Trace McSorley wasn’t pleased with his performance against Pitt a week ago. So in a game with Georgia State on Saturday, he played like a star quarterback with something to prove.
McSorley tore up the Panther defense to the tune of 309 yards and five total touchdowns, despite exiting the game in the middle of the third quarter as Penn State rolled to a 56-0 victory.
Throughout practice this week, McSorley knew he had to be better than what he had showed in Week Two.
“I felt like last week — personally, as a player — I didn’t put our team in the best position through my play to win the game,” he said. “Obviously we were able to come out with the win, but I felt that I didn’t do what I need to do to really put our team in the best position.”
On Saturday night, McSorley was highly efficient, completing 18 of his 23 attempts, marking the best completion percentage (78.2) that he’s posted as a starter.
The career day was the product of attention to detail on the practice field throughout the week.
“This week in practice it was getting back to settling my feet down, finishing through on my throws and being accurate with ball placement,” McSorley said. “I felt like I had done that through the first couple days through practice...Our game plan coming in was really good. Coach Moorhead put our quarterbacks and the offensive line, our receivers and the entire offense in position to get the ball in open space, be able to put guys in bodies, be able to have open receivers down the field.”
Fortunately for McSorley and Penn State, the Nittany Lions have a running back who’s nearly impossible to tackle if he finds himself in the open space created by Moorhead’s schemes.
Saquon Barkley was an invaluable asset to McSorley in the passing game on Saturday, hauling in all four of his targets and accumulating 142 yards through the air — many of which came after the catch.
The highlight of the day for both Barkley and McSorley came when the quarterback found his Heisman hopeful tailback in the flat and made an accurate, off-balance throw across the field.
Barkley took it 85 yards to the house.
Though he said Barkley was the third option on the play, McSorley read the defense well and was rewarded for his patience and ability to extend the play with his feet.
“I might have had a chance to fit it in to Mike [Gesicki],” McSorley said, “but I realized the guy was kind of falling off. That’s just the progression, if that guy falls off, we feel like they don’t have anyone there for the [running] back with their coverage. I got my eyes down, found Saquon. I got it over the lineman that was there and got it to him, and then he does what he does in the open field, making guys miss and running away from people.”
Coach James Franklin recognized the explosiveness shown by his star duo in the backfield.
“I feel like Trace definitely threw the ball better,” Franklin said. “I feel like Saquon just has so many tools, you talk about a 235 pound guy that can make you miss, run you over and then can burst up the sideline.”
McSorley was the engine behind a spectacular day for the Penn State offense as a whole. The Nittany Lions racked up 526 total yards and average just shy of 10 yards per play.
As Penn State now prepares for the rigors of Big Ten conference play, McSorley believes this was a week that can set the tone moving forward.
“This was a really good week,” he said “We put together a really good week of preparation, probably our most complete week that we’ve had this entire year. It was really good to kind of get everyone in that right mindset before we get into conference play.”