McSorley Shows His Skillset Is One Penn State Can Win With
Trace McSorley is the type of leader who exudes confidence. He might’ve felt the butterflies flutter in his stomach leading up to his first career start as Penn State’s quarterback, but his demeanor would lead one to believe otherwise. Upon witnessing his performance against a stingy Kent State defense, it’s safe to assume that swing of confidence translated onto the field.
It was a given that McSorley’s first career start would be placed under a focused microscope. After all, the redshirt sophomore was tasked with filling the shoes of one of the most prolific passers in Penn State history in Christian Hackenberg, not to mention arguably the most important player in this program’s history. McSorley proved he could admirably fill the void left by the quarterback’s NFL departure, but he did so with a certain bravado and swagger that should excite fans about the program’s future. 209 yards on 16 completions and two touchdowns is a solid stat line, but it was his pocket presence, toughness in and outside the pocket, and confidence in his delivery that made this performance stand out.
“His composure was really good, and that’s kind of who he is,” Franklin said after the game. “He’s been that every day since I’ve seen him. We’re going to run our quarterbacks, so that toughness aspect is going to be really important, and he displays that every day. I was pleased with him.”
It’s trivial to dissect the semantics of McSorley’s performance, but the spiral on his throws, and the way moved around the field was unlike anything we’d seen in Happy Valley in quite some time — and that’s not a knock on Hackenberg. The age-old notion that Hackenberg simply didn’t fit the offense Franklin wanted to run isn’t necessarily false. At points, it seemed as though the coaching staff was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Watching McSorley today left us all feeling significantly different. Even better, one might suggest. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s up-tempo attack needs a mobile quarterback who can make every throw. The way McSorely moved, and the way he challenged the Kent State secondary with his accurate deep ball proved that he’s the guy for the job. That everything fans were hoping he could be might’ve come to fruition.
Yes, while the team only connected on one deep throw, most were within a catchable radius — Chris Godwin could’ve easily hauled in two deep balls. But it was more the fact McSorley gave the offense a chance to connect on throws of that nature. That he felt confident in himself to make the gutsy throw, and give his man a chance to make a play. But McSorley won’t tell you that. “Obviously, I don’t know how many we threw, we connected only on one of them,” McSorley said. “So, I’m definitely not satisfied, definitely need to connect on more of those. But again, it’s something we’re going to work on.”
So no, it wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly was an inspirational one. From what McSorley displayed in the TaxSlayer Bowl, to what he proved he’s capable of today, it seems McSorley and Moorhead might be a match made in heaven.
Now, two questions remain: can he improve, and can he do so against stiffer competition? With the highly-anticipated duel with Pitt next on the schedule, we only need to wait one week to find out.