Quarterback Tommy Stevens hasn’t started a game through nearly four full seasons at Penn State, but he is among the most recognizable Nittany Lions players. The primary backup to Trace McSorley since 2016, Stevens plays a versatile role known as the “Lion” and was the subject of transfer speculation last offseason, though he ultimately elected to remain on campus.
The redshirt junior has accounted for 14 total touchdowns in his collegiate career, producing points as a passer, runner and receiver.
“Tommy is a playmaker, he’s a difference-maker,” McSorley said earlier this season.
Stevens was sidelined the first four games of 2018 due to an undisclosed medical issue that placed him in a walking boot midway through preseason camp. He’s primarily seen action as the Lion, occasionally joining McSorley in the backfield or lining up outside.
In each of the last two contests, however, Stevens was asked to relieve McSorley at quarterback.
The third-year starter suffered an apparent right knee injury during the second quarter of an Oct. 27 game against Iowa. Stevens helped Penn State post 10 points while on the field in a victory over the Hawkeyes before McSorley returned after halftime.
Last Saturday, though McSorley’s physical ailment certainly warranted attention, circumstances were different when Stevens took over at quarterback with Penn State trailing 21-0 late in the third quarter.
“Just coaches’ decisions,” McSorley said. “I think they wanted to try to get a spark with Tommy running the ball… get some sort of spark, some sort of energy into our sideline, into our team. Tommy — the type of player he is — he’s able to do that, kinda create that spark.”
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said afterward he “probably could have made the change a little bit earlier”. Two plays later, Stevens threw a pick-six interception that essentially hammered home the final nail in Penn State’s coffin at The Big House.
McSorley would return against the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense… twice. First, for the final play of third-quarter action when Michigan led 28-0. Then, with less than 10 minutes remaining in a 35-0 game following his visit to the sideline medical tent in between quarters.
Later, Stevens prevented Penn State’s first shutout loss since since 2001 when he scored on an eight-yard run with less than two minutes left.
Following a 42-7 defeat, Penn State faces significant questions. That includes the status of its quarterback situation and a struggling offensive attack.
Stevens provided candid thoughts on these key topics, and more, during a Wednesday afternoon media session. Here’s a recap of what stood out from the discussion.