No. 14 Penn State Wins at Rutgers, 20-7
McSorley becomes Penn State’s all-time wins leader; Freiermuth scores two touchdowns
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – A pair of touchdowns by freshman tight end Pat Freiermuth and three takeaways on defense led No. 14 Penn State past Rutgers, 20-7, in Big Ten football action Saturday afternoon in HighPoint.com Stadium.
Quarterback Trace McSorley went 17-of-37 passing for 183 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and rushed for 39 yards on seven carries for Penn State (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten). It was the 30th time in his career that he led the Nittany Lions to victory, setting the school record. In addition, he became just third quarterback in Big Ten history to surpass 100 career touchdowns responsible for, joining Drew Brees (Purdue) and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) as the only Big Ten quarterbacks to accomplish the feat.
Wide receiver KJ Hamler was McSorley’s top target with a career-high-tying five catches for 71 yards, while Freiermuth totaled three catches for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
Both Freiermuth touchdowns followed Rutgers (1-10, 0-8 Big Ten) turnovers. Cornerback John Reid and safety Garrett Taylor each tallied interceptions and defensive end Daniel Joseph recovered a fumble that was forced by defensive tackle Robert Windsor. The Nittany Lions totaled 11.0 tackles for loss, led by 2.5 TFL and a sack by defensive end Shareef Miller, and forced three turnovers on downs, including one at the 2-yard line.
Penn State held Rutgers to just 234 yards of total offense, including just 46 yards through the air, as a pair of Rutgers quarterbacks were held to just five completions and 46 yards on 16 attempts. The Lions totaled four sacks with Miller, Windsor, linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive tackle Antonio Shelton recording a sack each. Linebackers Jan Johnson and Koa Farmer led the team with eight tackles each.
Running back Raheem Blackshear led the Scarlet Knights with 102 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. They ran the ball 55 times as a team for 188 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
Penn State never trailed, taking a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a Jake Pinegar 22-yard field goal and a 13-0 lead into halftime following a McSorley to Freiermuth touchdown and a last-second field goal. Early in the fourth quarter, McSorley connected with Freiermuth again, and then Rutgers answered with its lone score of the day, a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Blackshear, for the final margin.
Keys and Difference Makers
Trace McSorley (PSU, QB)
McSorley surpassed 100 career touchdowns responsible for with his second-quarter touchdown pass, and finished the day at 101, becoming the third quarterback in Big Ten history to do so, and his 30th career win broke a tie with Penn State alums Todd Blackledge (1980-82) and Tony Sacca (1988-91) for the program’s all-time QB wins record.
McSorley totaled 222 total yards of offense on 17-of-37 passing for 183 yards, and rushed seven times for 39 yards.
Pat Freiermuth (PSU, TE)
Freiermuth enjoyed his first career multi-touchdown game with two of his three receptions for the day coming in the end zone. He has a reception in his last 10 games. His six receiving touchdowns on the season are the most for a Penn State freshman since Deon Butler had nine in 2005.
Penn State Pass Defense
The Nittany Lions held Rutgers to just 46 yards passing and five completions, while intercepting two passes and registering four sacks. Penn State has held three teams less than 100 yards passing this season (Pitt, Wisconsin and Rutgers), a feat which had not been accomplished since 2014.
Reid’s interception was his second of the season and fifth of his career, while Taylor’s was his third of the season and his career.
Blake Gillikin (PSU, P)
Penn State won the field position battle decisively, averaging drive starts at its own 40 while Rutgers started on average at its own 21. The advantage was thanks in part to Gillikin, who boomed punts of 70 and 67 yards, for the second- and fourth-longest punts of his career, respectively, and averaged 48.7 yards per punt on six kicks. Gillikin is the fourth player in Penn State history with two 70-plus yard punts in his career.
The first quarter favored the defenses, as Penn State held the Scarlet Knights to just 2 yards of offense. Windsor, Miller and Parsons recorded a sack each with Yetur Gross-Matos and Kevin Givens also contributing to stops behind the line.
The Nittany Lions scored on their third offensive possession, driving 71 yards on 13 plays for a 22-yard Pinegar field goal.
Penn State’s defense continued its strong play in the second quarter, forcing a turnover on downs, interceptions on two consecutive drives and a punt.
Reid’s interception at the 50 with 7:37 remaining in the half did not result in a Penn State score, but helped in the field position battle. A punt pinned Rutgers at its own 8, and then Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski threw an interception to Penn State’s Taylor at the 30 on first-and-24 from the 18. Taylor returned it 2 yards to the 28 to setup a Penn State touchdown drive.
McSorley and Freiermuth led Penn State’s touchdown drive. McSorley connected with his tight end for 23 yards, and then after a loss of a yard, found him in the end zone for a 10-0 lead with 2:04 remaining.
The Nittany Lion defense delivered with a three-and-out and gave the Penn State offense one more chance with 1:05 remaining. McSorley completed passes of 26 yards to Hamler and 35 to Jahan Dotson to advance to the 14, and a pass interference penalty in the end zone placed the ball on the 2. Penn State was settled for a 19-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead going into halftime.
Rutgers appeared poised to get back in the game on its first possession of the third quarter, but was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 2 on a failed attempt at the “Philly Special” play.
Isaiah Wharton intercepted a McSorley deep ball at the Rutgers 24, but Penn State regained possession at the Rutgers 46 after Windsor forced a fumble that was recovered by Joseph at the end of the third quarter.
Penn State turned the opportunity into points, as McSorley connected with Freiermuth for an 18-yard touchdown and 20-0 lead with 13:06 remaining.
Rutgers answered with its first score of the day, driving 65 yards on nine plays for a touchdown. Blackshear rushed for 24 yards and Jonathan Hillman added 23 on the ground to key the drive. Blackshear then punched his way into the end zone from 2 yards out on third-and-goal with 9:23 remaining for the game’s final score.
Both teams traded punts and Penn State attempted to run the clock out after taking possession with 6:57 remaining, but Rutgers’ Trevor Morris forced a fumble at the Rutgers 17 with 1:17 remaining and it was recovered by Saquan Hampton for the Scarlet Knights. The Nittany Lions forced four-straight incomplete passes though to regain possession and ice the win.
The Nittany Lions return to action next Saturday for the regular season finale, hosting Maryland for Senior Day in Beaver Stadium. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. on ABC.