Column: Penn State’s Quarterback Battle Is Far From Over
Trace McSorley was dominant. He finished the day completing 23 of his 27 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns against only one interception. The job is absolutely McSorley’s to lose, right?
As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.” As dominant as McSorley’s performance was, this isn’t the end of Penn State’s quarterback competition, and here’s why.
McSorley managed to beat up on Penn State’s second stringers with the offense’s wealth of stars around him. On the other hand, Tommy Stevens struggled to do much of anything with the majority of the offensive backups as they took on one of the Big Ten’s top defenses from last season. Comparing these two quarterbacks who were forced to play in two entirely different scenarios does justice to no one.
Stevens didn’t have much to work with and it showed. Did he make mistakes and show some inexperience? Sure he did. There were times in this game when he was playing with the White team that he could do nothing more than flick a pass and hope his wide receiver could bring it down. Multiple times, his guys couldn’t make the grab.
Stevens was also constantly under pressure. He was forced to scramble on a number of occasions, and ideally, the starting quarterback will have a bit more time in the pocket come the fall.
James Franklin acknowledged the struggles of being forced to play with the second string for most of the game and has made it clear he is long way off from naming a starter. “I think Tommy’s got a lot of ability and is going to be in this battle to the end,” Franklin said. “I don’t think it’s fair to our football team and I don’t think it’s fair to Tommy right now to name a starter when I think Tommy can really close the gap between now and summer.”
Franklin also noted the fact that Stevens has been forced to play catch up in a short span of time against a guy who is more seasoned with the team. “Trace McSorley was the backup quarterback all last year and was preparing to go in the game,” Franklin said. “Tommy was redshirted.”
The gap between McSorley and Stevens might not be as far off as the scoreline implies, either. Stevens had his bright spots today driving down the field with the Blue team after he switched jerseys for the final possession.
With the probable starters, Stevens completed all three of his passes for a total of 55 yards. That’s seven more yards than he threw for the entire time he spent with the White team. Like many of McSorley’s drives, it ended with the Blue team in the end zone.
Stevens looked powerful and confident on that drive, much like McSorley did the entire game. If the roles were switched, who’s to say that Stevens wouldn’t have ended up with the impressive stats and the lopsided scoreline, with McSorley being the one questioned for his performance?
There are still months before the first game of the season on Sept. 3 against Kent State and a lot of development can happen in that time. Franklin is at practice with these guys every day and claims he is not ready to name a starter. One game that was open for everyone to see will not change the outcome of a battle that has been going on for months and will continue through the summer.