No. 14 Penn State pitches a shutout against Maryland football

The pressure was too great for Maryland football, as the No. 14 Penn State Nittany Lions put the clamps on the Terps’ offense en route to a 30-0 victory.  The Nittany Lions improve to 8-2 (5-2 Big Ten) and the Terps drop their second straight game to become 6-4 (3-4 Big Ten).

Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley was very clear that the Terps didn’t play well in all three phases and said that he and the coaching staff need to take a “deep dive,” into why the team isn’t playing as well as they’ve been practicing of late.

The Terps’ offense had six three-and-outs, nine punts, and three turnovers on downs. Dante Trader led the team with ten tackles while safety Beau Brade added seven of his own to go along with a pass breakup, but he spoke about the three-and-out tally and the defense’s responsibility amid offensive struggles. “I think it’s just execution and focus during games. We work on it all throughout practice throughout the week and just really comes up to showing and executing when the game comes and that just comes to, fitting in the right holes and that sort of thing.”

Both teams were without key players in this game, but the Nittany Lions handled the absences much better. Freshman Center Coltin Deery earned his third career start in place of Mason Lunsford, who is still out with a concussion. Rakim Jarrett was seen warming up pregame after suffering a lower leg injury against Wisconsin last week. On the Penn State side, defensive back Joey Porter Jr. linebacker Curtis Jacobs, left tackle Olu Fashano, and guard Landon Tengwall did not play.

Penn State’s defense dominates the first half

Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Manny Diaz made sure that the Terps couldn’t use what had worked for them all season. The Terps have been able to depend on their running game to get them out of sticky situations when the ball wasn’t moving. They couldn’t pass the ball either. They had five drives end in punts, and Taulia Tagovailoa was sacked four times early in the second quarter. The Penn State defense finished with seven tackles for loss, five sacks, five quarterback pressures, and a forced fumble in the first half. “They had a good game plan. We just didn’t execute the way that we wanted to. We had the plays that we wanted to get done, and we gotta get back in the film room and hopefully bounce back next week,” running back Roman Hemby said following the loss.

Penn State’s defense pressured Tagovailoa relentlessly on the Terps’ first drive, which led to their first of seven sacks on the day. It put the Nittany Lions in great field position on the Maryland 47-yard line.

On this drive, quarterback Sean Clifford passed Trace McSorley for several career passing records in school history (passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts, completion percentage). Clifford called on his reliable target, tight end Brenton Strange, and Strange hauled in the first score of the game.

If you were wondering whether the Nittany Lions would have trouble running the football due to offensive linemen injuries, they didn’t. Great examples of that were two scores of 45 and 27 yards out of the Straight-T formation on fourth down. The Nittany Lions had a 21-0 lead and momentum was clearly on their side. Defensive Back Jakorian Bennett was irate on the sideline, imploring the defense to rise up and take a stand against the offensive onslaught that they were facing, but the Nittany Lions were able to score two rushing touchdowns on 4th-and-1 plays. “Everybody in the box on both sides and man, just one open gap, running back cut upfield, making some arm tackles and then was gone, but yeah, we just got to do our job,” Brade added recalling the long runs.

The Nittany Lions went into the halftime break up 27-0. It looked like Maryland was building some kind of momentum offensively late in the second quarter, but the Nittany Lions converted that into two late field goals. Maryland got outplayed in the first half in all three phases. Penn State had a 296-27 advantage in total yards, and 190 of those yards came on the ground.

Maryland’s offense shows little signs of life

After struggling to get over 100 yards of total offense in the first half, the Terps were able to show brief signs of life in the third quarter after picking up five first downs in the third quarter. Roman Hemby and C.J. Dippre made some big plays throughout the quarter to sustain drives with Dippre finishing tied for a team-high three catches for 21 yards. While the Nittany Lions’ defense was still bringing the heat, the intensity dissipated a bit after head coach James Franklin decided to pull out the starters and replace Clifford with Drew Allar with the game seemingly in hand.

Despite giving up 30 points in this game, the Terps’ defense was able to get some key stops that could have led to an even bigger deficit. Dante Trader and Beau Brade combined for 17 tackles while Ami Finau made some nice plays in the middle of the defensive line with six total tackles, including five solo. Penn State failed to score on their last three drives after the final field goal, one potential takeaway in a pretty rough game all around for the Terps. Still, Penn State finished with 30 points in a performance that Brade knows his defense can’t afford.

“State borders, it’s always a hard game. We thought we were coming here, you know, really [to] beat them. We thought we were capable of it, which we still think we are. Just a rough day [that] didn’t go well for us. Past two games were pretty rough. Can’t blame the weather at all, just our execution, both sides of the ball. Defensive-wise, 30 points is a lot. Can’t let up 30 points in a game. Can’t expect the offense to win games for you each week.”

Glendon Miller, a name we haven’t heard in a while, got a fumble recovery after an errant snap, but on Maryland’s next drive, they lost Billy Edwards Jr. to injury after he got rolled up on and fumbled the ball on a quarterback sneak attempt. With Tagovailoa still not at 100 percent and the offense struggling, it’s a concerning development for the offense.

The Terps finished the game with only 134 yards of total offense, 68 of which came from Hemby. Singleton finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions. The Terps lost both of their road games this month, and their schedule doesn’t get any easier with Ohio State coming to College Park next Saturday.

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