Uneven but undaunted: Ex-Penn State star Trace McSorley has moments of success with Ravens

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley, left, scrambles as Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Taven Bryan (90) chases him during the first half of an NFL football preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Former Penn State star Trace McSorley may have made mistakes in his NFL debut Thursday night but, for a player who was often told he wasn’t a pro quarterback, he had plenty of told-you-so moments.

McSorley’s main highlight in the Baltimore Ravens’ first preseason game, a 29-0 win over Jacksonville, came with 11 seconds remaining in the first half and had Twitter buzzing. After tossing a back-shoulder 24-yard completion to wideout Miles Boykin, McSorley followed it up with a perfectly placed 17-yard touchdown to Boykin in the corner of the end zone.

Granted, it was called back due to holding on the backup left tackle. But that didn’t make the play any less impressive, especially considering the way the 6-foot rookie bounced back after throwing his first and only interception on the previous drive.

“I felt good. It was a real good learning experience,” McSorley told the new outlet Cecil Whig. “I made a few throws, missed a couple. It’s one of those things where you look at the tape, really learn from and take strides on. There’s going to be a lot for us to learn, so I’m looking forward to getting into the tape and being able to take that, take the coaching from there and be able to improve in the next week.”

McSorley’s stat line wasn’t great — 9 of 22 for 85 yards and an interception — but his production didn’t reflect his effort, or the way he flashed. He made a few nice scrambles, amassing 16 rushing yards on three carries, and wasn’t sacked once.

For comparison’s sake, in Lamar Jackson’s preseason debut last season, the Baltimore starter finished 4 of 10 for 33 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had eight runs for 25 yards and was sacked three times.

“He did great. I was telling him on the sideline; I was pumped,” Jackson said, referring to McSorley during a postgame press conference. “He did pretty good. He did better than I did in my first game.”

Added head coach John Harbaugh: “I thought Trace played well and with a lot of poise.”

McSorley played for about half of the game, taking over early in the second quarter and leaving early in the fourth. He led the Ravens on five drives, guiding them to three field goals.

He opened the second half on an 11-play, 71-yard scoring drive. And he showed his penchant for clutch play with a critical 12-yard completion on third-and-12 to keep the drive alive.

But it was the touchdown that got called back early in the game that really defined McSorley’s night.

“It was just a go route. Trace had a great ball. A great ball,” Boykin told Cecil Whig. “He put it in the area where I was able to catch it and make a play on it.”

McSorley is currently the healthy No. 2 on Baltimore’s depth chart, behind Jackson. Robert Griffin III was initially projected to be the backup, but he reportedly suffered a hairline fracture in his right thumb in late July. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, he’s expected to be out for between 4-8 weeks.

So, until Griffin returns, McSorley — a sixth-round pick — will be the backup. And, if he’s called upon in real game action, he’ll have to be ready and avoid mistakes he committed Thursday night, such as the second-quarter interception where he locked on to a receiver during an all-out blitz and threw inside.

“I think that’s kind of football,” McSorley told Cecil Whig. “Not everything’s going to go your way. You have to be able to bounce back and focus on the next one. Twenty-five seconds later they’re re-spotting and you have to get the next snap off. That’s part of the game.

“There’s going to be some you missed. Obviously, you want to learn from them. That’s something we’ll be able to big time from this. Coach Harbaugh talks about it. Just taking in stride from this game to the next game.”

McSorley graduated from Penn State with virtually every meaningful career record: wins (31), passing yards (9,899) and passing touchdowns (77) among them. Still, many interested colleges wanted to put him on defense after high school. And at least one NFL team asked him to work out at safety in the Combine.

McSorley declined. He said he was a quarterback.

And on Thursday night, despite the uneven play, it was pretty clear he was in the right.