ORLANDO — Although Nick Scott might have expected Trace McSorley to re-enter the Citrus Bowl against Kentucky, even with a suspected broken right foot, Scott seemed to have problems believing that McSorley would actually come back.
“As a friend I’m looking at Trace like, ‘Dude what are you doing? You’ve got a long future ahead of you,’ ” Scott, a safety and co-captain, said Tuesday after the Nittany Lions’ comeback came up short in a 27-24 loss to Kentucky.
“Being hurt like that and being able to go back in and still play and still run the ball and lead our team back to a competitive position — upmost respect.”
McSorley continued to build upon his legacy in his final game in a Penn State uniform, bringing the Nittany Lions back from a 27-7 deficit with 17 fourth-quarter points. But the Lions couldn’t get the ball back.
McSorley accounted for 321 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, two through the air and the other he ran in himself. However, coming out of halftime the chances of McSorley returning to the game were slim after it was reported that the fifth-year senior had broken his foot.
McSorley said after the game that he thinks he injured his foot in a non-contact situation in the second quarter. The nature of the injury was not disclosed after the game.
“Obviously, Trace was experiencing some discomfort,” coach James Franklin said. “The doctors felt like he could go, but it really just came down to Trace.”
At the beginning of the second half, backup quarterback Sean Clifford was in for McSorley, who was seen on the sideline limping and attempting to jog. But Clifford played only one series, and McSorley returned to the game midway through the third quarter.
“For me, my personality, I wasn’t gonna go out. They would’ve had to take off my pads for me,” McSorley said. “I was gonna be playing.”
McSorley came back into the game and got the team to within three points. Scott knew that would be the case.
“I think I said earlier in the season that you would have to kill him to keep him off the field,” Scott said. “That’s the type of guy he is and I’m just super proud of him.”
McSorley finished his last game having completed 17 of 33 passes for 246 yards and rushing for a team-high 75 yards in 19 carries, counting the six times he was sacked by the Wildcats.
It was a courageous performance by McSorley, one that prompted redshirt junior safety Garrett Taylor to say that one day he would tell his kids about Penn State’s record-shattering quarterback.