Penn State looks for turnaround vs. Maryland
No one expected Maryland to have more wins than Penn State headed into this Week 3 clash in not-so-Happy Valley on Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Unranked Penn State is 0-2 (0-2 Big Ten) for the first time since 2012. And the Nittany Lions dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in 63 weeks following a 38-25 loss to now No. 3 Ohio State. Meanwhile Maryland (1-1, 1-1) feels as if the Terrapins are ranked and just won the lottery, coming off a 45-44 overtime win over Minnesota that snapped an eight-game losing streak.
“We showed a lot of grit, a lot of fight and a lot of perseverance to come off a loss like that and for our team to just continue to fight,” said Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa of Maryland squandering a 14-point lead and then overcoming a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit. “It just shows the type of team we have. Hopefully we can build on this.”
But history has not been kind to the Terrapins in the series with regional rival Penn State, now coached by former Maryland assistant James Franklin, who at one time was the announced “coach in waiting” behind Ralph Friedgen to take over in College Park.
The Nittany Lions have won five straight games over Maryland and own a commanding 40-2-1 edge in a series that dates back to 1917, albeit with several long, intermittent breaks. The rivalry resumed annually in 2014, the year the Terrapins joined the Big Ten and scored their lone road win in the series, 20-19.
After a narrow 31-30 PSU win in 2015, the Lions have dominated — four straight wins by a cumulative 201-20 score, including last year’s 59-0 win in College Park, Md. But none of that is on the Nittany Lions’ minds heading into Saturday’s game in University Park, Pa.
“If you aren’t motivated off two losses, with our backs against the wall, if you are just going to fold and say, ‘Alright, next year,’ I don’t want you here,” said Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. “I’m not going to pack it up, blame it on COVID. That’s not how I operate. That’s not how the people around me operate. We are going to get back on track.”
Coming off a season-opening 36-35 overtime loss to unheralded Indiana, the Nittany Lions found themselves down 21-6 to the powerful Buckeyes last Saturday. Penn State scored on three of four drives to open the second half, but still couldn’t contain Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Fields and Ohio State.
Now they’ll get another QB who’s a versatile up-and-comer at previously down-and-out Maryland in Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa accounted for five touchdowns against Minnesota on 26 of 35 passing for 394 yards and three scores, and eight rushes for 59 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. The sophomore transfer from Alabama was named co-offensive player of the week in the Big Ten along with Fields.
For his part, Clifford has been solid for Penn State, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and three interceptions, while averaging 152.9 yards per game through the air. He’ll go against a Maryland defense ranked 13th overall in the conference, yielding 494 yards per game.
–Field Level Media