Top 10 Plays From Penn State Football’s Senior Class
Penn State football’s senior class will take the field for the final time at the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Headlined by Trace McSorley, Amani Oruwariye, Nick Scott, and DeAndre Thompkins, the senior class has been responsible for plenty of magical moments and will forever be remembered as the recruiting class that helped bring Penn State back. Here are 10 of the best plays from the departing group of seniors.
10. DeAndre Thompkins one-handed catch vs. Pitt (September 10, 2016)
Penn State may have lost to Pitt at Heinz Field early in the 2016 season, but DeAndre Thompkins made one of the best plays of the season for the Nittany Lions during the game.
Despite being smothered by excellent coverage, Thompkins hauled in a deep pass by McSorley with one hand. The play set up one of four Saquon Barkley rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.
Thompkins and the Nittany Lions would exact their revenge against the Panthers in each of the next two seasons, winning both meetings by a combined score of 84-20.
9. Johnathan Thomas cameo vs. Kent State (September 15, 2018)
Johnathan Thomas was a reserve for the Nittany Lions during the majority of his career in Happy Valley, but he got his moment in the sun during garbage time of Penn State’s 63-10 thumping of Kent State this season.
Thomas finished the game with an outstanding statline, rushing for 84 yards on just three carries. His first rushing attempt of the afternoon went for a 69-yard gain, his longest as a Nittany Lion. To put that performance in perspective, Thomas has only 127 rushing yards in his career.
8. Nick Scott fumble recovery vs. Indiana (September 30, 2017)
Penn State deviated from its normal black shoes and basic blues in favor of some slick “Generations of Greatness” throwback uniforms for the first time. The Nittany Lions dominated their game against Indiana from start to finish, including a short scoop-and-score for Nick Scott.
Irvin Charles jarred the ball loose on a punt return, and Scott was there to collect it and easily score the team’s third touchdown of the first quarter. That was the Fairfax, VA native’s second career touchdown and his first since October of 2015.
7. Amani Oruwariye no-look interception vs. Pitt (September 8, 2018)
If you look up “offensive pass interference” in a football dictionary, you’ll see a picture of this play from Penn State’s 51-6 win over Pitt earlier this season.
Pitt wideout Tre Tipton grabbed Oruwariye and literally turned him away from the ball. However, the senior corner still managed to haul in Kenny Pickett’s pass and give his team the ball back late in the first quarter.
6. DeAndre Thompkins punt return touchdown vs. Akron (September 2, 2017)
Penn State entered the 2017 season with Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton, and Mike Gesicki starting on offense. None of them scored the team’s first touchdown of the season.
That honor instead belongs to DeAndre Thompkins. He took Akron’s first punt of the afternoon all the way home after Penn State’s defense made a stop to open the scoring in the 2017 season.
The Nittany Lions’ high-flying offense went on to score six more touchdowns against the Zips.
5. Nick Scott interception vs. Iowa (October 27, 2018)
Jaded by two different blown fourth quarter leads in less than a month, fans at Beaver Stadium were expecting more of the same when Iowa’s offense marched down the field in the fourth quarter and seemed well on its way to making it three straight blown leads at home.
Nick Scott, however, had other ideas.
The senior safety took advantage of a miscommunication from Iowa’s offense to snatch Nate Stanley’s pass and give Penn State the ball back with 3:18 to play in the fourth quarter.
4. Amani Oruwariye interception vs. Appalachian State (September 1, 2018)
Penn State’s 2018 regular season opener at Beaver Stadium was way too close for comfort, and that’s an understatement. Amani Oruwariye made a huge play in overtime to cap off a 45-38 victory.
Appalachian State took a 38-31 lead with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter thanks to a 16-yard touchdown by Jalin Moore, but a 15-yard touchdown grab by KJ Hamler set up overtime at Beaver Stadium. Miles Sanders opened the scoring in overtime before Amani Oruwariye picked off Zac Thomas’ shot to the end zone.
The play marked the start of an exceptional season for Oruwariye, who earned first-team All Big Ten honors after intercepting three passes and defending 11 others.
3. Trace McSorley 51-yard rushing touchdown vs. Iowa (October 27, 2018)
A quarterback running for a 51-yard touchdown is impressive under any circumstances. The context surrounding Trace McSorley’s big touchdown run earlier this season against Iowa makes it one of the most legendary moments of his decorated collegiate career.
McSorley went down with an apparent lower-body injury in the second quarter of the game, but he returned to will his team to a 30-24 victory. His 51-yard score in the third quarter gave Penn State a lead that it would not give up for the rest of the game.
2. Trace McSorley’s buzzer beater vs. Iowa (September 23, 2017)
Penn State was down and out in its 2017 Big Ten opener against Iowa, needing a moment of magic from the offense to win a tight, low-scoring game. It took until the last possible second, but the Nittany Lions got just that.
McSorley managed to thread the needle to find Juwan Johnson streaking through the back of the end zone and quite literally silence a hostile Kinnick Stadium. The scored helped the team improve to 4-0 and remain in the top five of that week’s AP Top 25 poll. More importantly, kept the Nittany Lions’ national and conference title hopes alive early in the campaign.
1. Trace McSorley’s Big Ten-winning touchdown pass (December 3, 2016)
What better way to wrap up this list than with a conference-winning touchdown pass by Trace McSorley?
Saquon Barkley may have stolen the show on this play by cooking Wisconsin’s TJ Watt on a wheel route, but the Wizard of Camelot put a perfect touch pass right in Barkley’s breadbasket. The Nittany Lions took a four-point lead following the score and didn’t give it up en route to their first Big Ten championship since 2008.
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About the Author
While he wasn’t a Nittany Lion in Penn State’s 2021 loss to Iowa, Robinson was set on revenge.
O’Hara, who plays both tight end and defensive end in high school, will likely play tight end for the Nittany Lions.
The sportsbook also put the over at 46.5 points.