With Penn State trailing by three points and time running out, Trace McSorley’s instincts took over.
On third-and-10 with 43 seconds left, the Nittany Lions quarterback was falling backward and under pressure before finally heaving a pass downfield. He anticipated where he needed to put the ball, and wide receiver Chris Godwin got there to make a diving grab and give the team a fresh set of downs.
Two plays later, with the Nittany Lions facing third-and-3 with 20 seconds to go, he saw the left side of the field open up and took off, sprinting toward the sideline for a 26-yard gain to put his team in position to try a game-tying field goal.
McSorley’s heroics helped send the game to overtime, and the Nittany Lions went on to beat Minnesota 29-26 on Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The quarterback completed 19 of 40 passes for 335 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and ran for 73 yards and a touchdown in the win.
“He’s a competitor,” Godwin said. “At any cost, he’s trying to win, and it shows. He has a lot of heart.”
McSorley’s playmaking ability was on display throughout the game.
He scrambled in the backfield to set up an 80-yard touchdown pass to Irvin Charles for Penn State’s first touchdown of the game in the third quarter.
McSorley used his legs again to set up Penn State’s second touchdown.
He stepped up in the pocket, stopped near the line of scrimmage and fired a pass across the field for tight end Mike Gesicki, good for a 53-yard pickup to set up first-and-goal at the 6-yard line. He then raced to the left corner of the end zone for his touchdown run to give Penn State a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter.
“He can run, but he’s not one of these guys that just takes off,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “He keeps his eyes downfield and made a number of big plays in those situations.”
McSorley said he tries not to run right away when he’s scrambling.
He’s constantly looking for his wide receivers.
“It’s just kind of like a reaction thing, you see ‘em open and you just give ‘em the ball,” McSorley said.
The quarterback made his biggest plays on the team’s final drive of regulation.
After incomplete passes on first and second downs, Penn State designed a play for Godwin.
The wide receiver was lined up alone to McSorley’s left, and Minnesota defensive back Jalen Myrick soon locked onto him, not allowing him to get free off the line of scrimmage.
“I didn’t really get like a good release, which is entirely on me,” Godwin said. “I got to do a better job in that.”
As Godwin worked to get free, McSorley backpedaled to try to give him more time to get into his route.
He finally made the throw off his back foot as a Minnesota defender got to him.
“I threw it and just listened for the crowd,” McSorley said.
With the ball in the air, Godwin finally gained separation from Myrick and dove to haul in the pass at the 45-yard line for a 20-yard gain.
“I knew that nobody else would be in that area, so my first instinct was just go get the ball,” Godwin said.
McSorley trusted Godwin to make the play.
“That’s the dude you just fall back on, he’s kind of your security blanket,” McSorley said. “We needed a play to be made. We had a call for him to work one-on-one or work versus zone.”
McSorley then kept the drive moving with his legs on another third-down play.
He stepped up in the pocket and decided to run.
“My first thought was get to the sideline,” McSorley said.
He got out of bounds with 11 seconds left, giving the Nittany Lions time for one play before attempting a field goal.
He couldn’t connect with Godwin in the corner of the end zone.
But he set his team up to win as Tyler Davis hit a 40-yard field goal to tie the game in regulation, and Saquon Barkley got loose for a game-winning 25-yard touchdown run in overtime.