Penn State’s regular season is in the book, nine wins on the record and one more game to go as the Nittany Lions find out their bowl destination this weekend.
Are fans disappointed by a few missed chances during the 2018 campaign? Sure, but that doesn’t mean the season was without its highlights and impressive plays along the way.
So in no particular order, here are the Top 10 plays of Penn State’s season so far.
To be sure Penn State’s season hasn’t been short on heartbreaking moments or things not going the Nittany Lions’ way, but there are at least two interceptions in the end zone on this list that are the difference between nine wins and seven. Nobody expected this game to be so close, but as both teams have played out their seasons, maybe it’s not such a shock that App State gave Penn State everything it could handle.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but Miles Sanders is very good. In many ways he has been more efficient than Saquon. For perspective, Sanders can rush for more yards than Saquon did in 2017 if he can managed 49 yards in the bowl game. If Sanders has the game of his life and rushes for 274, he’ll pass Saquon’s total with 40-50 fewer carries and without the benefit of a 14th game.
So is he as flashy? Maybe not, but he’s getting the job done, maybe more than he gets credit for.
3. Nice to meet you Mr Hamler
KJ Hamler is another noted, good football player. His season didn’t explode quite the same way it looked like it was going to early on, but he’s still a threat on every play, and this was a fun introduction to an explosive playmaker. This isn’t the last time you’ll see him on this list this season or next.
4. Gesicki was easier to learn how to spell
Mike Gesicki seemed to be the hardest player to replace from a playmaking perspective because he was so athletic and so skilled that replicating that right off the bat was going to be a tough ask. To be sure, Pat Freirmuth isn’t Mike Gesicki, but he sure is good and he sure has been reliable. He’ll be back on this list next year without a doubt.
5. That’s one way to end it
Another big play in the end zone that saved Penn State’s day. This pass never should have been thrown in the first place but that’s not Scott’s fault as he essentially sealed the deal. Iowa would get the ball back but made little of it in the final seconds. Scott has spent his career in and out of the rotation, but he has made the most of his final season in State College. Plays like this go a long way towards making the long wait worth it.
6. Mr Perfect
Ah yes, a quarterback competition. One between a guy who rarely gets to the throw the ball and a guy who rarely plays but happens to have never thrown an incomplete pass. Sean Clifford sure looks good, but so would you in garbage time against Pitt. Even so, a nice first career pass, there are worse ways to get your confidence up and good passes are good passes.
7. At least someone was paying attention
Garrett Taylor got passed over when it comes to postseason honors in the Big Ten, but he has been as reliable as anyone in the conference. This was just another bit of trick-play action from Michigan State and it nearly worked, right up until Taylor broke up the pass. Sure, Penn State still lost this game, but Taylor did his part.
8. And he gone
That boy is fast. KJ Hamler needed to have a big game against Ohio State and he made the most of his catches in both halves. Penn State lost but Hamler proved he belonged on the same stage as the Buckeyes. Hamler will want plenty of catches back this season, but this is one he hauled in and showcased his talents after the catch. And by talents we mean blazing speed.
9. Busted, not broken
Say what you want about some of the games he has lost or passes he might want back, but Trace McSorley is one tough kid. Not long after what looked like a season-ending injury, McSorley is running halfway down the field untouched into the end zone. Never count him out, not until both legs are busted up, and even then it might not be enough to stop him.
10. Of course
When this played happened I just laughed. How can a receiver that has struggled with drops on a unit that has struggled with drops, pull down one of the craziest catches of the entire year? Lord only knows. But jokes aside it was an incredible moment during an incredible game. It didn’t go Penn State’s way, but much like Hamler’s long run, you can’t talk about Penn State’s season and big plays during it, without this catch.