Penn State Football

What they’re saying about Penn State’s Trace McSorley and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett

Penn State QB Trace McSorley (left) and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett (right) will meet at 8 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field in the 99th matchup between the two schools.
Penn State QB Trace McSorley (left) and Pitt QB Kenny Pickett (right) will meet at 8 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field in the 99th matchup between the two schools. Associated Press

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Penn State will meet Pitt for the 99th time in the last 125 years — and, naturally, both quarterbacks will be tasked with leading their teams to victory.

The Nittany Lions’ Trace McSorley is a Heisman frontrunner, an upperclassman with a track record. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett is young, but he already has an upset win over Miami (Fla.) on his resume. Both signal-callers are dual threats, and both are expected to carry their respective offenses.

Here’s everything that both teams mentioned on the two key players this week. With Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi restricting access, there’s obviously more on Pickett. Take a look:

On Trace McSorley

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi

“Personnel-wise, Trace McSorley is different than (Albany quarterback Vincent) Testaverde. You have a Heisman Trophy candidate, maybe the frontrunner for it, because he can throw it, he can run it, he can make plays. He’s an emotional leader; he’s the leader.”

On McSorley’s strengths:

“He’s got a bunch of them. He has a great arm, makes good decisions, he loves to run. He’s a football player. That’s his greatest strength. He plays the game with passion. What else can you say? He’s got it all. He’ll play in the NFL. He’s a leader, too. I’m sure those guys are following him around campus right now.”

Pitt LB Quintin Wirginis

“He’s a real athletic dude. He can do it all. He throws the ball, runs the ball. He’s one of those dual-threat guys that you got to prepare for, like a ton of the ACC guys that we faced. But we’re used to seeing a guy like that who can run it and pass it and do all sorts of things on the field. So we’re preparing just like we would for any other one. “

On Kenny Pickett

Penn State coach James Franklin

“He is bigger than you think. He is much more athletic and mobile than you think. You’ve seen that time and time again. And then obviously he’s been able to step up and play big in big games. So I think he’s earned a lot of respect from us. I think he’s earned a lot of respect regionally and nationally. He can make the throws that he needs to make. He’s got enough mobility to keep you honest, knows things not only in the pocket, but also breaking the pocket. Seems to have a good feel for the game, as well. So I’ve been impressed with him. I think he’s just going to continue to get better and better the more he plays.”

On whether limited film on Pickett is an issue since he’s seen considerable time in just three career games:

“To be honest with you, that’s not really an issue because typically you do a four-game breakdown anyway on anyone you play. We have three games of him. For this season, we only have one game to look at. So we really have about the same amount of games to watch on him than we would any of our opponents. Do you have the ability to dig deeper when a guy’s been starting longer? No doubt about it. But, typically, this is about what we would break down now is four games. So it works out pretty good.”

Penn State CB Tariq Castro-Fields

“He’s a slippery quarterback. He can make things happen outside the pocket, and he rushes really well so we really got to be attached to our receivers down the field.”

Penn State S Lamont Wade

“He’s real elusive. He’s a little bit more elusive than their past few quarterbacks, and that’s something that really stood out. He has really good arm strength. So, we just plan on looking at his strengths and just trying to prepare on what he has so we can be better as the secondary.”

Penn State LB Koa Farmer

“I think he’s really good. He’s dangerous with his feet and he’s the leader of their offense. He makes good throws — he made a high-percentage of throws in the game against Albany — and he looks pretty good. We respect him a lot.”

On the main difference between Pickett and Appalachian State’s QB:

“There’s not a lot of film on them. But, from what we saw, they’re both commanders. As far as the Pitt quarterback, you can tell he runs the show. He’s poised, he’s confident, he knows what the offense needs and wants and gets. And I think he does a really great job. We’re preparing for him, and we’re going to prepare as much as we can for him. And we respect him at the end of the day; can’t take him lightly.”

Penn State safeties coach Tim Banks

“He’s super athletic. The fact that he can extend plays and give the offense a chance to allow wideouts to get open with his scrambles or just extending the plays — it’s just a concern. It really is. You can have guys covered up and all of a sudden he tucks the ball and he takes off running; that’s always an issue from a back-end perspective. The other thing I think is he’s a big kid. From what I can see looking at some of the snaps he took last year and obviously the small sample that we have from this past game, his mechanics have improved a lot. He’s getting the ball out a lot quicker, and he’s doing a great job going through his progressions. So he’s getting better week in and week out from what I can gather. And we’ll have our hands full, No. 1, just covering. But obviously when he starts to scramble, it’s maintaining discipline with our guys.”

On how difficult it is to prepare for a quarterback with limited film and the fact Pitt didn’t show much of its playbook last Saturday

“I think the No. 1 thing is you take the approach that Coach Franklin has implemented around here. We worry more about us and our execution and what we do. The calls will be the calls. When you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to get, all you can do is lean on your training and the execution of a call. We’re big believers there’s not necessarily any bad calls. For us, it’s just all about execution. So whatever call it is, we can’t control what play they actually run. All we can control is how we execute the particular call. And as long as our kids understand that, I think we’ll be OK.”