KeAndre Lambert-Smith Makes Waves In Penn State’s Regular Season Finale
It’s no secret that a quarterback controversy has been brewing in Happy Valley for some time now. But nobody expected it to be between Sean Clifford and wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith.
Lambert-Smith laid out a beauty to a wide-open Theo Johnson, his second touchdown of the game and the first of two that Lambert-Smith would be responsible for in Penn State's 35-16 victory versus Michigan State.
“Clifford came up to me and said… I already have Drew (Allar) on my (butt),” Lambert-Smith said. “I don’t need you too!”
The television shot doesn’t even do the throw justice – but it was a flawlessly floated pass in-person, especially for a wide receiver.
Lambert-Smith finished the season 2-for-2 passing, for 73 yards and one touchdown. He played quarterback in high school, so he’s not too unfamiliar with the role.
“[Theo just told me to lead me], and I led him. It was perfect – a dime,” Lambert-Smith said. “I feel like I’m a quarterback at heart. I was a quarterback in high school, so it felt good to be able to showcase the arm talent.”
He put on display his ability to catch the ball in the game as well, snagging a season-high five catches for 83 yards and one touchdown – a 35-yard catch to slam the door shut on the Spartans.
Lambert-Smith has had a rough season aside from a few games. It got off to a strong start, as he scored a touchdown in the opener, but he’s struggled to with injuries and consistency since.
Versus Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State KLS combined for 11 catches, 199 yards and three touchdowns. In the other six games, he totaled just 10 catches for 66 yards.
He suffered an injury early against Central Michigan and missed the following two games against Northwestern and Michigan, then returned against Ohio State and had a strong outing but reaggravated his injury. Lambert-Smith also missed some time during his freshman season due to an injury.
He was slated to take a leap this season alongside Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley to round out perhaps Clifford’s most-proven wide receiver corps as a college starter, but injuries impacted his ability to stay on the field and find a groove.
It seems like Lambert-Smith has been teasing a breakout season ever since he came in as a freshman with Washington. But it’s better late than never.
Washington made his mark, and as he’s gone down with a season-ending injury himself, Lambert-Smith stepped up this past weekend in his absence. It’s to be determined whether or not Washington will be back in blue and white next year, but Lambert-Smith likely will be and still has tons of time to change the narrative on his collegiate career.
He’s shown an ability to be fast, explosive, a threat after the catch and, of course, throwing the ball as well.
“That wasn’t anything crazy from me… But the opportunity was there and I made it count. I’m grateful,” Lambert-Smith said.
The reserved confidence from the sophomore shows that he knows what he’s capable of if he has a healthy opportunity.
Lambert-Smith ends the regular season with 21 receptions, 265 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, which is a step back from last season. But he saved his best for last and aims to use it as a springboard heading into the bowl game, and next season.
“I feel like it’s a great confidence booster to end the season on a positive note, individually… and the offense in general,” Lambert-Smith said.
Individually, Lambert-Smith has been through a lot. But it put him in a position to help boost his team to a 10-2 record with two big touchdowns, and a chance to build off of it going forward.
“From freshman year to now, everything I went through, the ups and downs, that created me and made me who I am today... the resiliency and the mindset,” Lambert-Smith said. “Everybody goes through things, it’s the adversity that builds character and [I’m proud of where I’m at, but am far from finished].”
Zach Donaldson is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.