Trace McSorley isn’t receiving the appreciation he deserves.
After Saturday’s performance, the redshirt junior quarterback leads the Big Ten in passing yards (2,666). For anyone who wants to knock McSorley, he had 2,390 at this point in 2016.
His completion percentage (65.0) is fifth nationally among quarterbacks who’ve logged at least 300 passing attempts. McsSorley sits behind only Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Washington State’s Luke Falk and Western Kentucky’s Mike White. Barrett’s a Heisman contender, and Falk is a talked-about NFL prospect while Shimonek and White operate in air-raid offenses. Not bad company to keep.
Oh, and for his career, McSorley now owns Penn State’s touchdowns responsible for record. He broke Daryll Clark’s mark with Saturday’s 20-yard touchdown run and distanced himself a bit with two throwing scores later in the afternoon.
He’s up to 68 touchdowns for his career, and that number’s going to keep climbing.
How high is the only question. It’s been assumed that McSorley will come back next season instead of jumping to the draft.
“I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get there,” the captain said after Penn State’s 35-6 win over Rutgers. “I haven’t thought too much about it, honestly.”
Whenever McSorley does move on, though, Penn State fans are going to miss him.
▪ Penn State’s future pairing at safety looked pretty darn good.
Redshirt sophomore Ayron Monroe and redshirt junior Nick Scott — who will likely take over when seniors Marcus Allen and Troy Apke run out of eligibility — had seven and four tackles, respectively. Scott had a tackle for loss, while Monroe recorded a half-sack to help keep Rutgers out of the end zone on its final drive.
Penn State’s had it good at safety. Allen is a long-time, effective starter, and Apke has filled in nicely for Malik Golden.
When those two spots open up next season, Scott and Monroe should be first in-line to grab them.
▪ Mike Gesicki finally got back in the touchdown column. The senior tight end secured a wide-open 16-yard scoring snag, his first since Week 2 against Pittsburgh.
Gesicki has been involved recently. In his two games prior to Saturday, he totaled 14 catches for 146 yards. He followed that up with a four-catch day against Rutgers.
Encouraging sight to see from an outgoing upperclassman.
▪ James Franklin has said time and time again in the past that they’re not going to force-feed Saquon Barkley. And yet, it’s surprising to see him not be as much of a factor in the passing game.
After his 12-catch showing at Iowa — a product of the Hawkeyes’ free-access, bottle up-Barkley defense — it was assumed he’d be more involved going forward. Maybe not 12 catches per game. But Barkley has only 13 grabs for 138 yards in his last five contests. He had one for 20 against Rutgers.
Barkley’s been frequently open in space on swing routes, and the back is just not getting the ball.
The best player in the country needs those opportunities.
▪ This reporter has never witnessed a passing game as bad as Rutgers’. Less imaginative than a high school playbook, it was brutal on so many levels.
Everyone knew the Scarlet Knights couldn’t move the ball through the air. They hadn’t thrown for more than 198 yards in a game this season. And that came in a loss ... to Eastern Michigan.
But at least 198 yards is somewhat respectable. At least 127 passing yards on average entering Saturday wasn’t the worst in the country. It was ninth worst.
But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more pitiful display than what Rutgers put together on Saturday. Giovanni Rescigno completed 7 of 20 passes for 43 yards. The last time the Scarlet Knights threw for fewer yards, they lost 49-0 to Michigan State in 2016.
Except for a few solid runs by Gus Edwards and Robert Martin, Rutgers’ offense didn’t resemble a Power 5 unit — thanks in large part to its excruciatingly bad passing game.
▪ If Barkley decides not to play in Penn State’s bowl game, no one can or should blame him.
He’ll likely suit up because that’s the kind of kid he is. But, after watching Penn State’s offensive line flounder yet again, no future first-round draft choice should feel compelled to get hit in the backfield multiple times in a non-College Football Playoff appearance.
Penn State’s offensive line struggles were an underlying issue against Indiana and Northwestern and magnified in the Nittany Lions’ losses at Ohio State and Michigan State. Saturday, though, was the blockers’ opportunity to get a quick fix. Rutgers’ rush defense — which allowed 223 rushing yards on average the last six weeks — was coming to town.
Give the Scarlet Knights some props. Like most teams this year, they sold out to stop Barkley, and it worked. McSorley picked Rutgers apart, but Chris Ash’s crew swarmed the backfield. Barkley was outrushed by McSorley 44 to 38 and had nine runs of two yards or fewer.
It’s hard to block when it’s six- or seven-on-five, but you can count on one hand the number of times a clean running lane opened for Barkley.
It’s unfortunate to watch, really. Barkley’s a once-in-a-generation talent, and he doesn’t even have a chance to get going more often than not.
Nebraska (81st nationally in rush defense) comes to State College next weekend. Maybe Barkley will have a chance to break loose in what should be his final game in Happy Valley.