Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown against Minnesota last Saturday. The pass was originally called incomplete. But it was ruled a touchdown after an instant-replay review.AP PHOTO
Two officials with a clear view of the play didn’t believe it. On the near sideline, Tim Brewster didn’t either.
Even Derek Moye himself had his doubts.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really sure,” the Penn State receiver said of his touchdown that nearly wasn’t. “I knew I had possession of the ball, but I wasn’t really sure about my foot. I thought it was in, but I had to leave it up to the refs.”
Those refs got a glare from the lanky sophomore as he walked back to the huddle last Saturday against Minnesota, but he kept his mouth shut, saving his breath for his quarterback, Daryll Clark.
Moye told Clark that he thought he managed to get his foot down for a critical score just before halftime against Minnesota. But it was up to the instant replay system to make the final ruling on Moye’s effort – a fully extended grab that was sailing well out of bounds.
“Our defense was scratching and fighting,” grumbled Brewster, the Gophers coach, after the game. “It looked like the guy was out of bounds and there were two officials on the play. They call him out of bounds and they look at it upstairs and they say it’s a touchdown.”
It was. Moye’s right foot narrowly grazed the green grass before the sideline behind the front pylon.
Though Penn State surely misses the recently graduated trio of four-year starting receivers – Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams – none of them would have had a prayer of making that catch.
Moye lacks the experience and savvy of those three, but has the distinct advantage of being a half-foot taller than all of them at nearly 6-foot-6.
That’s certainly a luxury for Clark. On this touchdown, Clark could safely throw the ball far to the outside – well away from any defenders – and still have confidence that Moye would be able to make a play on it.
“He definitely makes a lot of plays for us,” Clark said. “We get in some tight situations and I’m able to throw it up there, and he uses his height to go up and make some big catches for us. It’s vital we have a player like him on the team.”
After seven games with a new set of starting receivers, there’s little question who Clark’s go-to guy is. Moye leads the team in catches (27), receiving yards (472), receiving touchdowns (four) and yards per catch (17.5).
“We have a good relationship going back from the spring last year in practice,” Moye said. “But I think now it’s starting to show more and more on the field.”
Back at Rochester High School in western Pennsylvania, Moye rarely even lined up at receiver. He was primarily a running back, topping 1,000 yards on the ground in each of his last two seasons there. He finished his career at Rochester with 77 total touchdowns.
When Penn State’s braintrust took a look at him, however, they immediately saw a wideout who could excel at college football’s top level. He did just that against Minnesota, turning a close game into a comfortable halftime lead for the Lions.
“He’s just a big body,” Brewster said after Moye finished the day with six catches for 120 yards and that memorable score. “He doesn’t run real fast, but he does a great job of using his body and shielding his body. We had a smaller corner on him and he used his 6-6, 230-pound body on a much smaller defender. … I thought Clark did a nice job of putting the ball where he could use his body and shield defenders and make catches.”
Moye’s own coaches say his speed can be deceptive. Earlier in the season, he surprised opponents with his quickness to break open for some big gains.
“He has great speed, great height and he has real good judgment on the ball,” assistant coach Jay Paterno said. “People don’t realize because of his speed that he’s a guy who runs sub 4.4. He ran 4.38 for us – he’s got that type of speed. He’s a tough guy to handle because of the height and speed – the whole nine yards.”