In the long history of Penn State football there are few games that will compare to the quarterbacking excellence that Trace McSorley put on display Saturday night against one of the nation's best defenses.
McSorley has always been poised, rarely making mistakes with his arm. He has 18 interceptions to his name in over 800 attempts, a figure that includes more than a few meaningless end-of-half heaves gone awry.
Even as he tossed two interceptions on Saturday, both were more about great plays by defenders than mistakes by the junior gunslinger. Odd though, McSorley has thrown five interceptions in Penn State's past two bowl games despite a 71% completion rate for 596 yards and five touchdowns.
Perhaps though the missteps were simply nature's answer to an otherworldly performance on third down. In total Penn State converted 13 of 17 chances, a remarkable stat in its own right.
“Trace was slinging it today,” Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “Hitting any receiver. And receivers as well did a great job getting open. And Saquon [Barkley] did a great job taking off first downs for us when the defense was taking things away from us downfield.”
McSorley's third-down numbers were borderline video game status. In total he churned out a 12-for-12 passing mark for a whopping 193 yards and two scores, and 16 of Penn State's 25 first downs came through the air.
“So we don't have one receiver with 100 receptions that's leading the conference,” Franklin said. “But it makes it really difficult to defend us because there's so many guys that can hurt you, our tight ends, our receivers, our running backs, in the passing game, in the run game.
“And Trace just does a great job of going through his progressions and taking what the defense gives.”
That has been and continues to be McSorley's greatest strength. While he may not fit the prototypical physical template for NFL GMs he is rarely rattled and rarely makes mistakes. His decision making is about as perfect as you can reasonably expect and his performance on Saturday night was as good as any in his long career of great games.
Of course he credits the players around him.
“Our offensive line did a tremendous job the whole game but really on third down,” McSorley said. “They had a different sense of urgency to themselves on the third downs. And then you've got guys like [Hamilton] and Saquon, they did a great job separating versus man."
"We had a great game plan on third down."
Whatever the case might be, McSorley's performance won't soon be forgotten, and all things being equal, he may find himself in the thick of the Heisman race far longer than teammate Saquon Barkley was come 2018.