Having already accomplished feats that haven’t been seen in 20-plus years at Penn State, Connor McGovern has moved on to making conference history.
The Lake-Lehman grad became the first offensive lineman ever to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week Monday after helping the Nittany Lions rack up nearly 600 yards of offense in a 41-14 win over Iowa.
According to Penn State, McGovern is just the third offensive lineman of any age to win any kind of Big Ten weekly award and the first Lions lineman to do it since joining the league in 1993. Ohio State’s Korey Stringer (1994) and Michigan State’s Sean Poole (2004) had previously won Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“Only the beginning for this hard working warrior!” offensive line coach Matt Limegrover wrote on Twitter.
“Proud of the way (McGovern) has competed all year long,” wrote tight ends coach Ricky Rahne, who recruits from Luzerne County for Penn State.
McGovern has played in every game and started the last five, something no Penn State true freshman lineman has done since at least the 1997 season.
The Lions have won all five games with McGovern as the starting right guard and are poised to jump into the top 10 in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff poll.
Against the Hawkeyes Saturday, McGovern helped clear the way for another big rushing performance despite losing the man to his right — tackle Brendan Mahon — to an apparent foot or ankle injury after just three plays. McGovern has worked with three different right tackles in his five starts, with Chasz Wright filling in for Mahon and the injured Andrew Nelson.
McGovern helped get the most memorable play of Saturday night’s win started, throwing a key block to spring Saquon Barkley for a 57-yard touchdown run. McGovern pulled from his spot at the snap to quickly seal the defensive end on the left side, giving Barkley plenty of space to build up speed and weave his way through the defense to the end zone.
Limegrover spoke at length about McGovern’s development in an interview last month, shortly before the Lions upset Ohio State. One of the biggest factors, he said, was that McGovern was able to graduate from high school a semester early and enroll at Penn State in January, reaping the benefits of winter workouts and spring practice.
“This is the way I describe it to our offensive staff,” Limegrover said. “We’ve all seen a commercial where a guy or a woman may be standing on a corner and everything’s going 100 speed. That person’s standing there and everything’s whizzing by, the cars. Everything’s sped up. That’s what happens as a freshman. Everything’s heightened.
“The fortunate thing is, we look at Connor as a freshman-plus because he came in mid-year. That helped him, going through spring ball, getting a feel for the speed of it. When we started fall camp, it wasn’t as though it was completely new. He was on campus six months, he went through spring ball, he played against guys like (starting defensive linemen) Curtis Cothran, Garrett Sickels, Evan Schwan. He felt that kind of speed.”
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse