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40 Random Thoughts on Maryland

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Random musings on the weekend that was against the Terps

NCAA Football: Penn State at Maryland Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, the Penn State Nittany Lions traveled to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. The Nittany Lions won in dominating fashion, 59-0. I have several thoughts, which are set forth randomly below.

  1. Remember October 1, 2005?
  2. I thought about that day a fair bit last week. That’s the day that Penn State beat Minnesota, 44-14.
  3. Up to that point in the season, the Nittany Lions were about as unimpressive a 4-0 squad as you could get. They opened the season by scoring 23 points and winning by just 10 over a South Florida team that would finish 6-6 in the Big East. They followed that with wins against Cincinnati (2005 record - 4-7) and Central Michigan (6-5 in the MAC) before squeaking by a middle of the pack Northwestern on a last second Michael Robinson-to-Derrick Williams Hail Mary. The Nittany Lions were, as you might guess, unranked, nibbling on the edges of the top 25.
  4. Minnesota, on the other hand, sported a gaudy 4-0 record that featured blowout wins over three non-conference opponents and a double overtime win over then-11th ranked Purdue.
  5. Yes, children, there was a time in the not-so-distant past when Purdue was nearly a top 10 team.
  6. (Never mind that the Purdue team in question ended the season 5-6)
  7. Minnesota featured two star tailbacks in Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell and was a team on the rise. They were ranked 18th walking into Beaver Stadium that Saturday afternoon and looked poised to contend.
  8. And then Penn State ate their lunch.
  9. That October match up was, up to that point, the most efficient opening quarter of football I had ever seen. Penn State forced three-and-outs on the Gopher’s first three possessions. Minnesota had just two yards of offense in the quarter. Their biggest play was a 65 yard kick return by Jakari Wallace, which was negated quickly by a four play drive that ended with a four yard loss and a missed field goal.
  10. Meanwhile, Penn State scored on two extended drives, featured their big play threats, and finished the quarter up 10-0, although that might as well have been 30-0.
  11. This 2019 Maryland team isn’t as good as that 2005 Minnesota team. They had a hot start but faltered against Temple. But this one was the biggest game in Maryland’s brief Big Ten tenure - at home, at night, in prime time, with their biggest regional rival, a college football power program, coming to town.
  12. Last week, this was everyone’s upset special. “An uninspired and overrated Penn State sleepwalks into a big game atmosphere and gets beat by plucky Maryland” was the narrative being prepped.
  13. All last week, I kept hoping for Minnesota 2005. An efficient performance that puts this team back on everyone’s radar and jump starts the season.
  14. And then, on Friday night, Penn State ate Maryland’s lunch.
  15. I think this is a good team, and it’s clear that Maryland was overrated. Still, it ended up being 59-0.
  16. Penn State’s efficiency was staggering. Four straight touchdown drives to open the game. Two forced turnovers on the first three Terp drives. In fact, the only decent Maryland drive the entire game ended in a pick by Tariq Castro-Fields.
  17. It’s almost hard to find particular moments to discuss during this game because the victory was so total.
  18. Mike Locksley and Forest Whitaker - separated at birth?
  19. I’m so impressed with the way this squad bounced back from the inconsistency against Pitt. The first two “drives” were Penn State football in a nutshell over the last few years - 1 play, 8 yards and 3 plays, 59 yards. That second drive featured KJ Hamler doing his best Saquon Barkley impersonation.
  20. Flattery will get you everywhere, including the end zone.
  21. Even that first offensive play/drive showed real progress. Hamler goes in motion and Clifford gets to make an option decision from the outset. It turns out that he made the right one, as Moses parts the red sea of defense and he strolled into the end zone. That’s a great start.
  22. The play design and call was just as good. Even if Clifford hands the ball off, Journey Brown has a one-on-one match up on the outside and has the guy beat to the corner. Nice work, Ricky.
  23. As I mentioned last week, the offense stalls when Clifford doesn’t make the right decisions. The best drive of the Pitt game was the Noah Cain-led drive in the third quarter. This game was full of those drives.
  24. Loved Clifford’s third touchdown pass to Journey Brown. Nimble feet, move int he pocket, avoid the rush, and (most importantly) a catchable throw to a guy who could make a play.
  25. It was a similar play to one they rain for Noah Cain - a little pop pass in the flat that had some air under it that allowed Cain to make a play.
  26. I’m thrilled with the way they were able to use their weapons. Penn State don’t need to throw home run balls every single time, especially on third down. It has so much talent on this team that the smart play is often to just get it over to a guy with some room to maneuver.
  27. On the home run balls, though, I want Dan Chisena out there.
  28. Seriously, the guy is new school Ethan Kilmer, except taller. When he makes an absurd touchdown catch in the Rose Bowl, you can all point back to this post.
  29. Anthony McFarland has 36 yards against Penn State in the last two years. That this defense can bottle him up like that is a real testament to their ability.
  30. Pulling Josh Jackson that early was a big mistake. I know he threw two picks, but he was also the guy that drove them down the field. That’s the kind of play that shakes a quarterbacks confidence and creates problems down the road.
  31. Look, Maryland was in trouble - they were turning the ball over and they couldn’t stop Penn State from scoring. But the latter isn’t Josh Jackson’s fault, and the former can be rectified. Give the kid a chance to get himself out of a jam before you give him the hook. What’s the upshot of putting Tyrrell Pigrome in at that point except creating a potential quarterback controversy?
  32. The recruiting implications from this game are likely to be significant, which means this game is likely to play an out sized role in Mike Locksley’s ultimate legacy. Locks was never considered an “offensive genius” and was very much hired because of his relationships in the DMV and his ability to recruit difference makers. His biggest competition for those difference makers? Penn State.
  33. Hard to see how those kids are coming to the Terps now.
  34. Alabama makes everyone look pretty good, doesn’t it?
  35. The only benefit of playing games on a Friday night is that I get a full day of stress free college football on a Saturday. So, of course, this weekend’s schedule was atrocious.
  36. I want to like this announce team, but they make it virtually impossible to do when they can’t get anyone’s name right.
  37. I’m not sure if Maryland’s a bowl team. A loss to Temple certainly hurt its chances, but it will likely be 5-2 when it goes to Minnesota in late-October. It closes out the year with Michigan, OSU, Nebraska, and Sparty, which is a tough stretch for almost anyone.
  38. Even so, this was a legitimate test and Penn State passed it with flying colors. We should all be happy with this result. The saga continues.
  39. On to Purdue.
  40. We are...