YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – By now, everybody knows the story: Youngstown State tight end Kevin Rader pulled in an incredible one-handed TD catch Saturday night to propel the Penguins to a 40-38 win at Eastern Washington — as well as a trip to the FCS National Championship.
YSU Head Coach Bo Pelini almost messed up the spectacular finish that went viral, earned national headlines and landed no. 1 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
“I almost screwed it up,” Pelini admitted afterwards.
“I was trying to milk the clock a bit, but also use the timeouts,” he added. “But on the play before, [quarterback] Hunter [Wells] took a long time — like he was out for an afternoon stroll. But like I said about picking each other up, they picked up their coach, because I probably should have used a timeout earlier.”
As it turned out, no harm, no foul for Pelini.
That’s because Rader — who was well-covered — pinned a Wells pass against Eagles linebacker Ketner Kupp’s back. He kept possession as he went to the ground, and — after official review — the TD was confirmed with just one second on the game-clock.
Here’s firsthand accounts of the play from Rader, Wells and Pelini.
Wells: “I kind of knew I was going there just off the first snap. …I knew I had 1-on-1 back to Rader. Then when I went to look to throw it to him, he was covered. So I just threw it anyways — I don’t really know why — but he made a hell of a catch.”
Rader: “I knew going off the line, if he threw me the ball, I had to come down with it. Because if I didn’t, we would have lost the game. I give the defensive guy all the credit — he walled me off and played the ball perfectly — but I just made a play on the ball.”
Pelini: “I couldn’t see it real well. I thought that’s where Hunter was gonna go with the football. The kid made a really good play — the kid had good coverage. We wanted to throw it quick [because] we had another play in case it didn’t happen — but Kevin made a heck of a play.”
ESPN’s Ron Jaworksi, a former YSU quarterback, tagged it “The greatest catch in FCS history” in a tweet.
– Ron Jaworski (@jawsespn) December 18, 2016
So now, YSU (12-3) heads to the National Championship against James Madison (13-1) on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas. It’s exactly what the Penguins have been striving for since the dog days of summer.
“It shows the character of the type of guys we have in our locker room,” said Derek Rivers, senior All-American defensive end. “This is the ultimate goal from August and the summer — getting to the National Championship. We knew as a team it was just a matter of bringing it together. And everybody brought in.”