Penn State's passing game in the season's first two weeks wasn't as sharp as the team's fans are accustomed to seeing. As is his nature, Trace McSorley pointed the finger directly at himself for the attack being "a little bit off."
"A lot of it I put on myself not being accurate, not putting it in the right spots, not putting it where it needs to be for those guys to be able to make plays," the fifth-year senior quarterback said. "I need to give these guys better opportunities to be able to catch the ball and do something with it. I think that's the biggest part … me being more accurate and helping our receivers out and give them more catchable balls at certain times."
A preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, McSorley did not put up eye-popping numbers in wins over Appalachian State and Pittsburgh. He is 92nd in FBS in pass efficiency, having completed 52.3 percent of his passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns. He is 64th in total offense with a 231.5-yard average.
He has produced, however. He has accounted for half of the 11th-ranked Nittany Lions' 12 offensive touchdowns – three running, three passing – and the team is averaging 48 points. More important to head coach James Franklin, McSorley has yet to throw an interception.
While he conceded the rainy and windy conditions in Pittsburgh made passing "a little bit difficult," he wouldn't make postgame excuses after going 14 for 30 for 145 yards, saying, "That's football. You've got to deal with the conditions."
McSorley expects the passing game to be a little more precise Saturday when the Nittany Lions host Kent State.
"We know it's not something that's going to be fixed overnight, but we're working hard," he said. "We'll continue to focus on our details and have a sense of urgency in everything we're doing … and just keep improving day by day."
McSorley is in his third season as a starter in Penn State's no-huddle offense, which has made a smooth transition after a change in offensive coordinators from Joe Moorhead to Ricky Rahne. McSorley said one key similarity is maintaining an aggressive mentality, which continues thanks to the play of an improved offensive line.
"It's establishing a run game and really starting to take over at the line of scrimmage," he said. "We feel like we have an advantage up front in a lot of games that we're going into. We trust those guys. We're kind of leaning on them a little bit, but they've taken that role and ran with it."
McSorley also said the offense needs to make more explosive plays, defined by Franklin as a run of 15 yards or more or a pass completion of at least 25 yards. Redshirt freshman wide receiver K.J. Hamler has been a catalyst there with two touchdowns receiving and one rushing.
However, two returning starters at wide receiver have struggled early. Juwan Johnson leads the Lions with eight receptions but has had three drops. DeAndre Thompkins has yet to catch his first pass in 2018.