UNIVERSITY PARK — Trace McSorley prepared for Penn State’s game against Georgia State with last week’s performance on his mind.
The Nittany Lions quarterback wasn’t happy with how he played during last week’s win over Pitt and focused on settling his feet, finishing his throws and putting the ball in the right spot for his receivers. It paid off Saturday as McSorley completed 18 of 23 passes for 309 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to lead Penn State to a 56-0 win at Beaver Stadium.
“Personally as a player, I didn’t put our team in the best position through my play to win the game,” McSorley said of last week’s effort. “Obviously we were able to come out with the win, but I felt that I didn’t do what I needed to do to really put our team in the best position.”
The quarterback put together his most efficient performance this season Saturday, completing 78 percent of his passes in the team’s blowout win. He connected with backup quarterback Tommy Stevens for Penn State’s first touchdown, found running back Saquon Barkley for another touchdown and then hit wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Brandon Polk for his third and fourth touchdown passes. The quarterback also added a rushing score.
It came one week after he finished 15 for 28 for 164 yards against Pitt.
“I thought Trace definitely threw the ball better,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Step forward: McSorley was expected to tear up the Sun Belt defense Saturday. But it was still a big step forward for the quarterback who showed he was human against Pitt. He wasn’t as relaxed as usual, and that was evident.
This week, that stayed with him. “That was something that was in my mind,” McSorley acknowledged.
But Saturday proved that he finally put that performance behind him.
It showed in the way he found his receivers, the way he read through his progressions and the way he didn’t try to do too much. He didn’t commit any turnovers — and his most memorable pass might’ve been his shortest.
On third-and-12 late in the first quarter, McSorley wound up with an 85-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley, a short pitch-and-catch with the Heisman candidate did most of the work. But that one single play showed a lot.
Tight end Mike Gesicki wasn’t a bad option, but he went through his progressions and felt that Barkley had the potential for more. He then tossed the ball to his running back before the Georgia State defensive end could throw up his hands near the line of scrimmage.
“If nothing’s there, we got to try and find our checkdown,” McSorley said. “When Saquon’s your checkdown usually pretty good things will happen.”
Staying sharp: McSorley stayed sharp throughout the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns by halftime. McSorley connected with Polk for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter and shook hands with Stevens on the sideline after his celebration.
McSorley then hit Stevens for a nine-yard gain on the team’s next drive for his final completion of the night.
“Probably our most complete week that we’ve had this entire year,” McSorley said, referring to the offense. “It was really good to kind of get everyone in their right mindset before we get into conference play, know that is the standard we can work to and now just keep elevating it.”