STATE COLLEGE — Trace McSorley probably didn’t rub dirt on his right knee at halftime. That’s why there’s science.
It didn’t look great for Penn State when its star quarterback went down in the pile during the second quarter of the No. 16 Nittany Lions’ 30-24 victory over No. 18 Iowa. All the signs looked like maybe he was done for the day.
Took awhile to get off the turf. Couldn’t put much if any weight on the leg as he made his way to the sideline.
Penn State has a pretty good backup in Tommy Stevens, but head coach James Franklin said McSorley, a three-year starter and holder of every important QB record Penn State can think of, has earned the right to tell the staff if he thinks he can play.
“It’s honestly scary, you know, Trace is the leader of the offense,” wide receiver K.J. Hamler said. “You know he’s a tough guy, he’s a soldier so we knew what he was capable of.”
Iowa already knew. McSorley had beaten the Hawkeyes in a couple of different ways going into this one. He’s now 3-0 against Iowa with 200-plus yards of total offense in all three victories.
Still, McSorley played a series before halftime and clearly couldn’t do much. The knee obviously chilled at halftime.
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On the Lions’ first series of the second half, Iowa get it down to a third-and-2 at PSU’s 49. The Hawkeyes went to a short-yardage defense, a cover 0 with all 11 players close to the line of scrimmage.
McSorley dropped back, Iowa dropped into coverage and he hit a seam.
The senior sprinted 51 yards to give PSU its first lead and one it wouldn’t relinquish.
The question is how did the knee feel after the 51-yard TD run?
“Once I was able to get comfortable running the ball and break that one off, I think that was a big thing for me,” said McSorley, who finished with 230 yards of total offense and rushing TD and a TD pass.
McSorley said the 51-yarder was designed off Iowa’s defensive tendencies. He entered the game fourth in the Big Ten in total offense at 287.9 yards a game.
Iowa knew and it kept McSorley in front of it much of the night. It doesn’t take much for the 6-0, 201-pounder to do damage.
“We knew he could run around and make big plays happen, and he really showed that on the touchdown,” Iowa safety Amani Hooker said. “We did a good job for the most part. We gave up three or four big plays and those led to points.”
The 30 points and McSorley’s big run will throw some mud on what was a solid effort from Iowa’s defense. Iowa sacked Penn State QBs three times and held the Lions to 312 yards, their lowest output this season and lowest in 11 games.
“He’s dynamic with his legs, has a good arm and is a good quarterback,” defensive end Anthony Nelson said. “It’s a different task, he can take off any moment. You’ve got to be disciplined, but stay aggressive and take your shots when you get them.”
Iowa took its shot. It only winged McSorley and might’ve only made him mad.
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