No. 11 Penn State looks to make statement vs. slumping Maryland

Field Level Media

November 01, 2023 at 4:27 am.

No. 11 Penn State didn’t deliver the resounding bounce-back performance some might have expected last Saturday in its home win against Indiana.

Meanwhile, Maryland continued its midseason tailspin last week with a dreadful loss at Northwestern, the Terrapins’ third straight defeat after their 5-0 start.

Both Big Ten squads will aim to begin the final month on a stronger note when Penn State (7-1, 4-1) visits Maryland (5-3, 2-3) on Saturday in College Park, Md.

After suffering their first loss of the season, a 20-12 setback against then-No. 3 Ohio State on Oct. 21 in Columbus, the Nittany Lions struggled to pull away from the visiting Hoosiers despite being a 31-point favorite.

Penn State blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter that left that score tied at 24 before quarterback Drew Allar connected with KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 57-yard touchdown strike with under two minutes remaining.

Coach James Franklin’s squad sealed its 33-24 win on the ensuing possession when defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton stormed around the edge and strip-sacked Indiana quarterback Brendan Sorsby, whose fumble rolled out of the Hoosiers’ end zone for a safety.

“We made plays when it mattered most,” Franklin said. “Our guys were resilient.”

Penn State’s defense will be tested against one of the Big Ten’s most prolific passers in the Terrapins’ Taulia Tagovailoa, who leads the conference in passing yards (2,200), passing touchdowns (19), passing yards per game (275) and completions per game (23.6).

Franklin said containing Maryland’s air attack will be challenging, but he wasn’t concerned about the two long touchdown passes his defense surrendered in the first half against the Hoosiers.

“When you play man coverage as much as we do, they’re gonna get you from time to time,” Franklin said. “There’s enough body of work of who we’ve been as a defense to feel very comfortable and very confident.”

Tagovailoa and the Terrapins handled the Hoosiers more easily than the Nittany Lions did, cruising to a 44-17 win on Sept. 30 in College Park. It was Maryland’s fifth straight victory to begin the season, but the Terrapins haven’t won since.

Maryland seemed to be in a favorable position to end its two-game skid last week against Northwestern — the Terrapins trotted onto Ryan Field after their bye week as a two-touchdown favorite.

But Maryland never led after the first quarter and fell behind by 13 points with just over five minutes left in the game. Tagovailoa led a late scoring drive to pull the Terrapins within 33-27, but his interception on Maryland’s next possession sealed the team’s winless October.

The redshirt senior played last Saturday without co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin, who remains away from the team after he was arrested on Oct. 22 on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Tagovailoa also lost a receiver after Tyrese Chambers recently departed the program for what coach Michael Locksley cited as personal reasons. Chambers, who was expected to play a significant role in the Terrapins’ offense upon transferring from Florida International, recorded just seven receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown in five games this season.

“We’ll support Tyrese as he continues to move forward,” Locksley said.

Chambers’ sudden departure capped Maryland’s tumultuous October, a month during which the Terrapins’ preseason goal of reaching the program’s first Big Ten championship game all but evaporated.

“We talked about being a team that competes for championships,” Locksley said. “Obviously, we’re just not there.”