Penn State: Senior McSorley Seizes The Day

April 22, 2018

Typically, a star senior player accomplishes little on a day like Saturday other than taking in a scrimmage game from the sideline.

Leave it to Trace McSorley to dominate the Blue-White Game, though.

A senior who will be on a relatively short list of Heisman Trophy candidates once the regular season kicks off in September, McSorley played deep into the first half of Saturday’s annual spring practice-ending scrimmage, completing 10 of 14 passes for 107 yards and a score to lead the Blue team to a 21-10 triumph over the White at a sunsplashed Beaver Stadium.

Few figured McSorley would play much, if at all, in the game because, well, so few established, veteran players with little to prove ever do. But McSorley threw for more yards than any two other Nittany Lions quarterbacks combined, and he also wound up as the game’s leading rusher having gained 41 yards on his six carries. He even got downfield to throw a block on cornerback D.J. Brown on a reverse run by receiver KJ Hamler in the second quarter.

Head coach James Franklin said McSorley’s increased playing time came by design. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens dressed, but he didn’t play after battling an injury at the start of camp. The staff also couldn’t be sure of the status of freshman Sean Clifford, who tweaked a hamstring during practice last week and had been touch-and-go ever since.

“That’s why Trace got a little more reps than what we had planned on,” Franklin said. “We also wanted to be able to evaluate our other offensive players, and having Trace in there helps with that. Our guys also do a really great job of understanding how to practice and to stay away from our quarterback.”

For his part, McSorley didn’t want the day off seniors-to-be with 7,369 career passing yards and 59 touchdowns typically earn in the spring.

Besides, now that he is the unquestioned face of the franchise with Saquon Barkley off to the NFL, he said it’s his job to set an example. Even if he has to do it on an otherwise meaningless Saturday in April.

“For me, I love playing the game,” McSorley said. “I understand that, playing this game, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to play in Beaver Stadium. I want to take advantage of them. I’ll do anything for the team. If they want me to play three plays and be done, I’ll do that. If they want me to play the entire game in the spring game, I’ll do that. I’ll sacrifice for the team, because that’s what coach Franklin preaches all the time.”

It all worked out well in the end for the Nittany Lions anyway. Franklin said his entire team came out of the Blue-White Game healthy.

Presence with authority

Most players Micah Parsons’ age are getting ready for their senior prom and dreaming of the days when they no longer have to go to their high school home economics class.

While some of his old high school teammates in Harrisburg were running track or playing baseball, Parsons was getting his first taste of college football. He started at outside linebacker for the Blue team, with veteran Jan Johnson in the middle and Jarvis Miller at the other outside post. But neither made the impact the five-star prospect did.

Parsons recorded eight tackles and a sack, tied for game highs in both categories.

“He has actually been pretty good,” junior receiver Brandon Polk said. “Coming from high school now into a college football program, I think he has had a fairly smooth transition.”

He absorbed most of the spotlight, but Parsons wasn’t the only incoming freshman who had big moments Saturday. Linebacker Jesse Luketa had four tackles and forced a fumble, and defensive end Nick Tarburton had a sack among his two tackles.

Not all good

Sometimes, coaches don’t mind getting some mistakes out of the way in a scrimmage. Ricky Rahne just wishes he didn’t see the same mistake so often.

Two Nittany Lions lost fumbles for the Blue team. Freshman speedster Hamlergot caught by safety Lamont Wade, who poked the ball away from him far enough for Luketa to recover. Later, veteran running back Jonathan Thomas took a hit from freshman defensive tackle Corey Bolds, putting the ball on the turf. Walk-on defensive end Frank DiLeo fell on that one.

“Can’t have the two fumbles,” said Rahne, Penn State’s first-year offensive coordinator. “That’s something we’ve been really good at going on a long time now. We have to eliminate those.”

The envelope please...

Five players claimed Penn State’s four awards, which are given by coaches for exemplary performance during the spring.

Defensive tackle Kevin Givens claimed the Jim O’Hora Award, which is given to the most improved defensive standout of camp. The award is named after the longtime defensive assistant and Dunmore native, who worked with former Nittany Lions head coaches Rip Engel and Joe Paterno.

Junior running back Miles Sanders won the Red Worrell Award, the offensive counterpart to the O’Hora. Senior Jonathan Thomas claimed the Coaches Special Teams Award, while cornerback John Reid and receiver Juwan Johnson earned the Frank Patrick Award for total commitment to the program.

Nittany notes

Penn State officials estimated Saturday’s attendance at 71,000. ... Players who didn’t dress for the game: TE Jonathan Holland, WR Juwan Johnson, LB Jake Cooper and DEs Shane Simmons and Torrence Brown. Johnson and Simmons had walking boots covering their respective left feet. Brown missed most of last season with a knee injury, and Cooper was on crutches. ... The Nittany Lions received a commitment from one major Class of 2019 prospect that went public Saturday. Caedan Wallace, a four-star offensive lineman from Princeton, verbally committed to the Nittany Lions a few hours before the game. Rivals.com ranked him as the 74th-best prospect nationally in the 2019 class, and at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, he is the No. 2 prep prospect in New Jersey in the upcoming class. ... Franklin estimated that 160 recruits were on campus making unofficial visits, and several others were there on officials.

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