Terps Top PSU 35-19

By Jack Rothenberg

The Terps travelled to Happy Valley to take on the surprisingly 0-2 Nittany Lions, in an attempt to bounce back from last season’s abomination of a performance and to hopefully get their first win against Penn State since 2014. Riding sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa’s hot hand, Maryland’s offense looked to start fast, and hopefully keep the team in the game. The expectation, because the Terps’ defense was undependable last week, was that Tagovailoa and the rest of the offense was going to have to put up an abundance of points to keep pace with the Nittany Lions.

Maryland received the ball first for the third straight week to start the game, Tagovailoa led the Terps down the field for yet another opening drive score. Head Coach Mike Locksley has done a great job so far this season at scripting plays. Maryland has scored at least three points on all of their opening drives this season. Two plays after threw a dime to extend the drive on a third down, the sophomore quarterback found freshman wide receiver Rakim Jarrett over the middle and he was off to the races. A quick 7-0 lead for Maryland, and the first career touchdown for Jarrett. The Nittany Lions answered with a drive inside the 20, but the Terps’ defense had a bend don’t break mentality. They were able to provide a much needed fourth down stop in the red zone, which was huge for this defense to get a stop early in a game. 

The first two drives of the game took up nine and a half minutes of the first quarter, as both offenses were methodically working the ball down the field. Following a pair of punts on both sides, Maryland found themselves back in Penn State territory. On third down and the pass rush getting to Tagovailoa, he stepped up in the pocket and threw a rocket to Jarrett. Once again he turned on the jets and was gone for a 62 yard score. Up 14-0, you could feel the upset brewing. 

Maryland was rolling on both sides of the ball. After another stop from the defense, Tagovailoa led the team right down the field. With the ball sitting at the Penn State 38, redshirt senior Jake Funk got the call. Running left, Funk cut back towards the middle and was gone. A 38 yarder that gave the Terps a 21-0 lead. Even though Maryland was playing exceptional defense, no one believed they would shut out the Nittany Lions. On the next drive, Penn State went on a 10 play, 75 yard drive to get on the board with a touchdown. 

Under two minutes left, the Terps got the ball back and Tagovailoa worked the two-minute drill skillfully. With under a minute remaining, Tagovailoa was able to find junior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. for a 34 yard touchdown. Maryland took a 28-7 lead going into the break.

Coming out of the half, Penn State got the ball desperate to cut into the three possession defecit. The Terp’s got pressure on junior quarterback Sean Clifford and knocked the ball loose. Junior linebacker Chance Campbell scooped it up and ran the distance to widen the lead to 35-7 for Maryland. Every facet of this team came to play Saturday afternoon. Whether it was the hype surrounding a rivalry game, or the excitement coming off of a win last week the Terps smacked Penn State silly.

While the offense wasn’t as effective in the second half compared to the first, the defense shut down anything the Nittany Lions wanted to achieve. They limited Penn State to a total of 69 rushing yards through over three quarters, which is a big step up from last week. In addition, the secondary played very well, forcing two interceptions, despite many questionable throws from Clifford. On the other side of the ball, Tagovailoa had another fantastic outing, throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to the five star recruit Jarrett. The Terps were able to pull off the huge upset with a 35-19 victory, and beat Penn State for just the 3rd time in program history.

Takeaways:

Tagovailoa has settled into the offense and is commanding it with ease. By putting together solid back-to-back performances, Tagovailoa has shown he was the right choice for the job. Also, the three wide receivers that Maryland utilizes the most are so tough to guard. Opposing teams never know who is going to make the big play. This game it was Jarrett, but last game it was both Demus Jr. and redshirt sophomore Jeshaun Jones. Combine that with the running back group, this offense has a very high ceiling.

The defense was definitely the story of the game. They picked up where they left off in the fourth quarter against Minnesota, forcing punt after punt handing the ball right back over to Tagovailoa. On top of getting the Nittany Lions offense off the field, it was the way they did it that was awesome to watch. Stopping the run was something Locksley talked about this week in the Monday press conference, and knew they needed to improve. 

Moving forward, this is a big stepping stone for the season and Locksley as he tries to attract recruits. Even for the recruits outside of the DMV, this win is proof that this program is trending in the right direction.

This win is as sweet as they come, so savor it because as Maryland fans we don’t get this feeling often.

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