Raise your hand if you realized Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley completed 11-of-16 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown in the second half on Saturday night.
If you just awkwardly raised your hand while reading this in a coffee shop, dining room or bar, my apologies. But chances are, your arm stayed down by your side.
Everyone from fans to media to Indiana fans milling around Beaver Stadium after Penn State’s 45-14 win over the Hoosiers on Saturday night wanted to talk about one guy: Heisman Trophy hopeful Saquon Barkley. It’s justified, sure. Barkley hung 205 all-purpose yards in the victory and even threw for a touchdown pass. Yeah, the kid can pass, too, apparently.
But no one brought up McSorley’s fine finish — his second in as many weeks.
If anything, most Penn State fans want to point out the quarterback’s rough start. It’s true; McSorley wasn’t sharp early with a seemingly ugly interception and five yards per attempt average in the first half.
But, more often than not, he was running for his life.
Indiana successfully bottled up Penn State’s running game and penetrated the backfield. McSorley was sacked four times in the first two quarters, and the pick came when he was flushed from the pocket trying to make something happen.
McSorley simply didn’t have time to let plays develop and was able to complete only three “explosive” passes — plays that go for 15 yards or more. One of those plays was a checkdown that Barkley caught with one hand behind the line of scrimmage and burst for a 36-yard gain.
For a while, McSorley was beat down and battered — and he bounced back. Everyone recalls how sharp McSorley was on the final drive at Iowa; he pretty much had an entire half of that against the Hoosiers.
The quarterback was incisive downfield with six “explosive plays” through the air that combined for 140 yards. His right arm and legs accounted for 9 of Penn State’s 11 first downs in the final two quarters.
He might not get as much love as Barkley, but McSorley deserved it on Saturday.
▪ Amani Oruwariye said before the season that he wanted to turn heads in 2017. After missing the past couple games, the cornerback was back to doing just that on Saturday.
Oruwariye recorded his second pick of the young season in his first action since limping off against Pitt in Week 2.
Oruwariye didn’t have a perfect day. Just before halftime, he missed a tackle and allowed Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs to waltz into the end zone for an 18-yard score. But a drive later, the corner rebounded with his interception — jumping a sideline curl route with ease.
“He never gets down. He bounces right back,” senior safety Nick Scott said. “That’s just a testament to his approach to this game. He’s extremely hard working, one of the most competitive guys we have on this team and he’s a huge asset for our secondary.”
▪ While we’re at it, might as well compliment the Penn State secondary as a whole.
Indiana’s passing attack was largely contained. Quarterbacks Richard Lagow and Peyton Ramsey combined to complete 15-of-32 passes for 175 yards. Five of those incompletions came on pass breakups by the Nittany Lions.
Chucking the ball around the yard was Indiana’s calling card entering Saturday. Lagow heaved it 65 times for 410 yards and three scores against Ohio State in the season opener, and Cobbs dominated with 11 catches for 149 yards. But outside of his 18-yard touchdown, Cobbs was quiet with only five catches on Saturday.
Excluding Indiana’s 54-yard bomb to tight end Ian Thomas, the Hoosiers averaged 3.9 yards per pass attempt.
Good stuff from the Penn State defensive backs.
▪ Jason Cabinda said it in passing after the game, but it warrants another mention: Penn State’s defensive front did its job against Indiana.
No, Parker Cothren and the front-four starters didn’t have 10 tackles each. In fact, Cothren and Shareef Miller led the defensive line with four stops. Three linebackers — Cabinda (14), Manny Bowen (8) and Brandon Smith (7) — were tops in tackles for Penn State.
But Cothren and company did the brunt work, taking on double-teams and opening gaps for Cabinda, Bowen and Smith to fill the statsheet.
▪ This wouldn’t be a section labeled “good” without addressing Barkley’s one-handed, I’ll-take-that catch.
Barkley fully extended his right arm and palmed the pass like he was Kevin Durant attacking the rim on a breakaway dunk. When he came down with it, he stared down All-Big Ten linebacker Tegray Scales, made him miss and was off for a long gain.
Barkley could find a way to catch the ball with his arms tied behind his back. I honestly wouldn’t put it past him. Yep, pretty sure I just convinced myself that it could happen.
▪ Mike Gesicki was helped off the field toward the end of the first half, and it wasn’t pretty.
After battling through the initial Indiana tackle attempt, another Hoosier popped Gesicki with a shot to his left back around the rib area. The senior tight end gingerly walked off the field with trainers but didn’t return in the second half.
If it’s a minor injury, makes sense just to keep him sidelined in a game that was pretty much in-hand. If it’s more serious — and we won’t know due to Penn State’s injury policy — then he’ll have 21 days to get ready for Michigan’s Oct. 21 trip to Happy Valley.
Not great for Penn State’s offense, but with Northwestern and the bye week ahead, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
▪ Penn State’s offense in the second quarter was tough to watch.
The Nittany Lions mustered 22 yards. Twenty-two yards. With 20 offensive plays, that’s 1.1 yards per snap.
Blake Gillikin had more punts (four) in the quarter than McSorley had completions (three).
While it wasn’t ideal, Penn State could afford a quarter like that; the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 28-0 lead after the first quarter.
But still: 22 yards on 20 plays? Yikes.
▪ Once again, the Nittany Lions’ field goal team was dismal.
Senior placekicker Tyler Davis missed a 21-yard chip shot in the third quarter, and a 42-yard attempt was blocked in the fourth.
Davis made a 45-yarder, which was an encouraging sight — but he just pushed the 21-yarder right. The snap and hold were fine.
And the Nittany Lions later let up a second field goal block in as many weeks.
“Obviously, we need to get the field goal situation cleaned up; that is unacceptable,” James Franklin said. “I’m not pleased with it at all.”
And that’s totally fair.