McGovern Shows Versatility

November 25, 2018

McGovern Shows Versatility

STATE COLLEGE — Versatility came in handy Saturday for Lake-Lehman graduate Connor McGovern.

The junior made another position switch, if only temporarily, in Saturday’s 38-3 win over Maryland at Beaver Stadium, starting at center in place of sophomore Michal Menet.

Menet was injured in last week’s win at Rutgers, so redshirt freshman Mike Miranda stepped in at right guard with McGovern making his first start at center since the Fiesta Bowl win over Washington last December.

Penn State rushed for 310 yards and allowed just one sack despite McGovern learning Wednesday he’d step in for the injured Menet.

“I was able to go right back in and felt very comfortable again,” McGovern said. “I think we definitely finished the year strong and can carry it into the bowl game. We took it more to heart. (Offensive line coach Matt) Limegrover just really hit on the point of being dominant this week. We wanted to make sure we could come out and run the ball at will.”

Penn State head coach James Franklin said the offensive line didn’t just play well Saturday, but finished out the season strong with three consecutive dominant performances.

McGovern’s versatility, starting out at tackle, moving to guard in 2016 and playing center all of last season before moving back to right guard this year, helped.

“We were able to run the ball well and protect without having our normal five in there,” he said. “You try to create flexibility inside with our offensive linemen, where our guards can play center and our centers can play guard, and the tackles have some swing-ability there as well. It was great Connor was able to slide in at center, and obviously, Miranda played at a really high level from what I saw.”

One last farewell

Penn State honored 21 seniors who will be leaving the program after the season, and while the biggest ovations from the sparse and drenched crowd were reserved for stars like quarterback Trace McSorley and cornerback Amani Oruwariye, the emotional moments aren’t exclusive to those who claimed most of the spotlight.

For instance, long snapper Kyle Vasey, a Wallenpaupack graduate who earned a scholarship during the summer, had his name announced and was not only greeted by his parents, Bruce and Shelley, but by his younger brother Dan, a walk-on sophomore defensive lineman who took the field in full uniform to congratulate his brother.

Also among the 21 seniors who played his final game at Beaver Stadium was tight end Joe Arcangelo, a former Abington Heights star who joined the program as a walk-on in 2017. He went out with something better than a rose and a handshake from Franklin, though. On Penn State’s last drive, he hauled in a 5-yard catch from backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, the first reception of his career.

Ricky so fine

True freshman Ricky Slade saved his best performance for the last game of the season at Beaver Stadium.

The speedster spelled starter Miles Sanders for his most extensive action of the season, rushing for 64 yards on 11 carries His 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave Penn State a 24-3 lead and was one for the highlight reels. He spun to avoid a tackler near the 5-yard line, then sprinted into the end zone for his first touchdown since Sept. 21 at Illinois.

Slade added a second touchdown rush in the fourth quarter, on a 1-yard carry over left tackle on which he wasn’t touched.

It was a performance that drew attention from Larry Johnson, who had a record-breaking season in 2002 for the Nittany Lions before going on to a successful NFL career with Kansas City.

“True Freshman!?!? Welp I enjoyed my records while they lasted,” Johnson tweeted.

Good news, bad news

There are times Sanders looks like he could head to the NFL after this season. There are times he appears to needs plenty of work.

Sometimes, those times happen on the same play. So it was for the junior running back in the third quarter Saturday. On his last carry of the quarter — which became his last carry of the game, not coincidentally — he did his typical juking of a few defenders, broke the play outside and darted 20 yards up the Penn State sideline. But Maryland cornerback RaVon Davis caught him from behind and swatted the ball away, with safety Antwaine Richardson recovering.

Sanders finished with 128 yards on 14 carries and his fifth 100-yard rushing effort of the season, but that fumble was his fifth of the season, and the fourth one he lost. Sanders has had a history of ball protection issues, as he fumbled four times on 25 carries in 2017, as well.

Nittany notes

Junior Juwan Johnson returned for Penn State after missing the last three games with a leg injury. He had two big catches — a 38-yarder and an 8-yarder for a first down on second-and-5 — for the Nittany Lions on their fourth-quarter scoring drive that was capped by tight end Pat Freiermuth’s 5-yard touchdown catch. ... Yetur Gross-Matos had 3½ tackles for loss on Saturday, giving him 20 on the season. He became just the 11th player in program history to register 20 TFLs in a season. ... Penn State allowed just 20 points in its last three games of the regular season. The last time it allowed fewer was in 1985, when it allowed a combined 16 against Cincinnati (10), Notre Dame (6) and Pittsburgh (0).

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