In the passing game, timing is crucial. The quarterback reads, the
receiver cuts, and in the tiny window that opens between the
defender's break and the arrival of the pass rush, the ball is
delivered and the crowd gasps. The mathematician will tell you that
Penn State's 1994 passing attack was the most efficient in the
country: Quarterback Kerry Collins ended up with a 172.8 efficiency
rating, best in the nation; wideouts Bobby Engram and Freddie Scott
combined for 99 catches, 2,002 yards and 16 touchdowns; and when he
wasn't laying people out with crushing blocks, 260-pound tight end
Kyle Brady was catching 27 passes for an average of 13.5 yards.
Yes, timing was vital here, but not only on the field. The Lions'
devastating offense grew from the sudden maturation of two players
(Scott and Collins), the continued growth of a third (Engram) and the
diligence of another (Brady). All in the same autumn.
Collins, a 6 ft. 5", 235-pound senior All-America from West Lawn,
Pa., didn't become a full-time starter until Game 4 of the 1993
season. He had been hounded by inconsistencies in his throwing
technique, by injuries and by his ongoing battle with classmate John
Sacca, who left State College in the middle of the 1993 season and
eventually transferred to Eastern Kentucky. Collins's Penn State
career reached its nadir when he was booed during the middle of that
'93 season, but this year he rose from that trough to set six single-
season school passing records, win the Maxwell Award (presented to
''the nation's outstanding college football player'' by the Maxwell
Memorial Football Club of Philadelphia) and be named first-team
Engram missed the 1992 season entirely, suspended from school
after his arrest for stealing a stereo from an apartment (a charge
that was wiped from his record after he performed community service).
He caught four touchdown passes in the first game of '93 and hasn't
slackened since. This autumn he became so dangerous that it allowed
Scott to blossom into a threat.
Scott's growth is a strange story in itself. On the one hand, his
father, Fred Sr., played 11 years as a wide receiver in the NFL and
USFL after graduating from tiny Amherst. So the genes are good. On
the other hand, Freddie Jr. was sent to a private school, with an eye
toward an education at an esteemed small college such as, say,
Amherst. ''But,'' says Fred Sr., ''in his junior year in high school,
something happened.'' Junior became too good a player for the Amherst
Brady, the foot soldier of the bunch, looks more like a guard than
a receiver, yet because teams were often forced to double-cover
Engram and Scott, he evolved into a valuable weapon. Brady, who's
from the small central Pennsylvania town of New Cumberland, nearly
left Penn State in frustration during the Lions' 7-5 1992 season.
''It came to a point where I hit bottom, and I realized something had
to happen,'' he told the Centre Daily Times this season. ''That's
when I recommitted myself in the weight room and on the practice
The result was that Brady caught 26 passes in '93 and nearly left
again -- this time for the NFL. Instead he returned better, stronger,
more explosive -- just like his passing-game partners. It was all
perfectly timed. -- T.L.
This is an article from the Jan. 18, 1995 issue