McSorley seeks record as No. 14 Penn State visits Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Trace McSorley can become the winningest quarterback in Penn State history when the No. 14 Nittany Lions take on Rutgers on Saturday at HighPoint.com Stadium.
With a win, McSorley will have recorded 30 victories in his illustrious career at Happy Valley.
"Trace is a great player," Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. "He's a tremendous quarterback. He can beat you with his feet and beat you with his arm. Just spent the last five, six hours watching film of him, and he's a competitor.
"I don't know if it's necessarily anything that a defense is doing to slow him down, because he's still got a lot of production. He's still very dangerous. It's a different team than they had last year. The pieces around him are different, but he's still a great player. He's fun to watch."
Penn State (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) clinched its 14th consecutive winning season with a victory last week over Wisconsin. Running back Miles Sanders led Penn State offensively with 159 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while the defense shined with five sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Sanders is the 26th Nittany Lion to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and one of 18 in FBS so far this season. The Nittany Lions continued their red zone efficiency, scoring on all three trips inside the 20 against Wisconsin to improve to 38 for 40 on the season with 33 touchdowns.
Penn State sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (1.6 per game) and is third in the conference in sacks (0.80 per game). GrossMatos has made 28 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks in the last four weeks after making 17 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks the previous six weeks.
Freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was 8-of-19 for Rutgers (1-9, 0-7 Big Ten) in the 42-7 loss to Michigan, where freshman Isaih Pacheco added another notch to his rookie belt. He ran for 142 yards, 80 of them for a touchdown, and the Knights ran for 193 -- the most yards allowed by Michigan this season.
Pacheco, who also completed a 19-yard pass out of the Wildcat, and Raheem Blackshear have developed into a potent 1-2 punch for the Rutgers offense.
The Scarlet Knights have done well preventing negative yardage plays, ranking second in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (1.20) and tackles for loss allowed (4.20) per game. Rutgers boasts one of the nation's strongest kickoff return defenses, allowing 15.94 yards per return to rank second in the Big Ten and ninth in FBS. Ball security is a strength for Rutgers with only five fumbles lost all season. The total ranks third in the Big Ten and 29th in FBS.
Saquan Hampton ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 1.2 passes defended per game, while Trevor Morris ranks fourth in the league with 9.1 tackles per game.
Rutgers has been outscored by 156 points in its Big Ten games this season. The Scarlet Knights have dropped nine straight since their opening week 35-7 victory over Texas State. The Scarlet Knights are in last place in the country with 14.5 points per game and have been held to a touchdown or fewer three times.
"I think our focus is to just try to keep playing hard every week," Penn state guard Steven Gonzalez said. "We've got to treat them (Rutgers) like any other opponent and they're just as tough and physical as the other teams and they're going to play hard."
Penn State has won 26 of 28 versus Rutgers, winning the last 11 games (since 1988) of a series that started in 1918. Rutgers took a 6-0 lead at Penn State last year but the Nittany Lions wound up with a 35-6 victory.
"Protection, we've got to be better. And drops we've got to be better. I think once we can get those two things going, I think it's going to give our offense a chance to really take the next step." Penn State coach James Franklin said.