Fresh­men WRS make their mark

The Citizens' Voice - - PENN STATE 22 WISCONSIN 10 - BY DON­NIE COLLINS STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: dcollins@timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9100, ext. 5368; @psubst on Twit­ter

STATE COL­LEGE — Penn State hopes Satur­day will go down as the day its next era of re­ceiv­ing stars of­fi­cially were un­leashed.

Ja­han Dot­son led the Nit­tany Li­ons with 39 re­ceiv­ing yards in be­com­ing the first true fresh­man to start at wide­out for Penn State since Saeed Black­nall in 2014.

An­other true fresh­man, Justin Shorter, saw his first ex­tended ac­tion and hauled in his first ca­reer catch, a mod­est 3-yard throw to the flat from quar­ter­back Trace Mc­sor­ley.

Twelve of Mc­sor­ley’s 19 com­ple­tions against a Badgers de­fense, which en­tered the game 30th in the na­tion, went to five play­ers with fresh­man el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“Ja­han just con­tin­ues to do some re­ally good things, con­tin­ues to get bet­ter,” head coach James Franklin raved af­ter the game. “He just made some plays to­day. He’s very con­fi­dent and very re­laxed. The game doesn’t seem to be too big for him, and he has been that way, re­ally, since day one.”

Franklin men­tioned ear­lier in the week it had been dif­fi­cult to get Dot­son more play­ing time, be­cause as well as he had been prac­tic­ing, he was back­ing up per­haps the only con­sis­tent wide­out Penn State has had all sea­son, slot man K.J. Ham­ler.

How­ever, in hopes of get­ting Dot­son more in­volved, the coach­ing staff moved him to the Z re­ceiver po­si­tion, an out­side spot where the Nit­tany Li­ons have needed help since Juwan John­son left the In­di­ana game with an in­jury Oct. 20.

‘That cre­ates some flex­i­bil­ity for us,” Franklin said. “We are al­ways try­ing to re­cruit as many ath­letes as we can who are also smart guys, on and off the field. That al­lows us to have some po­si­tion flex­i­bil­ity and move guys around to give our­selves the best 11 guys on the field, or the best three re­ceivers on the field.”

Dot­son’s red­shirt has been burned, but Penn State still has a chance to es­cape the sea­son with four years of el­i­gi­bil­ity re­main­ing for two sim­i­larly well-thought-of prospects at the po­si­tion, Shorter and true fresh­man Daniel Ge­orge.

With Shorter play­ing Satur­day, both have ap­peared in two of the four games they can play in and still keep the red­shirt. Franklin said he wants those play­ers avail­able for a bowl game, which means Shorter and Ge­orge can both ap­pear in one of the fi­nal two reg­u­lar-sea­son games, or per­haps split them to max­i­mize Penn State’s depth.

Shoe leather kid

Mc­sor­ley went down with a sec­ond-quar­ter leg in­jury for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive game at Beaver Sta­dium. For the sec­ond straight time, he got back out there in the sec­ond half, throw­ing for an ef­fi­cient 160 yards and a touch­down on 19 of pass­ing.

“The more I keep go­ing,” Mc­sor­ley said of play­ing through some bumps and bruises, “the more I learn to know my body and know what it can take.”

Might be more to it than that, as far as Franklin is con­cerned.

“He’s a war­rior; he re­ally is, in ev­ery sense of the word,” he said. “He’s pro­duc­tive. He’s pos­i­tive. He’s a leader. He’s de­ter­mined. Ob­vi­ously, he has got­ten banged up the sec­ond half of the year and missed some plays, but he has come back and played at a pretty high level.”

Not what you want

Wouldn’t be a Satur­day, it seems, if Penn State didn’t al­low its op­po­nent an op­por­tu­nity to come back.

Af­ter forc­ing a stop to get the ball back with 3:51 left in the game, the Nit­tany Li­ons squan­dered a chance to fin­ish on their own terms.

On sec­ond-and-12, with backup quar­ter­back Tommy Stevens be­hind cen­ter with Mc­sor­ley flanked wide, run­ning back Miles San­ders went in mo­tion. As he crossed in front of Stevens, cen­ter Michal Menet snapped the ball. Stevens and San­ders col­lided and the ball hit the turf, with Wis­con­sin re­cov­er­ing.

“As a head coach, that’s the thing you strug­gle with,” Franklin said. “You have a great win, and you want to en­joy the win, but the game didn’t end the way you want it to end.”

Get­ting his shot

Make it three now for Lake-lehman’s foot­ball pro­gram.

Fresh­man Kaleb Koni­gus, a Wy­oming Val­ley Con­fer­ence stand­out for the Black Knights in both wrestling and foot­ball dur­ing his ca­reer, made Penn State’s team through the walk-on try­outs and of­fi­cially joined the ros­ter Satur­day.

Listed as a 6-foot-2, 300-pound of­fen­sive line­man, Koni­gus wore No. 59 against the Badgers.

Koni­gus won the PIAA Dis­trict 2 heavy­weight wrestling cham­pi­onship each of the last two sea­sons, and he be­came the third Lakelehman grad­u­ate on the cur­rent Nit­tany Li­ons ros­ter, join­ing guard Con­nor Mcgovern and backup run­ning back Nick Eury.

CHRIS KNIGHT / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Penn State’s Ja­han Dot­son (5) runs af­ter mak­ing a catch as Wis­con­sin’s Deron Har­rell (8) gives chase Satur­day.

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