Penn State football dominates Maryland to open conference play
Written by Patrick McKeon on September 28, 2019
By Pat McKeon and Andy Smith
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A blackout spoiled by a sea of white. That was the scene at Capital One Field as Penn State fans dressed in white took over Maryland’s desolate student section, and the No.12 Nittany Lions took down the Terrapins 59-0 in commanding fashion on Friday night.
Looking to legitimize themselves in the national conversation with a primetime win over the twelfth-ranked team in the nation, Maryland cancelled all classes, urged their fans to wear all black and added north of a thousand seats in its stadium in anticipation of the sold-out crowd.
Such hopes of a program-defining upset win were immediately put in jeopardy. On Maryland’s first offensive possession, Penn State fifth-year linebacker Jan Johnson picked off Terrapins quarterback Josh Jackson to set up an eight-yard touchdown run by Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford. A Jake Pinegar extra point put the Nittany Lions up 7-0.
Clifford was just getting started. On Penn State’s subsequent offensive possession, Clifford delivered a strike to wide receiver KJ Hamler, who sped 58 yards to the end zone for another Penn State touchdown. Hamler finished with six receptions for 108 yards and one touchdown.
Down 14-0, the Terrapins were driving on Penn State’s 11 yard line, when Jackson threw his second interception of the night, this time to Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields. That would be the closest Maryland came to the end zone all night, as the Nittany Lions’ defense limited the Terrapins to a mere 128 yards of total offense.
The drive also featured a targeting penalty on Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons as a result of his late hit on Jackson. Parsons, Penn State’s leading tackler from a season ago, was subsequently ejected from the game.
The Nittany Lions extended their lead to 21 early in the second quarter, thanks to a four-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Ricky Slade. Slade, whose struggles have been well documented throughout non-conference play, finished with 28 yards rushing on eight carriers and one touchdown. He also accumulated 22 receiving yards on three receptions.
Less than five minutes later, Clifford connected with tight end Nick Bowers on a 15-yard touchdown play, sending the Nittany Lions to a 28-0 lead and many Maryland fans to the exits.
On Penn State’s next drive, Clifford, who was standing at a perfect 9-9 passing, 166 yards and two touchdowns, threw his first incompletion and only interception of the night to Maryland’s Nick Cross. It was Cross’ first career interception.
Clifford bounced back on Penn State’s next offensive possession as he dumped one off to running back Journey Brown, who ran 37 yards all the way to the end zone, putting Penn State up 35-0. A Jake Pinegar field goal as time expired put Penn State up 38-0 heading into halftime.
Penn State continued their dominance in the second half with a third quarter touchdown run by Journey Brown and two fourth quarter touchdown runs by backup quarterback Will Levis, capping off its 59-0 trouncing of the Terrapins.
A stark contrast in quarterback play proved to be the deciding factor in the contest. Clifford recorded a breakout performance, as he went 26-31 passing with 398 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
“I just think he was confident because of the amount of preparation he put in,” Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said about Clifford following the game.
Meanwhile, Jackson went 10-21 with 65 yards and two interceptions. He was pulled for backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome for one series.
“We’re committed to Josh. He’s our quarterback,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said postgame. “But just like any position, we evaluate the position, we all have to do our job. Josh is our quarterback, but we also feel like if a guy isn’t productive, we’ve got to figure out a way to get productive players on the field.”
Despite the Friday night setting, both teams will surely waste no time preparing for their respective matchups next week. The Nittany Lions will face Purdue at Beaver Stadium, while the Terrapins will travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers.
Cover photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.