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Recap: Penn State Uses Running Game and Defense To Muscle Past Maryland 38-3

The Nittany Lions improve to 9-3 after a dominant victory over the Terps.

Heather Weikel

This was fun, right?

Despite the adverse weather conditions and a sparse crowd, the Nittany Lions opened up a cold and wet senior day at Beaver Stadium with an excellent opening drive.

Trace McSorley’s first pass was completed to KJ Hamler, who picked up 34 yards on the opening play. Miles Sanders then broke several tackles and scooted outside down the far sideline to the five. On second and goal, McSorley rolled out to his left and scrambled in for six, giving Penn State the early 7-0 lead just 1:36 into the game.

The Terrapins picked up one first down thanks to the ground game of Anthony McFarland, but the Nittany Lion defense stiffened on third down, forcing the Maryland receiver to come down just out of bounds.

Penn State went three-and-out on the next drive, giving Maryland the ball at the Terrapins’ 39. On third down and long, Tyrrell Pigrome found Brian Cobbs deep downfield to the 13. However, a false start on third down led to a field goal attempt, making the score 7-3 Nittany Lions with 4:53 left in the first quarter.

McSorley, Ricky Slade, and Tommy Stevens dominated the next drive, going 75 yards in eight plays, with a 20-yard touchdown run by the fifth-year senior quarterback capping off the drive, and giving Penn State the 14-3 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

The Terps again pushed into Penn State territory on the ensuing drive, led by McFarland and Javon Leake, but Pigrome’s third down pass was wide of its target.

Backed up to the six on Penn State’s next offensive series, Sanders and McSorley got the quarterback some more room out to the 25. Number 9 then set the record for career completions at Penn State (originally held by Christian Hackenberg with 693) with a short completion to DeAndre Thompkins. The drive stalled, but Gillikin boomed a 49-yard punt to back up the Terps deep in their own territory.

Yetur Gross-Matos exploded in the backfield for a seven-yard tackle for loss on the ensuing drive, leading to yet another punt for Maryland.

The Nittany Lions took the ball 63 yards on the next possession, strengthened by the overturning of a Antwaine Richardson interception, as well as a 21-yard strike from McSorley to Thompkins. The drive ended there, and Jake Pinegar’s 25-yard field goal made it 17-3 at halftime. Penn State’s offense generated 15 first downs, and nearly 300 yards of offense en route to the two touchdown advantage.

Kevin Givens started the second half with his second sack, and after a tackle for loss and a short run, it was Penn State’s ball again.

Starting at their own 14, McSorley fired across the middle to Jahan Dotson for 22 yards, and gave way to Miles Sanders and Ricky Slade, who gashed the Terrapin defense. Slade punctuated the 86-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run and the home team opened up an insurmountable advantage at 24-3.

Gross-Matos made a critical tackle for loss on Maryland’s next drive, eventually leading to a missed 31-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Nittany Lions weren’t done scoring, as Pat Freiermuth and Juwan Johnson each had two receptions on the ensuing drive, with Freiermuth’s 5-yard reception making it 31-3 good guys. Penn State tacked on another touchdown with a Slade 1-yard touchdown run to make it 38-3.

Trace McSorley finished his final regular season game with 294 total yards and three total touchdowns, while Sanders finished with his fifth 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 128 yards on 14 carries. Defensively, Kevin Givens registered two sacks, while Yetur Gross-Matos had three and a half tackles for loss. It was an explosive offensive show for Penn State with 565 yards of offense, including 310 on the ground.

A much-needed impressive performance on both sides of the ball for the Nittany Lions, as they improve to 9-3 and await their bowl fate following next week’s championship game action. Did they do enough to get into the New Year’s Six? Stay tuned...