Blue White Game Showcases The Obvious: It's Trace McSorley's Team In 2018
Penn State's annual Blue White game was a success for the Nittany Lions in so much as everyone survived it. An injury-free affair punctuated by 71,000 fans sitting inside Beaver Stadium and thousands more outside, all enjoying a beautiful day in State College, a rarity this particular April.
It was a showcase of the future; Miles Sanders, KJ Hamler, Micah Parsons and Mac Hippenhammer all stepping into important roles on both sides of the ball. Where the Blue White game had become something of a celebration in years past, this was an introduction to new faces across the field.
You may have heard of them, but now you're getting to know them.
The change perhaps no more evident as a first quarter timeout featured the recognition of a handful of Fiesta Bowl stars. Names you had seen millions of times before. Cabinda, Allen, Barkley, Hamilton, Blacknall and Gesicki. Big plays under all of their belts, NFL futures as close as they have ever been.
It was undoubtedly a surreal moment for Trace McSorley, something of the lone survivor of Penn State's two-year run of dominance. While his former teammates waved to the crowd, he stood on the sideline and waited to head for yet another series at Beaver Stadium. Another read, another bullet over the middle, another touchdown to watch back on film.
"It was a little different stepping out on to the field in spring practice," McSorley said after the scrimmage. "Looking across and not seeing Cabinda or Marcus, Grant or Apke, and then and looking to my left and right and Saquon's not there, Mike and DaeSean aren't there. So that was weird but once we really got past that it was fine."
McSorley continued to look the part on Saturday. He was sharp going 10-of-14 for 107 yards and a touchdown in a short afternoon of work. His 6.8 yards a carry on a day where quarterbacks couldn't be touched was the best any player with more than a single carry managed all day for either squad.
If working with new targets is a struggle for some quarterbacks it didn't appear to be one for McSorley who connected with new receivers Mac Hippenhammer and Cam Sullivan-Brown with crisp passes and timing. The Blue White game isn't known, by design, to be anything other than a fairly vanilla affair, but if the basics are any indication McSorley and company seem to have them down. All of this without targets Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins who both sat out Saturday, one for injury and the other to avoid the same.
Nevertheless it was hard to avoid a very obvious fact as the day ended. The Nittany Lions will go as far as McSorley is able to carry them. The additions of freshmen running back Ricky Slade and towering receiver Justin Shorter will only add to his tool box of weapons, but it will be McSorley making them better, not the other way around.
"I think in years past, you said we're not going to allow Saquon Barkley to beat us," James Franklin said earlier in the spring. "I think now people are going to go into the approach where they say, we are not going to allow Trace McSorley to beat us."
It's what you would expect from a quarterback who has lost five games in two years as a starter. Four of those games came to the tune of 10 total points. If you're going to beat McSorley it won't be easy, because really for all of the praise showered on Saquon Barkley over the years, it's really McSorley running the show. Barkley might have been Penn State's best player, but McSorley has been its MVP. Something that will be far more evident this season as he shoulders the load.
"We've got some young guys that we've got to bring up to speed, there's going to be a lot of work put in to regain out chemistry across the board because we're losing some guys, but I'm not feeling any more pressure." McSorley said.
Of course he doesn't feel that pressure.
If he can even feel pressure at all.