COLLEGE PARK – Minutes before the start of University of Maryland’s football game against No. 12 Penn State on Sept. 27, the atmosphere was electric.
After receiving the most student ticket requests since the lottery system was enacted in 2002, the student section was filled to the brim for the game. The rest of the stadium was packed as well with 53,228 fans in attendance, making it the sixth-largest attended game ever at Maryland Stadium.
That energy quickly disappeared after two minutes of gameplay. On the fifth play of the opening drive, Terps quarterback Josh Jackson underthrew Dontay Demus Jr. (DeMatha Catholic), and Penn State’s Jan Johnson intercepted the pass.
Anthony McFarland Jr. (Dematha Catholic) was called for an illegal block and Jackson for an illegal hit, giving Penn State the ball at the Maryland 8-yard line. Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford took it in himself on the next play, and Penn State was off and running.
The Nittany Lions scored touchdowns on their first four drives, romping to a 59-0 win in both team’s Big Ten Conference opener.
“Our fans came out and created a hell of an environment for us,” Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley said. “And we didn’t do our job as a team. That’s disappointing.”
The lopsided win continued the one-sided history between the two teams. Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) leads the all-time series 40-2-1, outscoring Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) 201-20 in the last four victories. The Nittany Lions have also won 13 straight games in College Park and 17 straight in the state of Maryland.
Maryland looked overmatched from the start, struggling in all phases of the game while falling into an early hole.
The Terps did not go over 100 yards on offense until the fourth quarter and finished with just 128. Jackson was harassed in the pocket all night, finishing 10 of 21 passing with 65 yards and two interceptions. Locksley subbed Tyrell Pigrome in for two drives following the interception, but it made no difference as the Terps went three and out both times.
Maryland scored 142 points in its first two games but only 17 in the past two.
“When you call plays and they’re not executed, that creates a little doubt,” Locksley said.
Maryland’s poor offense was matched by its bad defense, allowing 619 yards. Clifford completed 26 of 31 for 398 passing yards, completed three touchdowns and threw an interception, and KJ Hamler torched the Terps for 108 rushing yards and a touchdown on six catches.
To make matters worse, the Terripeans also committed nine penalties for 85 yards.
Clifford’s touchdown on the opening drive was only a sign of what was to come. Following a three-and-out by the Terps offense after his touchdown run, Clifford went right back to work. He hit KJ Hamler on a 15-yard crossing route on 3rd and 9, and Hamler scampered to a 58-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Maryland started to move the ball on its next drive, getting consistent yards and taking advantage of a targeting call by Micah Parsons to get the ball to the Penn State 11-yard line. Jackson made an ill-advised throw into double coverage, resulting in a Tariq Castro-Fields (Riverdale Baptist) interception.
Penn State drove to the Maryland 29-yard line before an apparent third-down stop, only for Antoine Brooks (DuVal) to tackle Jahan Dotson by the facemask for a 15-yard penalty. Ricky Slade punched it in three plays later to extend the lead to 21-0.
Penalties continued to hinder Maryland on Penn State’s next drive. On consecutive plays, Deon Jones was ejected for targeting and the Terps were called offsides, giving the Nittany Lions 15 easy yards and another trip into the red zone. Two plays later, Clifford found Noah Bowers, who broke a tackle on his way to a 15-yard touchdown and a 28-0 lead. Penn State led 38-0 at halftime and added three more touchdowns in the second half.
By the start of the second half, a once full student section was mostly empty, and the only fans remaining who had something to cheer about were in blue and white.
The energy at the beginning of the game disappeared, as Maryland showed that it is not ready to compete with the Big Ten’s top programs.
The Terps will travel to Rutgers next week, hoping to salvage any momentum in a once-promising season.
“The key to getting past a game like this is when you have big wins is to treat them the same way,” senior offensive lineman Ellis McKennie said. “We have 24 hours to get through the game, watch the film, put it to bed.”