Penn State Football

Big 33 Classic turns into ‘Miles Sanders show’

Penn State signee and Woodland Hills star Miles Sanders earned MVP honors at Saturday night’s Big 33 Classic after scoring three of the team’s four touchdowns. Pennsylvania beat Maryland 26-14.
Penn State signee and Woodland Hills star Miles Sanders earned MVP honors at Saturday night’s Big 33 Classic after scoring three of the team’s four touchdowns. Pennsylvania beat Maryland 26-14. (Jourdan Rodrigue)

Miles Sanders looked like he was jogging.

The running back breezed past his coverage on a wheel route out of the slot, and caught an over-the-shoulder pass from quarterback Davonte Cross for a 21-yard touchdown.

It came after the Pennsylvania squad’s first snap of the game during Saturday’s annual Big 33 Classic against Maryland — fitting, then, that the ball went to the No. 1-ranked running back recruit in the state.

“It felt awesome, it was an amazing experience,” Sanders said after the game. “They actually told me before the game started that I was going to get the first play of the game.

“I was like, ‘Dang, that’s a lot of pressure!’ ”

Sanders also scored the game’s second touchdown, a five-yard punch that he punctuated with a half-flip into the end zone, and then ran in a 19-yarder in the third quarter. Pennsylvania went on to win the game easily, 26-14.

“You know, I wasn’t familiar with him before,” said Jared Odrick, the game’s honorary chairman and a former Penn State defensive lineman. “I am now.”

“His coordination is out of control,” he added, laughing and waving his hands. “He looks like a pure athlete. I think he definitely has a future, got a great build too.”

Odrick, who now plays in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars, brought 200 kids from different youth football leagues in his hometown of Lebanon to the game with him, and gave them all T-shirts.

“For me, just my interactions with them, I’ve asked them to learn something (tonight), and just take away something,” he said. “Even as a young kid, to recognize where you’re at, what you’re seeing and what you’re doing.”

Now as a 10-year alumnus of the Big 33 Classic, Odrick said the sights and smells of the game really brought him back.

“It means a lot that they would allow me to be some type of representative of the game,” he said. “A lot happens in 10 years, it goes quick. Whenever you hear and see and smell all of Hershey, and Hershey Park ... and just being in a high school environment is cool, too. Just the progression of football, sometimes you forget (what it was like). So it’s good to be reminded.”

If Odrick was reminded of his past, Penn State fans in attendance had plenty of reason to be excited about the future.

Sanders, a Nittany Lion signee and product of Woodland Hills, racked up 73 rushing yards and 21 receiving yards as well as three touchdowns for Pennsylvania and served as a captain for the game.

“I’m not going to do too much, just try and go out there and have fun,” Sanders had said earlier this week before one of the Big 33 practices.

They were nice stats for a kid who’s “just having fun.”

The numbers were impressive enough to land him the honor of being named the game’s Most Valuable Player by a unanimous media vote.

Sanders was told after the game that he wouldn’t get to keep the weighty MVP trophy; instead a replica would be sent to him.

“OK, but it’s the same size, right?” he joked.

Future teammates Cam Brown, an outside linebacker, and Dae’Lun Darien, a receiver, also played in Saturday night’s contest on the Maryland side.

Darien, who arrived for practices late last week as a last-minute decision, did not see many reps on the field but capitalized when he did, catching a 35-yard bomb for Maryland’s only offensive score of the game.

Brown served as a captain and also earned MVP honors for the Maryland side.

“For me, (this experience) means a lot because I get to play football again,” he said. “I love playing football, so I’m going to play whenever I get the chance.”

All three players arrive on campus June 25 to begin summer classes and workouts.

Sanders spoke with Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead just before Saturday’s game, and said he’s eager to show Moorhead what he can do at the college level.

“I said, ‘be ready to expect a lot from me,” he said.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 814-231-4629, @JourdanRodrigue