Five Things to Watch: Maryland vs. Penn State

Maryland (6-3, 3-3 B1G) at No. 14 Penn State (7-2, 4-2 B1G)
When: Sat., Nov. 12 | 3:35 p.m. EST
Where: Beaver Stadium
Watch: FOX –  Tim Brando, Spencer Tillman
Listen: 105.7 FM (Balt) / 980 AM (DC) – Johnny Holliday, Steve Suter

Maryland suffered through terrible weather conditions last week and lost a tough one to Wisconsin 23-10. The Terps are still looking to win seven regular season games for the first time since 2014. That was also the last time they beat Penn State in front of a crowd. Maryland won in Happy Valley when there was no one in the stradium because of COVID protocols in 2020.

Since entering the Big Ten, Penn State has dealt the Terps some of their most lopsided losses in conference games. In 2019 the Nittney Lions shut out the Terps 59-0 at home on Friday night. Penn State also had a 66-3 win in College Park on the road in 2017. Last year’s match was tied going into the fourth quarter before a poor pick by six late in the game. Jahan Dotson ultimately sealed the game for the Nittany Lions but he’s  no longer with Penn State, having been drafted by the Washington Commanders in the first-round of 2022. However, Penn State still has player that can take over a game at any point to include Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen, and Parker Washington. Here’s what Maryland needs to do to give themselves a chance at a victory.

  • Slow Down the Freshmen Duo: Maryland had trouble with Wisconsin’s running backs all game a week ago in Madison. Brealon Allen finished with over five yards per carry, while Isaac Guerendo broke an 89-yard touchdown run to put the Badgers up 14-0. This week, the Terps will have to deal with not one but two great freshmen running backs Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton. “The two young running backs that they have, have shown to be really productive players for them,” said Locksley. Singleton leads the Nittany Lions in rushing with 679 yards at over six yards a carry and eight touchdowns. Allen also has eight touchdowns to go along with 558 yards on the ground. Maryland can’t let these two run all over them. They must find ways to get into the backfield and stop them from getting any big gains. If the defense can return to its form from earlier in the season, they will have a chance.
  • Force Clifford into uncomfortable situations: Sean Clifford has been Penn State’s starting quarterback for four years. “ I think 41 career starts seems like he’s been there forever. Talented, quarterback he’s the guy that kinda makes them go,” said Locksley. While he has had some great moments, he’s had just as many questionable ones. Against Ohio State, Clifford threw three interceptions in a 44-31 loss. Northwestern and Michigan held him to under 150 yards passing and a 50% or worse completion percentage. For Maryland’s defense to have similar results, they must put Clifford into uncomfortable situations. Durell Nchami needs to get pressure on him, as well as the rest of the defensive line. The secondary needs to have tight coverage and not let Parker Washington roam free for the entire game. “#3 is probably one of the better receivers I’ve seen on tape and makes a lot of plays,” said Locksley about Washington. If Maryland can force Clifford into making some bad throws it could be the difference in the game.
  • Protect Lia: Maryland did not do a good job of keeping Lia safe against Wisconsin. The Badgers sacked him five times, and he never looked comfortable throughout the game throwing for only 77 yards. Part of this was on Tagovailoa for holding onto the ball too long. However, the offensive line needs to perform better as Penn State has a front seven that is just as good as Wisconsin’s. Five defensive linemen have at least two sacks, while Curtis Jacobs and Abdul Carter are players to keep an eye on at linebacker. Protecting Lia needs to be the first priority for Maryland on Saturday.
  • Establish the Running Game: The Terps will need to control tempo and sustain drives to keep Penn State off balance and as in many other Big Ten matchups, the Terps will need to be able to string together first downs and control the clock using their running game. This week’s depth chart showed an emergence of Ramon Brown climbing up and earning more reps heading into this week. The offensive line will need to treat this week especially so as a grudge match against the Terps biggest in conference “rival.”
  • No Cheap Shots: Penn State has historically scored points in clumps from tip drill type interceptions and poor tackles on the outside that lead to long scoring plays, go back to watch their match ups with Ohio State and Michigan this season for proof. The Terps will need to ensure that their tackling and closing on the ball carrier are on point to keep Penn State in front of them and from scoring on large chunk plays. On offense the Terps and Taulia will need to understand when the play is over and avoid “cute” second effort plays that lead to tipped scramble throws or late throws that miss a lurking safety or corner. Maryland will need to avoid beating themselves to come away from Happy Valley with a win.
  • Bonus Point: Account for PSU’s TEs at all times. Brenton Strange is Clifford’s safety blanked on long yardage downs and Maryland will need to keep account of the TE’s on plays where Clifford has the opportunity to play “back yard football” and make inexplicable plays to convert third downs and keep drives alive as he’s grown a reputation for over the years.

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