Penn State's comeback fell a little short against Kentucky, as they failed to get the ball back with enough time to give Trace McSorley an opportunity to complete the comeback. There is a lot to be discussed, including a late decision to kick instead of go for it on fourth down in the red zone, so let's get to the post game thoughts.
- Let's start with the obvious one. The fourth down call. I have already seen a lot of very definitive takes online about kicking it instead of going for it, but honestly I am OK with the call. There were four minutes plus on the clock when he elected to take the 32-yard field goal and Penn State had it's full compliment of timeouts.The decision is justified, even if personally I would have gone for it. It's a bowl game. If you don't make it, at least you left it all out there and gave one of the better playmakers in Penn State history a shot. However, they didn't and honestly, it's fine. I completely disagree with the notion that it was absolutely the wrong call. With four minutes plus and a subpar offense on the other side, you have to like your odds to get the ball back. It was conservative, and in a bowl game that doesn't matter I don't like it, but it's not the ONLY right decision.
- Phil Galiano deserves a ton of scrutiny. I was probably a little too nice on my halftime thoughts, and I now think a change needs to be made on special teams. Mistakes there led to a 13 point swing with two missed field goals and a return touchdown. That's huge in a three-point loss.
- The future is still bright. Penn State's younger core showed some big flashes today. Micah Parsons led the team in tackles. Jahan Dotson had a huge 3rd down conversion that led to a score. Pat Freiermuth continued his stellar freshman campaign. Justin Shorter had two catches. Sean Clifford came in and struggled a bit, but his throw in the first half was beautiful. Ricky Slade flashed speed and decisiveness.
- Speaking of linebackers, I want to take a moment to talk about the future at that position. Parsons played really, really well today. Cam Brown was the best linebacker on the field for the first half, as he was flying around making plays. That being said, keep your head up Cam, both figuratively and literally. Next year could see two five-star linebackers playing, along with an experienced, athletic senior, and Ellis Brooks in the rotation. LBU will be back in a big way very soon.
- Finally, I wanted to finish with Trace McSorley. I don't know that there is any way to truly capture what kind of impact he has had on the team and program, but what happened in the second half is a great microcosm of him as a player. Early in the third quarter it was reported Trace had a broken foot and would not return. He did, and in a big way. His return is what sparked the comeback that ultimately fell short. All of the records show his talent and ability as a quarterback, but his will to win and leadership is something that I don't know can be replaced. War Daddy, you will truly be missed. Good luck in the NFL.
It's not the ending all of us wanted, but hats off to Kentucky for playing hard and converting when they had opportunities. Let the QB battle begin.