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41 Random Thoughts on Maryland

Thanks for the memories, seniors

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, the Penn State Nittany Lions hosted the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania in the final American football game of the regular season. Penn State emerged victorious, 38-3. I have several thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. This
  2. This was fun!
  3. Both 2016 and 2017 were among the most fun sports seasons I’ve ever had as a fan in any sport. Even in the toughest of games against the toughest of opponents, those teams had players who could make a big play and electrify a crowd at any time. It’s how those players turned into legends.
  4. I’ve found myself, even in this series, comparing this team more and more to the 2006 and 2007 squads - both competent teams that won most, if not all, of the games they were supposed to win. Those teams, though, didn’t stand much of a chance against the big dogs on the schedule - the 2006 team, for instance, lost to Ohio State 28-6, in a game where Penn State threw as many pick-6’s (2) as they kicked field goals.
  5. Beyond that, those teams committed the ultimate sin in sports these days - they were duller than dull. Great defenses? Absolutely. Great individual players on offense? Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood, Derrick Williams, and Tony Hunt all started for that 2006 team, and Rodney Kinlaw and Evan Royster joined the receivers and made their mark in 2007. But there was an it factor missing that meant those teams were destined to be remembered in obscure posts from blog contributors, instead of on the east side of the Beaver Stadium.
  6. At the beginning of the year, we heard lots of talk about how the 2018 Nittany Lions compared favorably to the 2016 and 2017 versions. As the year wore on, it became clearer that this 2018 team wasn’t going to end up on the east side of Beaver Stadium either.
  7. Turns out, though, this team may have a bit more swag in them than the ‘06 and ‘07 teams. They put that on display on Saturday against Maryland.
  8. Matt Canada’s missing a great branding opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great if he just leaned into his name a little bit?
  9. Hear me out on this. Maryland already clads itself in various versions of its state flag. Why doesn’t Matt Canada have a jacket with a giant Canadian flag on the back? Or a hat with moose antlers?
  10. At the very least, get the guy a sponsorship deal with Canada Goose.
  11. Sometimes I think Penn State has had a confusing year, and then I look at Maryland Amazing how a team can beat Texas, get walloped by Temple, keep pace with Ohio State, and lose four straight games to close the year, all in a single season.
  12. Does any team have worse quarterback luck than Maryland?
  13. Penn State played defense exactly how it was supposed to against the Terps - focus on the run, let Tyrrell Pigrome beat them through the air. Funny, though - he almost did. At least he tried his damnedest. 14 of 23 for 185 yards is a pretty good start, and he completed a few chunk plays that made Penn State sweat.
  14. Still, you have to appreciate a defense that doesn’t panic, stays under control, and bottles up an emerging star running back.
  15. In the previous two weeks, Anthony McFarland rushed for 508 yards, over 10 yards per carry. This week? 12. Not 12 yards per carry. 12 yards.
  16. I can’t deny it, I was nervous about the run defense coming into this week. When you’ve seen Qadree Ollison, Jonathan Taylor, and Ronnie Walker, Jr. bust big plays on this defense, you’ve got to be nervous about a guy who looks like he was shot out of a cannon.
  17. Lucky for us, we have one of those “cannon” guys too. I don’t know where Ricky Slade was or exactly what he was in the doghouse for, but it was very nice to have him back this week. Whenever he’s on the field, he just pops.
  18. Miles Sanders had an outstanding game as well, minus the fumble. There’s exactly zero need to mention Saquon Barkley every time Sanders makes a play, but every single announce crew insists on doing it. But come on, the kid’s a beast in his own right and deserves to be reflected as such. That early 35 yard run was perfect - patience, hit the hole, shuffle right, break some tackles, and get into the open field.
  19. That run, though, may also be why Miles has a case of the fumbles. Everyone loves a runner who breaks tackles and churns yards, until they get hit 600 times on a single play and the ball hits the turf.
  20. To be clear, that’s not what happened here, but Sanders is a physical runner, a guy that looks to initiate contact. That contact comes at a price.
  21. Is this a good time to note that Journey Brown looks good too? Every time I see him, I’m surprised by how big he looks. I never expect that.
  22. I know that Juwan Johnson was out for weeks with an undisclosed injury (or so we’ve been told), but this obviously gave him some space to clear his head. Dude came back with a vengeance this week.
  23. Sure, it’s only two catches, but when Johnson’s at his best, he’s by far Penn State’s biggest asset in the passing game. He provides a target completely unlike any of the other regular rotation receivers.
  24. That 38 yard reception is exactly what I’m talking about - change speed, change direction, good route, catch it in the air, and hold on to it when you get hit. I’d love to see this continue in the bowl game, then even further into next year.
  25. If nothing else, having a really good Juwan Johnson mentoring Justin Shorter and Daniel George is a pretty good deal for Penn State moving forward.
  26. Does KJ Hamler get credit for the hook-and-lateral? Like an option pitch? Not that he doesn’t deserve all the yards from all the jukes, but it’d be a shame if DeAndre Thompkins doesn’t get anything from that except being complimented in an obscure post by a blog contributor.
  27. Amazing how tough the receivers have made simply catching the ball look this year, yet they managed to gain 40 yards on a perfectly timed play that involved two catches.
  28. I don’t know if that Hamler “drop” was actually a catch and fumble. I don’t know whether the overturned Maryland interception was actually a pick. The more football I watch, the less I know what a catch is.
  29. Oddly enough, I’m not sure the officials do either.
  30. Yetur Gross-Matos - All-American. That’s it.
  31. Koa Farmer’s taken a lot of heat this year, including from me. Saturday felt like he saved the best for last. Koa’s contributed effectively during his entire career here. I’m sorry it didn’t work out like everyone planned in his senior year, but he’s been a big part of this senior class and it’s good to see him leave Beaver Stadium on a high note.
  32. I’m already sick of next year’s hot takes demanding Sean Clifford over Tommy Stevens. Anyone watch #2 this week? Not only was he a decisive runner, but he threw a frozen rope to KJ Hamler, who got to turn it up field for a 20 yard gain He followed that up with an 18 yard run of his own, and finished the drive by handing the ball to Ricky Slade for 6. Mine eyes have seen the glory in the coming of the Lord.
  33. I wish I could think of something new to say about Trace McSorley, but three years of writing about him has left this writer completely out of new turns of phrase. That’s my fault, not his.
  34. I guess at the end of the day, all I really want to say now is thank you.
  35. Thank you for giving yourself, putting your body on the line each and every week to represent my alma mater and each and every Penn State student.
  36. Thank you for acquitting yourself with dignity and grace and respect before the entire nation while you wear these colors.
  37. Thank you for your dedication and your hustle.
  38. Thank you for the celebrations that made us grin from ear to ear.
  39. I’ll take a few more long ball swings for the road, if you don’t mind.
  40. Thank you, seniors. It’s been a pleasure. Enjoy some time off, enjoy your trip to warm weather, and enjoy your last time in uniform. Know that we’re with you even after that jersey gets hung up in the locker for the last time.
  41. We are...

h/t Mark Brennan, Lions247/Fight on State