After the Penn State loss at Pitt in week 2, I was a Trace McSorley doubter. I understood that the coaches felt he was the best player to lead the Nittany Lions offense, but I didn’t see it; I saw not-great decision making, I saw three lost fumbles and an interception, I saw a QB rating that was amongst the worst in the conference.
I’m not sure I have ever been so glad to be so wrong.
McSorley has since cleaned up his decision making, been allowed to explode on the ground, controlled his turnovers (only four in the ten games since) and done nothing short of being the vocal leader that this team has needed to lead them to Indianapolis and a shot at the Big Ten championship.
On the way, he put the hammer down against a dangerous Michigan State squad that, in the past three weeks, played both Michigan and Ohio State incredibly close and demolished Rutgers. Despite a slow start, once the possibility of an East title became clear, the Penn State offense came alive - and it was largely due to McSorley, who had a career day when the Spartans sold out to stop Saquon Barkley from ever getting going.
The quarterback finished the day with four passing touchdowns and 376 yards through the air, 18 of 24 and 7 passes caught of 20 yards or more. At one point in the game, McSorley had twelve completions in a row.
Headed into today, McSorley and the Penn State offense was second in the nation in passes over 40 yards - and he completed three more against a Spartan defense that had previously been known for pass defense. He set a Nittany Lion record on Saturday for total offense in a season with 3,348 yards - and he still has two more games to go.
In addition to the raw numbers, McSorley’s simply a baller. He extends plays and when silly fans like me are calling for him to throw the ball away, he instead rolls out and does ridiculously awesome things like this:
I was a doubter of McSorley, but never will I be again. After the Minnesota game, I was all in on Trace. And the faith that the coaching staff showed in him has absolutely paid off, to the tune of a 21-to-5 TD-to INT ratio, 184 completions (out of 327) for 2976 yards (over 16 yards per completion), an average of 248 yards per game, and a QB rating of 150.9. It just might be that our coaches know what they’re doing.
Brandon Bell - Bell had a standout performance his last time playing in Beaver Stadium, with 18 tackles (.5 for loss) and 1 pass defended, double the number of tackles of the next closest defender (Manny Bowen). The senior leader was rewarded for his play by being named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week, tacking onto his already stellar season—he’s currently second on the team in tackles on the year with 74 despite missing four games early in the season due to injury.
Mike Gesicki - The tight end had two receptions for 64 yards on the day, and in so doing he’s now on top of the Penn State record books - most receptions in a season for a TE, with 42 (Andrew Quarless had the previous record in 2009 with 41). Gesicki and wide receiver Chris Godwin paced the offense when the ground game couldn’t get going, and it was the tight end’s “did that really happen?” catch midway through the third quarter that indicated the blowout of the Spartans was in full force.
The entire coaching staff - James Franklin and company needed the team to stay focused on Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State - and they did. The game plan, like many other weeks, didn’t go 100% according to plan in the first quarter, but the team settled down and played their game, the way they needed to, in order to secure their spot in the B1G Championship Game. The coaches had the players ready to play once again, made necessary adjustments once again, and didn’t let word that Ohio State had won their game over Michigan, thus making sure a victory over the Spartans would secure Penn State’s trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. They’ve been a great staff top to bottom all season, and it’s paid off.