STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The one thing you don’t expect to see in a spring football game is the home team’s starting quarterback, who just happens to be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, run around the field for more than a few plays.
But that’s what Trace McSorley did Saturday in the Blue-White game. The fifth-year senior played the first three series and took 29 snaps on a delightfully sunny day at Beaver Stadium before a crowd estimated at 71,000. He threw 14 passes, rushed six times, and led two touchdown drives in the Blue’s 21-10 victory.
That might scare many in the crowd, but McSorley made it out of the Nittany Lions’ 15th and final practice of the spring unscathed. It helped that he had to be only touched on his runs for the play to be blown dead.
McSorley, who accounted for 107 yards passing and 41 on the ground, said he wasn’t surprised he played so much.
“They kind of said it would be a couple of series and it ended up being three,” he said. “It felt pretty good. We were able to put together two good drives, long sustaining drives, which just means we’re not just depending on these big plays, big chunk plays. We’re getting first downs being able to move the ball all the way down the field.
“So I think it’s good to be able to, one, get the confidence in the offense to be able to move the ball like that and, two, get valuable reps for a lot of guys. So I felt good about how today went.”
Head coach James Franklin said McSorley ran a few more plays than planned because backup quarterback Tommy Stevens was not available. Stevens suffered an injury to his foot or ankle during spring practice.
“We also want to be able to evaluate the other offensive players,” Franklin said, “so having Trace in there helps with that. Our guys [on defense] do a really good job of understanding how to practice and stay away from our quarterback, so we’re able to keep our quarterbacks as safe as we possibly can from a practice perspective.”
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer emerged as the game’s offensive star, catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from McSorley on the game’s first possession and a 29-yard scoring strike from backup Sean Clifford with 1 minute, 44 seconds to play. Senior Mark Allen also scored for the Blue on a 1-yard run.
The White squad, made up mostly of second- and third-team players, scored in this intrasquad game for the first time since 2015 on a 34-yard field goal by Carson Landis and Jake Zembiec’s 3-yard TD pass to tight end Joe Arcangelo.
Brooke Fisher, a resident of nearby Bellefonte who has Down syndrome, brought the crowd to its feet with a 30-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter. She is enrolled in Penn State’s LifeLink, a program for special-needs students between the ages of 18 and 21. “On a day like today, where we can take 10 minutes to do something special for a young woman like Brooke, who is awesome, that’s what it’s all about,” said Franklin, who joined his players for hugs and high-fives in the end zone. … Comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who with a little help has been mistaken for Franklin on occasion, spent the day as a guest coach. … Among players who sat out the game were cornerback John Reid (St. Joseph’s Prep), wide receiver Juwan Johnson (Glassboro), and linebacker Jake Cooper (Archbishop Wood). … Highly touted freshman Micah Parsons made his debut as a weakside linebacker and tied for game-high honors with eight tackles. “He’s eager, he’s a hard worker,” defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. “He’s still figuring it out as far as playing linebacker, but there was a lot of progress this spring.”