after that and streaked down the sideline. Two more cutbacks to the right and one more back to the left set up Pitt for another touchdown and, as the kids say, Heinz Field was lit, due to the run back.

This has started to become a welcomed theme for Pitt fans since last year...Pitt finding a way to win a close game! The Panthers did it again yesterday and Henderson was a big reason why for the second week in a row. One thing that a dangerous kick returner does is gives you a big threat that can lead to nice field position. Even if teams begin to kick away from Henderson, they would have to kick short, which still sets up Pitt with a nice starting point on drives. It’s a good thing to have.

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