Player Spotlight: Trace McSorley

Audio/Story posted September 14, 2016 in CommRadio, Sports by Paddy Cotter

After leading his team out of a 21-point deficit against Pittsburgh last Saturday, it seemed like sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley was on the verge of cementing himself into Penn State football folklore.

On 4th & 16 with the game in its final minutes, McSorley dropped back to the Penn State 40 and scanned the field. In the game’s most tense six seconds, McSorley demonstrated patience and poise as he waited for a receiver to break open. Before pressure could reach him, as it had throughout the game, McSorley found DeAndre Thompkins at midfield for a 34-yard gain.

Now, the job was easy. Being down 42-39, the offense could try a few safe plays to get a scoring opportunity. Worst case scenario: Penn State forces overtime with a field goal.

The actual scenario that played out was much more heartbreaking. McSorley saw tight end Mike Gesicki open on a seam route with what appeared to be a clear shot to the end zone. Beneath a collective gasp, the throw overshot Gesicki and landed in the waiting hands of Pittsburgh defensive back Ryan Lewis. Game over. Folklore revoked.

The game felt eerily similar to the Taxslayer Bowl last January against Georgia. Starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg was injured during the game, leaving McSorley with the job of overcoming the same 21-point deficit in which the Nittany Lions had found themselves in.

Some thought the spotlight would be too big for the redshirt-freshman. However, the spotlight had never been too big for McSorley.

At Briar Woods High School in Virginia, McSorley earned the starting quarterback position as a freshman. He led his team to the state championship and beat Broad Run High School, a program that had not lost in three years. McSorley went on to dominate the state, setting multiple passing records and leading his team to three more state championships. His overall high school record was 55-5.

So when head coach James Franklin called on number nine to lead a comeback against the Georgia Bulldogs, there probably was not much doubt that the young dual-threat quarterback could handle it. Although the effort fell a touchdown short of an upset, Penn State fans knew they had found their future.

Trace McSorley plays with a toughness and passion that has not been seen at the position for a while. He runs when the pocket begins to collapse and fights for every yard. On run plays that break downfield, McSorley can be found looking for a defender to block.

He plays with emotion. At the quarterback position, emotion can be a dangerous distraction. However, when that emotion does not disturb a quarterback’s poise, it can elevate an offense’s performance.

The game against Temple is going to have a lot of emotion. The theme of redemption will be amplified by the honoring of Joe Paterno before the game.

Will McSorley wilt under the pressure of carrying the offense and the monumental load of trying to bring Penn State football to former glory? Based on what he has displayed so far, the spotlight won’t be too daunting.


Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email