Battered And Bruised, Trace McSorley Refuses To Back Down
James Franklin called his team’s victory over Indiana “gritty,” and there’s no denying the validity of that statement. But grit doesn’t simply materialize out of thin air; it always begins with a player who never backs down, no matter the circumstance. Today, in a game the Lions could’ve easily let slip away, Trace McSorley was that player.
McSorley’s resiliency has become a common theme of Penn State’s season, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s a big reason this team — all the way to its core — is the polar opposite of the team Franklin fielded in 2015. His teammates see it. Fans see it. Most importantly, his coach sees it. “I think you always consider — I wanted him to take a knee a couple of times,” Franklin said of his quarterback. “I wanted to make a substitution and he kind of waved me off. He’s a tough sucker, he really is. Guys believe in him.”
Time after time, Penn State found itself in situations like today last season, only it’d seemingly shoot itself in the foot and fail to recover. Call it Murphy’s Law, or whatever you want, but there’s a certain aura about this year’s team that gives it that extra edge needed to will itself to victory. That trait was evident against Minnesota. A nationally televised audience saw it against Ohio State. But today, in a game most expected the Lions to walk through with ease, it needed that will more than ever. Trace McSorley was able to help provide it. “Trace is a really tough guy,” center Brian Gaia said. “He’s not afraid to stay in that pocket and take a big hit if it’s gonna come. He’s a great kid.”
The beating was merciless; McSorley took big hit after big hit, but his confidence — and his ability to take such punishment — never wavered. It only grew stronger as the game progressed. For McSorley, it was a matter of “reestablishing Penn State’s hard-nosed mentality” that’s commonly associated with the program. It’s bigger than one person, and he’s cognizant of that.
But McSorley is also aware of his role as a team leader; the gritty sophomore never once considered withdrawing himself from the game despite the pounding he was receiving. It would’ve taken an army to get him off the field against the Hoosiers — one Indiana’s defense simply couldn’t produce. That’s the mark of a true leader. “This team works so hard,” McSorley said. “I’m playing for my brothers and all the other guys. Everybody’s fighting through something, and I’m not gonna take myself out just because I’m a little nicked up or something like that.”
McSorley finished the game with 332 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks, but rarely hesitated to test Indiana’s defense. His ability to put receivers in position to make plays isn’t just remarkable — it helped the Lions escape Bloomington with a victory. He wasn’t 100 percent throughout, but it didn’t matter. Staring a stingy Hoosier defense down the barrel with a three-point deficit, McSorley didn’t buckle — he stepped up, just as he has all year. After delivering a 43-yard strike to Saeed Blacknall on second and long to help set up Chris Godwin for a touchdown two plays later, McSorley absorbed arguably the biggest shot he took all game.
The official asked McSorley if he needed to take a rest on the sidelines. “Hell no,” was the response he gave the official. McSorley isn’t feigning toughness — he embodies it. It’s this unwavering attitude that’s helped the Lions earn its first six-game conference winning streak since 1994, and a big reason the Lions are the No. 10 team in the country on a seemingly indomitable path to a New Years Six bowl.
But today, it helped the Lions keep that streak alive and earn a hard-fought win. If there’s any questions left about the type of player McSorley is, it’s safe to say he’s cemented his status as one of the toughest players in the country.