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BSD Awards: 2018 Penn State Football Season (Part II)

Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from an eventful 2018 football season.

NCAA Football: Iowa at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our annual BSD awards following Part 1 on Tuesday.

Coach of the Year: Brent Pry

About 99% of Penn State fans had the expectation of a high-flying offense, and a potentially porous defense heading into the season. We should have known the defense wouldn’t take much of a step back under Pry. The defense had what amounted to just one returning starter (Shareef Miller) once Micah Parsons overtook Koa Farmer at outside linebacker. Yet the unit quickly jelled and became a force. Sure, there were too many missed tackles along the way, but the defense, especially upfront, tightened up the second half of the season and helped get Penn State in the win column during some lackluster performances by the offense. Others will come calling, but here’s hoping for a long future for Pry in Happy Valley.

Others considered: Sean Spencer

Best Moment: Trace McSorley’s second touchdown against Maryland

This may seem like a somewhat obscure choice, but think back at the penultimate week of the season- Maryland nearly pulled off (and really should have, if not for a terrible throw on a two-point conversion in the final seconds) a massive upset against Ohio State, while Penn State struggled to get off the ground against Rutgers. So a win on Senior Day in the regular season finale was far from a sure thing.

The game started with McSorley running for a three-yard score on the opening drive. Towards the end of the first quarter, McSorley took the snap and raced down the middle of the field for a 20-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 14-3 advantage. At that point, we knew two things- McSorley finally looked like his usual stuff after playing hurt for much of the season, and once again the rout was on against the Terps. It ended up being the perfect Senior Day as Penn State rolled to a 38-3 victory to close the season with a mix of standout performances by individuals playing for the final time at Beaver Stadium, as well as underclassmen whose Nittany Lion careers are just getting started.

Others considered: Amani Oruwariye’s overtime interception against Appalachain State, Nick Scott’s late goal line interception against Iowa, DeAndre Thompkins punt return touchdown to start the rout at Pitt

Best Play: Trace McSorley’s 51-yard touchdown run against Iowa

We have grown to accept that McSorley will somehow always hop right back up after a devastating hit in the pocket or after being gang-tackled further down the field. However, his air of invincibility nearly came to a screeching halt early in the Iowa game. McSorley laid on the field after a particularly nasty hit, clutching his leg. It seemed as though the unthinkable happened, and that McSorley’s career at Penn State may be over.

Penn State’s all-time wins leader would have none of it. He hobbled back on the field, determined to close out the game with a victory in hand. It seemed as though he was getting by on pure grit and determination, playing at a small percentage of his capabilities.

And then it happened. McSorley took the snap, studied the field, made a cut and took off down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown run (aided by a beautifully sustained downfield block by DeAndre Thompkins). It was a microcosm of McSorley’s career- as soon as his ability is doubted, he makes the unexpected happen and in the end, walks off the field with the ‘W.’

Others considered: KJ Hamler’s 91-yard touchdown against Ohio State, Hamler’s late kickoff return against Appalachian State, Juwan Johnson’s one-handed circus catch against Ohio State, Miles Sanders pinball touchdown run against Michigan State

Best Game: Iowa

In reality, this should probably be the Appalachian State game. But at the time, it didn’t feel like a great victory after another near-late collapse and needing overtime to get past a Non 5 squad (although it turned out that App State was a damn fine football team).

The Iowa game went down to the wire in front of a Beaver Stadium crowd, which will have to do. It did include some thrilling moments, including Trace McSorley’s 51-yard touchdown run after leaving the game earlier with an apparent knee injury, Nick Scott’s interception in the end zone- a clutch play when the team desperately needed someone to step up, and Jake Pinegar overcoming early struggles to drill three 40-plus yard field goals in sloppy conditions. It also gave us the team celebrating to Mo Bamba- the only appropriate way to celebrate a victory in Beaver Stadium.

Others considered: Appalachian State, Wisconsin, Akron (Pa.)

Worst Game: Michigan State

I still can’t wrap my head around what occurred on Oct. 13, 2018. I’ve tried to block it from my memory, but as I recall the offense that took the field for the Spartans that afternoon was star receiver Felton Davis, a cardboard cut-out of Hulk Hogan, a half-deflated soccer ball, a pile of loose corn nibblets, a wheel of parmigiano reggiano, seven Howard the Duck DVDs and a muffler from a ‘93 Ford Taurus. Yet somehow this ragtag group managed to outscore the Nittany Lions, who were coming off a bye week and supposedly the best practice sessions of the Franklin Era. I won’t go into specifics of this game we all want to forget, yet will forever remain baffled about how this team managed to come out flat and lost to the Spartans for the second consecutive year.

Others Considered: Ohio State, Citrus Bowl, Michigan

Most Bizarre Moment: The Fourth-and-5 Call

I hate to belabor and pile on the excruciating amount of scrutiny thrust upon this now-infamous playcall.

Part of me understands the call. Seriously. If Penn State put a hat-on-a-hat and executes, Miles Sanders easily picks up the first down, and possibly ends his run in the end zone for one of the most thrilling finishes in Beaver Stadium since....well, the last time Penn State hosted Ohio State. However, this playcall failed to take several things into consideration- most notably that Penn State was unable to execute against the Buckeye front seven like they would have needed to for most of the game, and most importantly, it takes the ball out of the hands of the best player on the field who was having perhaps the finest performance of his Nittany Lion career. All Ohio State had to do was run a “twist” and the play had no prayer of coming close to picking up five yards. That was exactly what happened, and an exciting, crucial game ended with a thud as Penn State lost its first game of the season, and suffered its second consecutive one-point loss to the Buckeyes where they allowed a late lead to slip through its fingers.

Others considered: The quarterback shuffle in the Big House, no safety help for Felton Davis against Michigan State, trying to find parking at home games