Penn State dominated every statistical category on Saturday, from first downs to time of possession to turnovers to yards to the most important statistic of all - points on the board. And the main reason for the offense’s success in the Nittany Lions’ bowl-eligibility-garnering win was quarterback Trace McSorley.
Most weeks, this award could understandably be given to the PSU player most likely to win the Heisman in over a decade - college football’s best player, Saquon Barkley. This was not one of those weeks, despite the fact that the Wildcats’ often-spoken of plan to sell out to stop Barkley from having a highlight-reel-worthy day undoubtedly opened up the rest of the offense to shine. Northwestern dared McSorley to beat them through the air and in quarterback keepers, and in finishing the day with 245 yards on 25 (of 34) completions and 1 TD through the air and another on the ground with no turnovers, the signal caller succeeded.
In addition to being on his way towards other Penn State records this season and over his career, this award goes to McSorley as well for a particularly spectacular stretch of game in which he completed fifteen straight passes - one more than previous record-setter Kerry Collins’ best day in a Nittany Lion uniform.
Just one week after having a criticized performance against Indiana, McSorley made up for it. In spades. On the road. At 11 a.m. And for that, he gets our MVP for the week.
The redshirt freshman defensive end didn’t get a lot of playing time - but when he was on the field, in obvious passing downs and third and long situations, he made the most of it, and then some. He had two sacks and, for some reason, Northwestern decided to just have a single blocker on him - which gives him credit for causing the forced fumble. Plus, he earned Howard Griffith’s respect on this week’s Final Drive as his most impressive performance. The future is bright for this young stud.
The redshirt junior had his team-leading third interception to end Northwestern’s best scoring drive attempt of the first 55 minutes of the football game. The cornerback didn’t start the game, but as usual he was the first non-starter rotated into the backfield, and on the anniversary of his father’s passing, he made the most of his time as he has done much of the season.
The Wide Receiving Corps
On a day in which the loss of Chris Godwin could have been felt acutely, the wide receiving corps (and backup quarterback Tommy Stevens) rose to the challenge given to them by the Northwestern defense. Facing man-to-man defense, the wide outs got open when they needed to, and combined for 21 catches on the day - and it was truly wide receiver by committee, unlike last week, with career receptions leader DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall, Brandon Polk, Juwan Johnson, and DeAndre Thompkins all lodging multiple receptions. It certainly helps going up against one of the nation’s elite defensive backfields in practice to help them get into game shape.