When a team has its back against wall and needs something to happen, the cream rises to the top. Special players step up in these moments, and find ways to deliver a victory. While it was just his first game at Penn State, redshirt freshman KJ Hamler showed that he’s ready to deliver the big moments when someone needs to make a play.
Hamler had a relatively quiet afternoon until bursting out in the fourth quarter when it seemed as though Penn State was set to be the latest upset victim of Appalachian State- who once again proved to be a damn fine football team.
Among Hamler’s major highlights was a key 46-yard reception with just under 13 minutes remaining in the contest to give Penn State a 31-17 lead. McSorley put just enough air under the ball for Hamler to track it down, using every last bit of speed to haul the pass at the five yard line.
After a disastrous remainder of the fourth quarter for the Nittany Lions and trailing 38-31 with 1:47 left, Hamler did something he was just itching to do all afternoon. After kneeling down several kickoff returns eight yards deep in the end zone, Hamler threw caution to the wind and took the return into heavy traffic. After a brief hesitation, Hamler would make a man miss before speeding past most of the Mountaineers kickoff team for a 52-yard return all the way to midfield. A few moments later, he caught a high pass from a heavily pressured Trace McSorley as he made his way into the end zone to help force overtime.
Hamler would finished the day with 120 all-purpose yards, four receptions and a touchdown. More importantly, he gained the trust of his teammates and coaching staff as a player who is ready for primetime right off the bat.
Miles Sanders- I was all set to go with Sanders as this week’s MVP if it wasn’t for Hamler’s late-game heroics. Sanders was basically the Penn State’s lone consistent threat throughout the game. He ran tough and made plays throughout- and when the game was on the line in overtime, the staff kept the ball in Sanders’ hands, resulting in the winning touchdown. In his first collegiate start, Sanders rushed for 91 yards for two touchdowns on 19 carries, and also contributed three catches for 22 receiving yards. Something tells me Sanders is in store for much more this Saturday night.
Trace McSorley- While McSorley wasn’t quite himself in the first half, he did what Heisman candidates do when the team needed a late score to keep them in the game. Once again, McSorley offered a clutch performance that included a fourth-down conversion and a touchdown strike to send the game into overtime. McSorley connected on 21 of 36 passing attempts for 230 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.