Tommy Stevens shines at QB during Penn State's Blue-White Game

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Tommy Stevens shines at QB during Penn State's Blue-White Game

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State's Blue-White Game seldom surprises. OK, just about never.

It is a nice little exercise to cap spring practice. The stars mostly sit. The subs mostly shine. The plays are vanilla, the final score forgettable. As long as the lads avoid serious injury, the coaches are happy.

Saturday's game didn’t offer any revelations, either.

It did offer this reminder, however: Tommy Stevens can play. 

He is the backup quarterback to Trace McSorley, who excelled last season and is on the early Heisman watchlists this year. Yet Stevens, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall, continues to offer evidence that the Lions would scarcely skip a beat if he had to play (always a possibility, given the punishment McSorley tends to take).

On Saturday Stevens elevated a drab affair to palatability by going 17-for-24 for 216 yards and three touchdowns while playing a half in relief of McSorley, as the Blue beat the White, 26-0.

The asterisks, of course, are many. Stevens was facing overmatched backups, and the quarterbacks were not allowed to be touched (though Philadelphia native Shareef Miller, amid a two-sack day, accidentally leveled reserve QB Billy Fessler with a blindside rush in the first half, on a play where he appeared to be pushed from behind).

All that taken into account, Stevens looked confident and sure of himself, checking down to running back Andre Robinson for a nine-yard touchdown in the third quarter and firing darts to Brandon Polk and Juwan Johnson for respective TDs covering 31 and 15 yards in the fourth.

"What you (media) guys are starting to see more of, we've been seeing in practice," coach James Franklin said. "I think we've got two quarterbacks that we can win with, and you have to have that."

The Langhorne native has been saying that for a while now. He said it heading into last year – that there was a true competition between Stevens and McSorley for the No. 1 job, even though McSorley had seen game action in 2015 and Stevens had not.

Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead met individually with the two quarterbacks shortly before last season and informed them of their decision. Then McSorley led the Lions to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth.

The 6-4, 224-pound Stevens appeared in seven games and actually finished as the team's third-leading rusher, with 198 yards on 21 attempts (9.4 a pop). He also scored twice but tried just three passes, completing two.

Franklin nonetheless maintained this was a plug-and-play situation, that he would have been comfortable putting Stevens out there at any moment. And Stevens, to his credit, never sulked.

"I just try to come to work, prepare myself and just be ready for an opportunity when it shows up," he said.

That's not an easy role to accept. Stevens, an Indianapolis native, had been a finalist for the Gatorade Player of the Year in his home state his final high school season (2014). Nobody goes anywhere expecting to sit.

"As you might imagine, it's tough at times," he said, "but at the same time, I try not to make this about me. I don't want it to be about me. It's just coming in to do my job, help this team win – just do whatever I can."

Anything and everything.

"Obviously you didn't see a whole lot of me (last) season," he said, "but some of the guys that were running with the (second string) at the beginning of the season then moved up and took starting roles, so I took pride in trying to get those guys prepared because it's not just me that’s got to be prepared to step in."

His spring has been such that he shared the Frank Patrick Total Commitment Award with McSorley and backup running back Josh McPhearson. Everybody realizes what Stevens has been asked to do, and what he might yet be asked to do.

The examples of backups coming to the fore at other schools are many. Just three years ago, Ohio State won a national championship with its third-stringer, Cardale Jones.

Franklin, for his part, fretted about who might fill the No. 3 role for the Lions this season, as Fessler is locked in a battle with Jake Zembiec and walk-on Michael Shuster.

"I think you really need three," the coach said. "I think we're short."

Not for long. One highly regarded recruit, Sean Clifford, will arrive this summer. An even more highly regarded prospect, Justin Fields, is committed for 2018.

But for now, there is McSorley, and there is Stevens. 

The latter committed to Indiana in January 2014, then flipped to PSU 10 months later when the Lions lost another QB recruit, Brandon Wimbush, to Notre Dame.

Stevens enrolled early, redshirted, then got a taste of things in ‘16. And now he and McSorley appear virtually interchangeable.

"I had to be disciplined (last year)," Stevens said. "I had to go to work every day, be prepared because you never know. You never know what's going to happen."

That still holds true.

Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

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Penn State commit arrested for armed robbery of Wawa

This post appeared on College Football Talk on Saturday

Or will that be former Penn State recruit?

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Isheem Young was one of three individuals arrested Friday in connection with the armed robbery of a Wawa convenience store in South Philadelphia this past summer. One of the two alleged accomplices is Young’s brother, the manager of the store that was robbed, while the other an unnamed getaway driver.

The Inquirer reports that the 18-year-old Young is facing charges of robbery, conspiracy, firearms violations and related offenses. He is currently being held in lieu of a $150,000 bond.

It’s alleged that Young and his partners in crime made off with $13,600 in cash from the store’s safe. A police report stated that Young entered the store armed with a black revolver and committed the robbery.

Young committed to play his college football at Penn State in mid-July; two weeks later is when he allegedly committed the crime. He was 17 years old when the incident happened.

A four-star 2018 recruit, he’s rated as the No. 12 safety in the country, the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Pennsylvania and the No. 151 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

The new early-signing period for college football, incidentally, kicks off in less than three weeks.

Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

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Penn State can't get by Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The last 48 hours weren't easy for the Wisconsin Badgers who had all day Sunday plus a long flight into Happy Valley on Monday to stew over their worst home loss in nearly a decade.

Penn State nearly extended that misery, but a potential go-ahead 3-pointer by Tony Carr bounced off the rim with two seconds to play and the Badgers held on for a 64-63 win.

"It's nice to see a bounce back and look like a Wisconsin team should look," Badgers coach Greg Gard said.

Khalil Iverson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, Nate Reuvers added 11 points and Ethan Happ grabbed 10 rebounds for the Badgers (4-5, 1-1 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game losing streak.

Mike Watkins scored a career-high 22 points for the Nittany Lions (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) who battled back from a 17-point deficit with 9:40 to play. Carr added 16 points and Shep Garner made 13 for the Nittany Lions who were trying for their first 2-0 start in conference play since 2007.

Penn State played its third game, and first at home, in six days and struggled to shoot the ball for most of the night. The Nittany Lions made just 9 of 26 field goals in the first half, trailed 31-25 at halftime and were just 3-for-21 over the final 1:50 of the first and the first 10 minutes of the second.

"We dug a little deeper because we looked very sluggish in the first half," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.

The Badgers led 51-36 with 9:40 to play, but Garner drained back-to-back jumpers shortly thereafter to spark a 21-9 run that cut Wisconsin's lead to 60-57 with 1:53 left.

A pair of Garner free throws with less than a minute to play made it a one-point game before the teams traded free throws over the final 43 seconds. D'Mitrik Trice closed it out at the line on 4-of-4 shooting for the Badgers.

"I knew we'd have to be really dialed-in and gritty and persevere," Gard said. "I expected the whole game to be like the last four minutes and fortunately we were able to make enough plays and get enough stops to hang on."

Built Ford tough
Carr got his shot after forward Aleem Ford bounced the game's final free throw off the rim on the other end of the floor. He didn't get another chance thanks in part to Ford's hustle to get back on defense.

When Carr's shot rang off the rim, it took a bounce toward a Penn State player in the corner. Ford grabbed hold of the ball to force a jump ball and prevent the Nittany Lions from getting any kind of chance.

Ford's late recovery came in the absence of usual post presences Happ and Davison, who both had fouled out.

"He really hustled for that loose ball," Gard said. "There were a lot of winning plays, so to speak that were made. "We need to make better decisions down the stretch so that it doesn't get to that point."

Trusting Carr
Chambers had no issue with Carr, who was just 5-for-22 from the field, pulling up for the final 3-pointer even though Penn State's crafty point guard might've had room toward the hoop.

The clock was ticking and Chambers trusts his leading scorer who entered the game with 20.6 points per game, 39 assists and 19-for-32 from 3-point range.

"Whatever Tony thought," Chambers said. "I'm not in his vision. I'm on the sideline. I don't know what he saw but he's a heck of a player and he makes really good decisions. So I'm going to trust that decision."

Tough stats to swallow
Wisconsin's bench chipped in 25 points to Penn State's one.

Meanwhile, of Penn State's 29 misses, 11 were layups that didn't fall.

The big picture
Wisconsin: The Badgers are the only team to have played four ranked opponents so far and were tied or within a basket with two minutes left in three of those games. They looked better than their record inside the Bryce Jordan Center, matching Penn State's physical play throughout and frustrating Penn State's shooters all night.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions continue to play solid defense, but those stingy efforts will be for nothing if Penn State's shooters continue to miss like they did early and midway through against the Badgers. Penn State finished 26 for 50 from the floor.

Up next
Wisconsin concludes a three-day trip through the Keystone State at Temple (4-2) on Wednesday.

Penn State hosts George Washington (4-4) on Saturday.