Penn State hopes to reach nine wins by sending out the seniors out on the right note in the last regular season game of 2018.
(#14)Penn State (7-3, 4-3) vs. Maryland (5-6, 3-5)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Betting Line: Penn State -14
TV: ABC- Mark Jones (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline)
Weather: A wet and cold afternoon, with an ice/rain mix and highs hovering around freezing.
PENN STATE RECORD: 44-20, 5th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 68-35, 8th Year
VS. MARYLAND: 3-1
MARYLAND RECORD: 5-6, First Season
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting
NOW THE FUN PART….
MARYLAND OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
If there’s one thing consistent about Maryland’s program, it is the inability to keep its starting quarterbacks healthy. Freshman Kasim Hill is the latest victim of this curse after tearing his ACL against Indiana in week 11. In his place is sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome, who has seen limited time under center throughout the season for the Terps. Pigrome has been used similar to Tommy Stevens, to get him on the field and take advantage of his athletic ability. He had a solid game against the Hoosiers after Hill went down, connecting on 10 of 13 passes for 146 yards, a touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions. In his first game as a starter, Pigrome was six of 13 for 181 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions against the Buckeyes.
That stat line is surprising considering the Terps put up 51 points in a near upset of the Buckeyes, but Maryland rode its run game in the hopes of toppling Ohio State. The Terps have a deep stable of backs, with four different running backs having 100-plus yard games on the season. The main attraction, however, is freshman Anthony McFarland. During the last two games, McFarland has rushed for 508 yards against Indiana and Ohio State. His performance against the Buckeyes on Saturday was especially a masterpiece, as he was just under 300 yards rushing n the day on 21 carries, good for 14.2 yards per rush. McFarland is a smaller back, but has great lower body strength and always keeps his feet moving. He also has incredible quickness and can easily be gone for six when a hole opens up.
Senior Ty Johnson has also been a standout, but has been battling injuries during the second half of the season. He warmed up prior to the Ohio State game but did not receive a carry. Sophomore Tayon Fleet-Davis is a big back who can get the job done in short yardage situations, and has the power to gain extra yards against a tired defense late in the game.
With Pigrome’s lack of experience, expect the Terps to pound McFarland and co. and hope for the best against the Penn State defense, which has shown major strides in stopping the run during the second half of the season. Maryland’s offense focused primarily on running the ball with Hill under center, and that will especially be the case now that Pigrome is now in the lineup. Keep an eye on freshman Jeshaun Jones, however. The lanky freshman receiver has come on late in the season and has been receiving more looks, and has three touchdown catches in the last four games.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND DEFENSE
It won’t be a simple task for Trace McSorley to go out with a bang in his final game at Beaver Stadium. The Terps have a solid secondary, giving up 206.1 passing yards a game while amassing 18 interceptions on the season – tied with Utah State for the most in the FBS.
Maryland’s run defense isn’t as formidable, however, as the Terps allow more than 200 yards on the ground per contest. Along with the potentially sloppy and frigid conditions, this suggests a healthy dose of Miles Sanders on the way for Saturday (and hopefully Trace McSorley should his knee allow for it).
It should be noted that Maryland’s defense has dropped off towards the latter half of the season. They gave up 52 (45 in regulation) in a wild shootout against the Buckeyes, allowed 34 in a loss to Indiana the previous week, 24 to a lethargic Spartans offense and 33 to a poor Illinois offense to round out a problematic four-game stretch.
You will hear Tre Watson’s name plenty on Saturday, as the senior linebacker seems to be everywhere for the Terps defense. He has an outstanding case for first-team all-conference honors with 110 tackles and five interceptions on the season. Safety Darnell Savage is a playmaker as well, picking off four passes and regularly blowing up plays in the backfield. The Terps secondary is overall very aggressive, and are used in a variety of ways to bring pressure from unexpected places. Penn State’s offensive line will need to stay on the ball and communicate to avoid negative plays, something that they have struggled with throughout the season.
Maryland has a very accurate kicker in Joseph Petrino, who just missed his first career field goal on Saturday. The freshman is 11-of-12 with a long of 40. The Terps rarely put him out of his comfort level with long attempts, and his career-high is 40 yards. Junior Wade Lees is an Australian-style punter with a big leg He averages 41.1 yards per punt and has blasted multiple punts for more than 60 yards.
Running backs Ty Johnson and Javon Leake give the Terps two equally explosive kick returners. Johnson averages 27.2 yards per return while Leake isn’t far behind with a 25.6 average. Both have return touchdowns on the season.
Penn State-24, Maryland-17
I always pull for the same outcome for any opponent the week prior to taking on Dear Ol’ State- an emotionally-charged loss where the team comes up just short, preferably in overtime. It’s the absolute hardest outcome to bounce back from and get back in your routine with another game coming up in a week. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we got as Maryland came up just short by losing to Ohio State 52-51 after a failed two-point conversion in overtime. It’s also Senior Day for a dedicated group who came to Happy Valley and helped bring the program back to prominence. Can you imagine Trace McSorley ending his illustrious career at Penn State with a loss to Maryland? It just seems somehow, someway, this team wills itself to victory.
In all honesty, this pick comes from the intangibles surrounding the game more so than anything else. After watching both teams last week, it’s clear that Maryland would have come away victorious had they met a week prior. But this is a new week, which means the previous game doesn’t matter (especially in an utterly nonsensical, topsy-turvey 2018 college football season). The defense is set up to limit Maryland’s one-sided attack, while the offense should be able to do just enough to come out on top.
McSorley goes out on a high note with three touchdown passes that go to DeAndre Thompkins, Pat Freiermuth and Jahan Dotson. Miles Sanders chips in 80 yards on the ground. Once again, the defensive line has itself a day as Shareef Miller and Yetur Gross-Matos each collect 1.5 sacks with Robert Windsor continuing his hot streak with two TFLs. Amani Oruwariye caps off his Senior Day with a late pick to seal the game for the Nittany Lions.