By Jack Rothenberg
The entire week, campus was buzzing with energy, all in preparation for the game that could get the Terrapins season back on track. Fans coming out to tailgate 6 hours before the game. Students filling their designated section as soon as the doors opened. 53,228 in attendance, 6th largest in school history, all getting ready for Maryland’s biggest game of the year.
Maryland vs. Penn State: Friday Night under the lights.
Right before their bye week, the Terrapins suffered a tough loss to Temple that bounced them out of the College Football top 25 rankings. However, they came back this week looking to pull off the upset against a top 12 team in the country. In my opinion, the way that was going to happen was on the offensive side of the ball. In Maryland’s previous 3 games, the defense had the ability to get stops, although against Temple it was the inability to convert in the red zone that cost them the game. So in my eyes the focus was offense.
When it came to the Maryland offense in this game, if anything it was worse. Quarterback Josh Jackson threw an interception on the Terrapins’ first drive, just as he did in their last game vs. Temple. That led to a short field for the Nittany Lions, and they cashed in with a four second, eight yard drive resulting in a 7-0 lead. The Terrapins’ next possession which resulted in a three and out, ultimately lead to a 58 yard touchdown for Penn State to give them an early 14-0 advantage.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, the Terps looked like they started to figure out their offensive woes as they got the ball inside the PSU 20. Until Jackson made another awful read, throwing his second pick of the game, which could qualify as one of his worst throws of the short season so far. Immediately after, the Nittany Lions marched down the field, going 95 yards, and capitalized to take the lead at 21-0. The Terrapins decided to shake up the offense by replacing Jackson with second string quarterback Tyrell Pigrome on their next possession. However, nothing changed, going three and out on 2 possessions and on the third only getting one first down.
On the other side of the ball, the defense couldn’t stop anything. Penn State went up and down the field with such ease, breaking almost every tackle and eventually taking a 38-0 lead heading into the half.
In the second half, it was more of the same. The offense was held to 34 yards, and 128 throughout the entire game. The Terps were outscored 21-0 in the second half as the game ended with a lopsided Penn State win, 59-0.
This is obviously no way to win or succeed in any way in the Big Ten. With the Terrapins only averaging 13 points allowed per game, and putting up an average of 53, fans came in with the expectation to have a chance in this game. Even though 2 of those games were against Temple and Howard, this team showed promise against a top 25 Syracuse team which led Terps fans to have high expectations.
Expectations for the Terps didn’t match reality whatsoever. Before the first half had ended nearly the whole student section was empty, which conveys how the fans felt. The amount of hype built up prior to the game, having two weeks to prepare to then have everything come crashing down within 25 minutes of gametime was just devastating.
The keys to success for this football team is not turning the ball over and getting off to fast starts. Fast starts, meaning that the defense is forcing three and outs or turnovers, and the offense is scoring early. Both of those things didn’t happen in the two losses that they’ve had, and need to, moving forward, if the Terps want a shot at a bowl game.
So it is on to Rutgers on Saturday. The game becomes a must win. With all the injuries, a lack of stability at quarterback and a defense that has to take risks to be successful, the season is in peril. This team is capable of getting a bowl bid, but only if both sides of the ball improve tremendously. Otherwise. This could be one long season.
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