UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Trace McSorley accounted for four Penn State touchdowns in the first half of a 63-10 victory over Kent State Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
It was a record-setting day for the redshirt senior as he became PSU’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, surpassing Daryll Clark’s total of 22. McSorley finished with three rushing touchdowns on the day giving him 24 for his career.
Passing touchdowns bookended the three quarters of action McSorley saw against the Golden Flashes. Wideout DeAndre Thompkins caught a 40-yard throw from McSorley to put the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard first, while Brandon Polk hauled in a 41-yard dime of his own to put Penn State up 49-10.
“We found a way to get a win against a good opponent here at home,” head coach James Franklin said afterward.
Although McSorley had a hand in five of the nine touchdowns, seven different Nittany Lions found their way onto the scoresheet as Penn State racked up 643 yards of total offense.
Every running back not named Miles Sanders found the end zone in the second half with Mark Allen scoring from seven yards out with just over 10 minutes left in the third before freshman running back Ricky Slade found it from two yards out on the ensuing drive. Running back Johnathan Thomas also got into the end zone with a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.
Though Sanders failed to get into the end zone, he still finished with 114 yards from scrimmage (84 rushing and 30 receiving).
Thompkins’ 101-yard game was exactly the type of performance needed from the redshirt senior who struggled with drops the past two weeks.
“DeAndre Thompkins, who we have all the confidence in the world in, he runs down the field, lays out, completely vertical, makes a fingertip catch in the back of the end zone,” Franklin said. “Huge play. I’m so happy for him.”
How dominant was Penn State offensively? Backup QB Sean Clifford set a program record with a 95-yard touchdown pass to freshman Daniel George in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation point on the Lions’ third victory of the young season.
While Penn State’s offense has enjoyed success against Appalachian State, Pitt and now Kent State, there’s still room to improve as they begin conference play at Illinois next week.
“That’s a really good thing, I think, ” McSorley said. “For one, the feeling you’re never getting complacent you’re always feeling like you can do better and there’s areas for improvement. I think that’s the mark of a good team and a good offense.”
THE GAME BALLS
My top three performers:
1. Trace McSorley
Penn State quarterback
McSorley went 11-for-22 with 229 yards and two touchdowns through the air while also rushing for 54 yards and three touchdowns in his three quarters under center.
2. DeAndre Thompkins
Penn State wide receiver
Thompkins caught his first pass of the season, a 40-yarder from McSorley to put the Nittany Lions on the board in the first quarter. The redshirt senior went on to pull in three more receptions for 101 yards, becoming the 31st player in program history to have over a 1,000 receiving yards in a career.
3. Shareef Miller/Jayson Oweh
Penn State defensive ends
The ends accounted for six total tackles, five which were for a loss and four that went for sacks.
Defensively, Penn State had its most impressive performance of the season against the Golden Flashes and it was Shareef Miller leading the way.
The defensive end accounted for two of the six sacks the Nittany Lions accumulated with Jayson Oweh recording two more. If it seems like this isn’t the first time Miller had a big game against Kent State, that’s because it isn’t. Miller got the first two sacks of his career against Kent in 2016.
“It’s kind of funny because I got two sacks in the second half just how it was my freshman year,” he said.
Collectively, the defense has shown steady improvement after giving up 28 fourth-quarter points to Appalachian State in the season opener. Since then, Penn State has yet to give up a second-half point and has only given up a total of three points outside of the first quarter.
The Nittany Lions surrendered just 221 yards of offense to a Kent team that had averaged 269 rushing yards entering Saturday. Kent State was held to only 41 yards on the ground while throwing for 180 yards.
It will take a group effort for the Nittany Lions to continue performances like Saturday’s into conference play. The defense has gained plenty of experience the past two weeks with underclassmen earning quality playing time in yet another lopsided victory.
Penn State still can’t seem to get out of its own way when it comes to making mistakes. Even in a blowout, the mistakes were costly.
Three — THREE! — offsides penalties on the first drive of the game led to the one and only Golden Flashes touchdown.
On the offensive side, an uncharacteristic McSorley interception resulted in a short field for Kent State which ultimately had to settle for a field goal. The Penn State offense also had three touchdowns called back due to penalties.
“That’s something that’s kind of plagued us the last two weeks, penalties taking back big plays,” McSorley said. “In the moment, it’s just moving on to the next play. At that point there’s nothing you can really do about it. It’s just moving on to the next play.”
Without those penalties and the interception, there’s a high probability that the Penn State defense pitches a shut out. The small mistakes might not have affected Saturday’s outcome but, against better competition in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions will need to clean it up.
McSorley has a knack for throwing passes that look like they’re overthrown and then poof, out of nowhere, a Penn State receiver leaps and grabs the ball before it hits the ground. Case in point.
Hi, my name is Trace McSorley and I hit dingers. pic.twitter.com/5XvLfGLhSB
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 15, 2018
Thompkins’ ability to highpoint balls — and the subsequent three passes he caught– helped him springboard away from the first two games where he experienced issues holding on to the football. With a passing attack that includes McSorley’s accuracy, Thompkins speed and hands and Hamler’s overall skill, the offense is powerful even without Juwan Johnson being a major factor.
Following their touchdown, the Golden Flashes came out and went for an onside kick. The result, as you can see below, was a success.
Great onside kick attempt by Kent State, but did they touch it before 10 yards? https://t.co/jwNcdoXQI1
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 15, 2018
It was a gutsy play call but, alas, did not quite work for Kent State as it went three-and-out on their ensuing possession. The decision to go with an onside kick at that juncture was a bold move by Golden Flashes coach Sean Lewis. Had it worked, this game could’ve been much different.
THE OTHER SIDE
Kent State came out firing against Penn State and put together an impressive first drive which resulted in their lone TD.
Quarterback Woody Barrett marched the Golden Flashes downfield and took advantage of costly third-down penalties by the Nittany Lions on their way to the end zone. An offside penalty by Penn State on fourth down gave Kent State the extra play it needed as Barrett used the extended drive to his advantage.
Barrett had the offense on the Penn State 47 when the Nittany Lions jumped offside for the third time on the opening drive. The end result was a laser that found the hands of Mike Carrigan and ultimately, the end zone as Kent State tied the game early.
Th opening drive was one of only four possessions the Golden Flashes would take across midfield.
THE INJURY UPDATE
• Tommy Stevens, quarterback, did not see the field during the blow out on Saturday thanks to an injury that’s held him out of the previous two games. The silver lining for Stevens is that he took part in pregame warmups, something he hasn’t done the past two weeks.
• John Reid, cornerback, was held out with an undisclosed injury, He, too, was seen participating in pregame warmups, but did not see any game action.
• Shane Simmons, defensive tackle, missed his third straight game due to an injury sustained in training camp. It’s not known when he’ll be able to return.
Penn State will hit the road for a rare Friday night game when they play at Illinois next week. The game will kickoff at 9 p.m ET from Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The game will be shown on FS1.
Visit our Penn State team page for everything from this game.