Penn State took down Michigan on Saturday night on the strength of a team effort, with several outstanding performances. After hearing about Michigan’s top-ranked defense and the struggles of Penn State’s offensive line during the first half of the season, it seemed reasonable to wonder if the offense would be able to get much going on Saturday. The offense wound up amassing 42 points and more than 500 yards to silence any doubters, with quarterback Trace McSorley once again leading the charge.
With Michigan’s vaunted defense placing its focus on trying to stop Saquon Barkley, McSorley took full advantage in a game that proves there are many ways the Nittany Lion offense can produce outside of the brilliant play of its Heisman hopeful. Throughout the evening, McSorley kept the Wolverines defense on its toes by spreading the ball around with pinpoint throws and finding openings to move the ball with his legs when the defenders paid too close of attention to Barkley’s hereabouts on the field.
McSorley connected on 17 of 26 attempts (65 percent) to seven different receivers for 282 yards against the nation’s top pass efficiency defense that included a 42 yard touchdown to Barkley. He was the X-factor of the offense with his performance on the ground, averaging a nice 6.9 yards per rush for 76 yards and an additional three rushing scores.
His second touchdown run was one of the most impressive plays of his career. With the Nittany Lions hanging on to a 21-13 lead in the third quarter, McSorley channeled his inner-Barkley by cutting and juking half of the Michigan defense that had a shot to take him down. The 13-yard score would signal the beginning of the end for the Wolverines, as Penn State began to cruise toward victory.
Saquon Barkely- Barkley set the tone with touchdown runs of 69 and 15 to give the Nittany Lions an early 14-0 lead. He also had a hand in just about every big play for Penn State on the night, as the Wolverines paid constant attention to stopping him on each play. At this point, Barkley has cemented himself as the clear Heisman favorite, roughly sitting at 3/2 on most online betting sites. With all the other top candidates (Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, etc.) having tough-to-swallow losses on their resumes, Barkley now has an opportunity to cement his Heisman status with another big performance against Ohio State.
Jason Cabinda- The senior captain played his heart out in the last White Out of his career, accounting for 13 tackles, one TFL, one sack and a forced fumble. Cabinda’s nonstop energy has helped Penn State’s defense become one of the biggest surprises of the college football season.
DaeSean Hamilton- All great teams have strong leaders, and Penn State has them in droves. Hamilton had another huge game with 115 yards on six receptions. Throughout the evening, Hamilton found a way to make a play whenever Penn State needed to keep a drive alive. Hamilton was the unsung hero of the Nittany Lions incredibly productive night.
The entire offensive line- It looked like Penn State was going to be demolished in the trenches against Michigan’s heralded front seven. Instead, the offensive line put together their best performance of the season. The entire unit showed what they can be capable of when they work together and play consistently for 60 minutes.