8:00 PM EST, FS1 – Line: Penn State -6, Over/Under: 60
Big 10 foes battle under the bright lights of Friday Night, as the Maryland Terrapins play host to the No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions, from Maryland Stadium, in College Park, Maryland. Three games into the 2019 campaign and so far so good for Penn State (3-0, 0-0 in Big 10), who received their first real scare two weeks ago, in a tightly-contested, 17-10 affair with instate rival, Pittsburgh. In a defensive slugfest, that saw just three touchdowns between the teams, the Nittany Lions benefitted from a truly questionable decision courtesy of the visiting side; trailing by seven points and sitting on their opponent’s 1-Yard Line with less than five minutes remaining in the contest, the Panthers opted to settle for what should have been an easy Field Goal, which instead clanged off the uprights, turning the ball over. However, it wasn’t over quite yet, as Pittsburgh advanced to the host’s 16-Yard Line, with an opportunity for one last shot at the End Zone. Fortunately, the Defense came up aces once again, as Senior Linebacker, Cameron Brown (18 TKL, 1.5 TFL, 1.0 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD), broke up a potential Touchdown as time expired. As they have througohut the early stages of this season, James Franklin’s Defense performed at a high level, relegating Pitt to 396 Total Yards, including a paltry Twenty-Four Rushing Yards on Twenty-Five Carries, along with Ten Tackles for Loss, and Three Sacks. Brown was all over the field, tallying Seven Tackles (1.5 for Loss), a Sack, and that aforementioned Pass Breakup. On the season thus far, the Lions have relinquished just 10.0 Points per Game (6th Overall) on 323.0 Total Yards, including 252.7 Yards against the Pass and another 70.7 Yards versus the Run, on a scant 1.9 Yards per Carry. The Offense on the other hand, was a bit of a different story; the home side amassed 389 Total Yards, including 167 Rushing Yards on Thirty-Two Carries, and another 222 Yards through the air, with Junior Tailback, Journey Brown (21 CAR, 175 YDS, 8.3 Y/C, 2 TD), racking up 109 Yards on just Ten carries, before ultimately exiting the field after suffering an injury to his left knee. His Freshman teammate, Noah Cain (16 CAR, 86 YDS, 5.4 Y/C, 4 TD), did a commendable job of replacing him, rushing for Forty Yards on jut Six Carries, including the go-ahead 13-Yard score late in the Third Quarter. Fellow Junior, Sean Clifford (58.7%, 781 YDS, 10.4 Y/A, 6 TD, 0 INT) was fairly pedestrian, completing just 14-of-30 Attempts for 222 Yards. For the first time this season, the Signal-Caller was the subject of intense pressure, with their opponent’s exotic blitzing attack causing a wealth of issues for his Offensive Line. Clifford was sacked on three occasions, and hit on countless others, which must be on Franklin’s list of priorities moving forward as his side heads into their conference schedule. After disposing of the likes of Idaho (79-7) and Buffalo (45-13) with relative ease, this matchup was indeed a wake-up call for a team that appeared to be in dire need of one, which was readily apparent as the Offense struggled to find much of rhythm. It certainly ran counter to their CV thus far, for through three games, this unit has averaged a whopping 47.0 Points per Game (8th Overall) on a prolific 473.0 Total Yards, including 281.0 Yards via the Pass and another 192.0 Yards via the Run. Perhaps a meeting with Maryland will be what’s needed to get Penn State back on track, for in their last two meetings with tonight’s opponent they’ve outscored them 104-6. There’s no doubt that they’ll benefit from having the previous week off, particularly in the case of the aforementioned Brown, who is labeled as Questionable for the trip to College Park, along with Offensive Lineman, Juice Scruggs, who is close to returning to the gridiron following injuries sustained in a car accident shortly before the campaign began. Getting back to the victory over Pittsburgh, the Nittany Lions and their fan base had better savor that narrow triumph for it’s unlikely that they’ll get an opportunity to do so again; the two schools separated by just 139 miles will be ending their 126-Year Series, with this final meeting representing the 100th consecutive encounter in their rivalry.
Meanwhile, it’s the dawn of a new era in Maryland (2-1, 0-0 in Big Ten), who like their opponent tonight, came out of the gates like gangbusters before receiving a cold dose of reality in their third outing. The Terrapins destroyed the likes of Howard (79-0) and Syracuse (63-20) by a cumulative 142-20, scoring more points through their first two contests than at any other point in school history. Mike Locksley’s charges topped 600 Total Yards of Offense in each affair in the most balanced of manners, averaging 301.0 Yards through the air and another 335.5 Yards on the ground. However, that all changed in their first true test of 2019, a visit to Temple, who embarrassed them in College Park last season (14-35). Unlike they did in the previous two games, the Terps’ Offense stalled mightily early on, with a Safety representing their only points scored until midway through the Third Quarter. It was truly a First Half to forget for Maryland, who managed just Seventy-Nine Rushing Yards a mere Two First Downs through the first thirty minutes of action, even botching a Fake Field Goal Attempt in the Second Quarter. Furthermore, they were stopped on Fourth-&-Goal and shanked a 42-Yard Field Goal Attempt, causing Locksley to lament the growing number of missed opportunities. Despite getting gouged for 427 Total Yards by the Owls, the visiting side kept things close by forcing Three Turnovers, though fell short of taking the lead on two separate occasions in the Red Zone late in the afternoon. All in all, the 17-20 defeat was a crushing performance for Josh Jackson (51.0%, 724 YDS, 7.2 Y/A, 8 TD, 2 INT), who in his first season as the Starting Quarterback following his Transfer from Virginia Tech, left a lot to be desired, completing a dismal 15-of-38 Passes for 183 Yards, a Touchdown and an Interception. Furthermore, he too was under duress throughout the affair, suffering Four Sacks for a Loss of Twenty Yards. Tailback, Anthony McFarland (46 CAR, 225 YDS, 4.9 Y/C, 5 TD) carried the Offense, rushing for 132 Yards and a Touchdown on Twenty-Six Carries, though was unable to break the plane one final time, as he was stuffed on the visitor’s final attempt to score in a spirited Goal Line Stand courtesy of the Owls’ stingy Defense. Nonetheless, it’s been an impressive start for Locksley, who is looking to steer the program past the controversy of the previous regime, while also rewriting his own story as a Head Coach. A Washington D.C. native who played at nearby Towson State, the 49-Year Old is actually spending his third different tenure at Maryland, having served as Running Backs Coach from 1997 to 2002, and later as Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator from 2012 to 2015, including their Interim Head Coach to finish 2015. However, his lone Head Coaching experience was disastrous, winning just two games in his three seasons at New Mexico (2-26, .071). With that said, Locksley would go on to eventually rehabilitate his reputation as a member of Alabama’s Coaching Staff, serving a variety of roles from 2016 to 2018, the last of which he spent as Offensive Coordinator. The challenge at College Par is indeed steep, for this is a program that hasn’t won more than seven games since 2010, having qualified for only three Bowls since then. This meeting with Penn State will ultimately go a long way towards ascertaining just how far along this program is under his care, for despite finally entering league play, the sledding doesn’t appear to be rough; Maryland doesn’t face another ranked opponent until consecutive meetings with Michigan and Ohio State in early November. The Terrapins haven’t bested the Nittany Lions since 2014, having been demolished over the course of their previous four encounters by an average margin of 30.8 Points.