Three primary statistical categories are used to break down the individual performances of the Nittany Lions following each game.
Ordered from the top to the bottom by output, passing, rushing and receiving mark the contributions that produced a 56-0 shutout win for Penn State Saturday night against Georgia State.
Certainly, Saquon Barkley’s 189 yards of offense rushing and receiving, including an 85-yard touchdown catch-and-run, highlight the list. Quarterback Trace McSorley’s 18 of 23 passing for 309 yards and four scores also appeared as standout numbers.
On a night when the Nittany Lions saw eight different players record touchdowns, however, only one name appeared in all three categories.
Tommy Stevens, the Nittany Lions’ redshirt sophomore backup quarterback, finished his night hitting 2 of 4 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown, ran the ball twice for a couple of yards, and even cashed in with a touchdown on one of his two receptions for 19 yards Saturday. Having already scored touchdowns with his arm and on the ground in his Nittany Lion career, Stevens acknowledged his particular glee in cashing in opening up the game’s scoring with a 10-yard touchdown reception out of the backfield.
“That was actually probably my favorite moment in my career, honestly. You don’t hear about a lot of backup quarterbacks catching touchdowns,” said Stevens. “I was really fired up. You ask some of the guys on the team, I really wanted to catch a touchdown and so I was really excited to have an opportunity.
“I saw the Sam come off the edge - We practiced it a couple of times and there weren’t a whole lot of times where we did it in practice where I actually got the ball - so when I saw the Sam come off the edge, I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m going to catch the ball here.’ Trace did a good job of evading and giving me a chance to be successful. He gave me a great ball, I caught it and did my best to score. And the guys on the outside did a great job. DaeSean and DeAndre, they worked those guys and it was easy for me to get in the end zone.”
Capping an eight-play, 63-yard possession that would only be the beginning of an evening of scoring that saw the Nittany Lions build a 35-0 lead by halftime, Stevens wasn’t done.
Brought into the game to pull in another reception in the third quarter, leading the Panthers 42-0 by that point, Stevens was given the reins as McSorley retired to the sideline. Shortly thereafter, Stevens stood tall in the face of a blitz to find Saeed Blacknall in the middle of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown strike.
“It's not something that's exactly coached. Coach Moorhead does a great job with our pocket awareness drills, but it's just something that's kind of natural,” said of taking the hit. “I tried to give Saeed a good chance to make a play and he went up and got the ball and I took a hit for it, but it feels a whole lot better when you score a touchdown.”
Easing into a role that has now seen Stevens score touchdowns through the air, on the ground and as a receiver, the impact of his work is likely to extend beyond a simple contribution to the team, he said.
Completing 5 of 10 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown to go along with six carries for 29 yards and a touchdown, plus his four receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown, Stevens said he’s putting on film a reality opponents will have no choice but for which to prepare.
“I think it’s cool. I think it gives defenses something to look out for,” he said. “They’ve gotta spend more time, depending on what they’re spending their time doing, they gotta put this stuff in and practice for it. I’m happy with being able to have a role on the team and have an opportunity to be successful.”