BSD Co-MVPs - QB Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley
Coming into this week, Penn State fans had witnessed an offense that had flashed glimpses of its potential. A 33-point outing against Kent State, 39 points in a loss to Pitt, and 34 points against Temple were offset by just 10 points against Michigan, and 23 points in regulation against Minnesota. It seemed that Joe Moorhead’s offense was effective at putting up points, but was overly reliant on the big play to make up for a lack of down-to-down effectiveness and consistency.
Part of that was undoubtedly on the quarterback. Trace McSorley, for all of his moxie, was taking a bit too long making his reads in the run-pass option, and was hesitant to hold onto the ball. This, when every defense - especially Michigan and Minnesota - was crashing hard on the mesh point and targeting Barkley. This week the offense - and McSorley - finally clicked.
McSorley was brilliant with his decision-making against Maryland. He was 10-of-19 through the air for 152 yards and two touchdowns, including a 70-yard bomb to DeAndre Thompkins to blow the game open in the third quarter. More importantly, Trace rushed the ball 18 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. The player most greatly impacted by QB1’s ability to run the ball? Saquon Barkley. Barkley rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, good for 6.5 yards per carry. Ironically, there were a few times that McSorley handed the ball off that Barkley took for minimal gain - had Trace kept the ball himself, Barkley would have finished below 200 yards on the day, but McSorley may have had an extra 50 yards on the ground. All told, the duo combined for 435 of Penn State’s 524 yards of offense.
This is what Joe Moorhead’s offense is supposed to look like. Key on the running back? The QB will beat you with his legs. Sell out to stop the run? Break off a long touchdown through the air. Moorhead is continuing to install his offense, and the players are getting more and more comfortable with it. As the season goes on, watch for this team to become more and more dangerous on offense. Furthermore, I’d like to credit Moorhead in this game specifically - in wet conditions, he devised a game plan that would keep the ball on the ground and avoid the possibility of costly interceptions. Increasingly, his offense is effective, explosive, and putting up major points. Credit to Head Coach James Franklin for hiring an offensive coordinator that can maximize his players, as well as plan for any given opponent in any given weather.
John Reid came up with one TFL and two passes defended . . . Brandon Smith recorded 14 tackles, one TFL, and his first career interception . . . Koa Farmer got his first start, 1.5 TFL, a sack, and a forced fumble . . . the entire defensive line channeled last year’s group, creating havoc all day and coming up with three sacks and five TFL . . . Joey Julius continues to be a weapon on kickoffs, combining deep kicks, tackles in coverage, and drawing penalties . . . the offensive line didn’t skip a beat after Andrew Nelson went down in the second quarter, a testament to their individual improvement, and to Coach Limegrover’s abilities . . . freshman phenom Miles Sanders scored his first rushing touchdown, after having another fumble early in the game - a sign that the staff has faith in the youngster.