We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 13 days left — is the No. 13 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 13 moment: Trace McSorley goes nuts against Wisconsin
A week after he went bonkers to secure a Big Ten East Division title, Trace McSorley helped Penn State take the whole conference.
On Dec. 3, 2016, McSorley turned in one of the greatest performances by a Penn State quarterback in program history. The gunslinger set two Big Ten Championship game records for passing yards (384) and touchdowns (four) as the Nittany Lions rallied past Wisconsin 38-31.
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The week prior he was no slouch, either. McSorley completed 17 of 23 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns in a season-ending 45-12 rout of Michigan State.
He certainly carried that form with him to Indianapolis.
The first half against Wisconsin certainly wasn’t perfect; it took him and the Nittany Lion offense some time to gain their footing against the Badgers.
But McSorley’s halftime statline of 12 of 20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns is more than acceptable. Plus, those two scores — a perfectly placed 33-yard toss to Mike Gesicki and a comeback route to Saeed Blacknall that turned into a 40-yard touchdown — kept Penn State within striking distance.
In the second half, McSorley really went to work. The quarterback completed 10 of 11 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
On Penn State’s first play of the second half, McSorley cut Wisconsin’s lead to 28-21 with a 70-yard bomb to Blacknall. McSorley passed for three first downs on Penn State’s next series, which culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. And after a Wisconsin field goal, Penn State finally took the lead on an 18-yard pass from McSorley to Barkley early in the fourth quarter.
It was the third straight drive Penn State scored a touchdown, and McSorley had a critical role to play in all three.
When the confetti fell and Penn State was crowned conference champs, McSorley celebrated the Nittany Lions’ comeback — but he also had reason to smile for what he did individually.
Not only did McSorley set conference marks with the extraordinary performance, but he also set the Penn State single-season passing yards and passing touchdowns record — passing Matt McGloin and Daryll Clark, respectively.
It was a night to remember for Penn State and James Franklin. That’s especially true for McSorley.