Penn State Prepares For Citrus Bowl

December 31, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. — Whatever happens Tuesday, the Citrus Bowl will mark the end of an era for Penn State.

Trace McSorley will play his final game at quarterback, and the man who perhaps is the favorite to take over for him will watch the game, but not be able to play in it.

Penn State coach James Franklin announced last week that junior Tommy Stevens underwent surgery for an undisclosed injury after the regular season and won’t be available against No. 14 Kentucky. It put a lid on a frustrating season for McSorley’s heir apparent. He missed the first four games with a foot injury, then played sparingly throughout the regular season, never quite rekindling the electricity of the Lion position he made famous in 2017.

While Penn State has been tight-lipped about the nature of his injury, McSorley said he believes the latest setback will actually help Stevens become better in 2019.

“It has been, definitely, a lot of ups and downs for him,” McSorley said. “But, he has had a great mentality throughout it all.

“I think it’s one of those things where people talk about adversity making you stronger. This is one of those things I think will make him better. He’s had to grow as a player without actually having been on the field as much as he would have liked. I’m really excited about how he’s going to come out of this and what he’s going to become after it.”

McSorley and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne both praised Stevens’ attitude throughout the injury issues. McSorley said Stevens has been a coach on the field of sorts when he hasn’t been able to practice, offering him suggestions and taking notes on what he sees during particular plays.

All that is nice, but the coaching staff hopes the fight to get back on the field will teach Stevens a few lessons that could come in handy once the injury issues are in the past.

“There’s going to be adversity along the way for him, and it’s going to benefit him in the long run because the games don’t always go the way you want them to either,” Rahne said. “You’re going to have to fight through that adversity, and how your quarterback reacts is critical.”

Living a dream

Benny Snell came to Kentucky as an unheralded recruit, a three-star prospect who didn’t get a look from his hometown Ohio State Buckeyes, despite growing up dreaming of playing in Columbus.

After the Citrus Bowl, the running back will focus on getting ready for the NFL Draft, the next step for which he has already declared after wrapping up his third consecutive 1,000-yard season and second consecutive 1,300-yard campaign.

He insists he won’t think about the NFL until the final whistle sounds.

“I am living for the moment. I’ve been enjoying every moment I can with my teammates, my coaches. I’m excited for the game,” he said. “We’re in Orlando, I’m having fun and I love the weather. But, my time has come.”

A rare loss

Players from both teams gathered together Sunday to participate in the final scheduled group outings before the game kicks off, attending Orlando amusement park Fun Spot America to enjoy the roller coasters and carousels while getting to spend some time mentoring area children.

McSorley, considered one of the best winners in college football, unfortunately didn’t prove to be a great mentor for one of those children when it came to operating go-karts. He stalled his ride out in the middle of the park’s course, and despite several attempts to get it started again, he found it more difficult than leading a game-winning drive against a Big Ten foe.

Workers had to shut the ride down for several minutes to tend to McSorley’s disabled vehicle.

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dcollins@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9125;

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