When you open the season with a shutout victory, there are plenty of candidates for an MVP award. Saturday's 52-0 win over Akron was no exception, as evidenced by the RLR staff's votes for the best Nittany Lion Performance.
Nick Polak - Trace McSorley. As phenomenal as Saquon Barkley was (with just 14 carries!?), this game showcased what we love about McSorley. He showed off his accuracy, his pocket presence, and decision-making in this one en route to a cool 280 yards passing and 48 more rushing, as well as 3 total touchdowns. Joe Moorhead showed how confident he is in his signal caller with an opening drive that included 0 carries for his All-American running back. The dual-threat stud is just as important to this team as ever.
Mike Treb - Juwan Johnson flashed the tantalizing skills we've been hearing about all off-season. Speed, power, fluid movement, attacking the ball. Johnson did it all in his first career start. No touchdowns, but no matter. Johnson showed he can ascend to the No. 1 WR threat for a team with tons of options on offense. That's impressive.
Craig Fritz - Trace McSorley. The junior QB put the full arsenal of the Penn State offense on display, getting the ball to eight different receivers and moving the chains with his legs when necessary. It was just a taste of what the Lions offense can look like when it's clicking.
Matt de Bear - Trace McSorley. Barkley's phenomenal performance was big, but it was his backfield mate that really made things go against the Zips. He was efficient, accurate, and could have had 300-plus yards and another score or two if not for a couple of drops. With a pair of Heisman candidates running Joe Moorhead's offense, the Lions are going to be tough to slow down this season.
Len Damico - Saquon Barkley. He had just 17 touches against the Zips, but when you’re this good, that’s all you need. His 226 yards from scrimmage led everyone, and we got to see the power, speed, elusiveness and just plain absurdity we’ve come to know and love.
Bill DiFilippo - Saquon Barkley. Hey had 226 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns despite touching the ball 17 times. Those aren’t Reggie Bush numbers, but they sure are close.
Kevin Fay - Trace McSorley. Going back and rewatching the game his decision making was nearly flawless. He moved around in the pocket well and made great RPO (run-pass option) decisions. It helped that his receivers were wide open all day and he had years to throw, but he was excellent none the less. He showed once again that Barkley isn't the only person you need to stop to get this offense off the field.
John Morgan - Saquon Barkley - This was a close call this week. McSorley played a great game, but the interception and a few passes that just missed (picky, I know) gives Barkley an edge. Barkley's long run and touchdown before the half are things we're starting to take for granted, but he's a generational talent. The topper was his first down catch that appeared to be short of a first down, but he did the thing that only he can do. 226 yards on 17 touches are video game numbers and though Akron came in with a plan to stop him, it didn't matter.
Dan Smith - Ryan Buchholz - The most important thing in games like these is getting a feel for your depth. Shareef Miller's first quarter injury put this into focus. Buchholz, a tweener just a year ago, was the playmaker on defense against Akron. That standout performance, and what it says about the depth and talent on this roster, is the most valuable thing from that game.