Trace McSorley got his first dose of reality as a college quarterback.

You’re only as good as your last pass. And unfortunately for McSorley, he was really good until that last pass.

McSorley’s interception spoiled Penn State’s comeback attempt vs. Pitt after being seemingly left for dead down three touchdowns.

He doesn’t need to be told about the mistake he made. He knows that the Lions were in field-goal range down three points with 70 seconds to play. He knows that he threw the ball at two safeties who had over-the-top coverage. He knows that it wasn’t the right time to take that kind of a shot.

But with a first-year starter, especially one as fearless as McSorley, that’s the bed Penn State made for itself.

Let’s not take anything away from the job that McSorley did. In the three games that he’s played in his college career, he’s made big throws in two impressive comeback efforts.

The fourth-and-16 conversion he made to keep PSU’s final drive alive showed the poise that we know he has. His ability to find Saquon Barkley — how good is he?! — on a wheel route and recognize the Heisman candidate’s edge was on point.

But this is big-time college football. At Penn State, those mistakes are magnified. His interception wasn’t the reason that Penn State lost. Without McSorley and Barkley, that lackluster defensive effort would’ve opened the floodgates for more criticism of James Franklin.

For what it’s worth, I already had that column fired up and ready to go.


Credit McSorley and PSU for not giving up. That game had “Temple” written all over it, but the Lions avoided disaster. Does it make it any easier to stomach? Not really, but at least McSorley and Barkley gave PSU fans some hope.

McSorley won’t pat himself on the back for his first career 300-yard game. The fact that he completed two-thirds of his passes probably won’t be the takeaway point, either. Those stats shouldn’t be ignored, by the way.

As Barkley’s stock continues to rise, more and more teams are going to load the box and make McSorley beat them with his arm. To his credit, he almost did that. Can you think about how different things would feel if that happened?

McSorley would have C.J. Beathard-like buzz, Lions fans would’ve had bragging rights over Pitt and James Franklin would’ve finally been able to exhale a bit.

RELATED: Penn State without one of best defensive players vs. Pitt

That could’ve happened if DaeSean Hamilton hauled in what should’ve been a go-ahead touchdown. On that deep throw, McSorley was on the money. Hamilton HAS to make that catch. But he didn’t. And as McSorley knows, often times, it all comes back to the quarterback.

This was a learning experience. McSorley’s first rivalry game was as entertaining as it was nerve-racking. By most accounts, he handled it well.

Now the question becomes how he’ll handle that mistake. Will he be timid on deep balls next week? Will he still be calm in late-game situations? We don’t know. Only time will tell.

McSorley’s first dose of reality was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, he’ll have plenty more chances to be the hero Penn State needs.

A mistake like that happens to the best of them.