fiesta bowl champs

For almost two years, two full regular seasons to be exact, he was just the quiet kid with the babyface. A sideline entity that few knew little about. Then along came Trace. Heck, most don’t even realize he was our second-team backup QB as a true freshman in 2014 even though he never saw the gridiron, which brings us to where we are today. That redshirt-preservation is just another example of sheer brilliance on James Franklin’s part.

The real brilliance was bringing him to Happy Valley after originally committing to Vanderbilt. He was ‘just’ a three-star talent looked at as most likely to play safety by all the ‘so-called’ experts in college football. A record-setting high school QB that led his squad to four-straight state championships, winning three of them, but deemed too small to make the cut in college. Then along came Trace.

Thanks to former QB Christian Hackenberg’s fortitude to get up and brush the dirt off after every brutal hit and thanks to an offense that wasn’t quite built yet to blow out opponents, the baby-faced kid from northern VA had little to no opportunity to show off his heart over the course of those first two years. That is until the warrior finally met his match midway through the second quarter of the 2016 Taxslayer Bowl. Then along came Trace.

Down 24-3 and going nowhere fast, our first real glimpse of Trace McSorley was a furious fourth-quarter comeback that fell just one overthrown pass short of being a mission completed in the 24-17 losing effort to Georgia. It may have taken a few series for him to get warmed up, but once he got those juices flowing there was ice running through his veins. A glimpse of things to come indeed and the art of a McSorley-led comeback was born.

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As the story goes, the rest is history. After beating out Tommy Stephens (insert his story same time, same place next summer) for the starting job in the summer of 2016, Trace quickly established himself as one of college football’s best, but there was nothing easy about the way he got there. A thriller in Pittsburgh fell just short and two weeks later in Ann Arbor, Penn State got pummeled by Michigan 49-10. In the aftermath, all he could do was apologize and promise it would never happen again.

Since those two early losses, he has led Penn State to a 20-3 record (those L’s by a grand total of 6 points), thrown for over 7,000 yards and has notched 59 touchdowns passing to date. He’s also added 899 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing to his resume. Some of his production can be attributed to the high-octane offense brought in by the now-departed OC Joe Moorhead but one look back at that first glimpse of Trace down in Jacksonville should tell you all you need to know, just in case there are any butterflies heading into his final year. Ironically, that game and this year’s Fiesta Bowl represent Ricky Rahne’s only games to date in charge of the offense, so consider us in a good position.

Last we saw him, he was busy lighting up a highly-touted Washington Husky D in Arizona and collecting the MVP hardware for his surgical endeavor. This year he’s the grizzled vet, battle-tested and ready to make one last run. He’s a Heisman-candidate and preseason First-Team Big Ten. As a quarterback of course. You know, the position everyone else said he was too small to play. You can measure speed, you can count the reps, and see how high one can jump, but after all these years, science still hasn’t figured out a way to measure someone’s heart. We got our first real glimpse of it down in Jacksonville just after the ball dropped in 2016. When all was lost, along Came Trace, and the Nittany Lions haven’t been the same since!

Eric Herrold was born in State College and has bled Penn State Blue and White ever since. He is currently the proud owner/coordinator of the rapidly growing Facebook fanpage Nittany Nation, as well as a member of Success With Honor, the non-profit charitable organization. Eric currently resides in Richmond, Virginia spreading Penn State cheer and goodwill to all that will listen!

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