Tuesday represented the end of an era: It was the last time an opposing Big Ten coach previewed a game against Trace McSorley. From Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, the compliments made about Penn State’s quarterback have been endless — and they didn’t stop with Maryland interim coach Matt Canada.
“Great respect for him,” Canada told reporters Tuesday. “When you talk about the quarterback position, he is a winner. He finds a way to win. He’s done a tremendous job his entire career.”
Canada — who’s coaching in-place of the fired D.J. Durkin — saw McSorley operate first-hand before his time at Maryland. Canada was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator in 2016, when McSorley completed 24 of 35 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. Last season, Canada was LSU’s offensive coordinator, but admitted that he watched McSorley from afar and was impressed.
This year, Canada has noticed McSorley’s increased role in Penn State’s running game. The fifth-year senior eclipsed 90 rushing yards against Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois, and his nine rushing touchdowns is tied with Miles Sanders for the team lead.
“I think they’re doing a great job utilizing his talents,” Canada continued. “He continues to find a way to get the first down that he needs. He finds a way to get the touchdown he needs. And he finds a way to win the game when they need him.
“Offensively, it starts with him.”
Penn State’s front
When asked about the Nittany Lions’ strengths, Canada gave props to Penn State’s pass-rushers.
“I think their front is stout,” the playcaller said. “They create a lot of havoc and a lot of negative plays. We have to find a way to not let that happen, which will be a tremendous challenge.”
The Terps will definitely have their hands full. Shareef Miller has 4.5 tackles for loss in the last two games, while Yetur Gross-Matos (33 tackles, six sacks in last five weeks) was recently named to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s top defensive end.
Defensive tackles Kevin Givens and Robert Windsor are coming on, too, combining for 5.5 TFLs in wins over Rutgers and Wisconsin.
Canada said “it’s looking like” running back Ty Johnson will play on Saturday — which would be a boost to an already explosive rushing attack.
Johnson did not play against Ohio State due to an undisclosed injury. In his place, freshman Anthony McFarland went off for 298 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. A week before, McFarland had 210 yards on the ground against Indiana.
So yeah, the Terps are getting it done in the run game. But they’d welcome back Johnson with open arms. The senior had more rushes of 30 yards or more last year than Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Washington’s Myles Gaskins and LSU’s Derrius Guice and also contributes as a returner.