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Know Your Foe: Maryland Terrapins

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Penn State is looking to start Big Ten play with a victory under the Friday night lights.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get to know Penn State’s first Big Ten opponent of the season- the Maryland Terrapins.

University of Maryland
Location: College Park, MD
Enrollment: 40,521

Maryland Football Facts:

Home Stadium: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (54,000)

Head Coach: Mike Locksley, 1st season, 2-1 (5-32 in his career)

Conference: Big Ten

Conference Titles: 11 (Last in 2001 as part of the ACC)

Overall Bowl Record: 11-13-2

Series History:

Friday night’s showdown between the two programs marks the 43rd matchup between the two programs with Penn State holding a 39-2-1 record through the first 42 meetings. The first meeting between the two programs came all the way back in 1917, a 57-0 victory for the Nittany Lions. The programs wouldn’t meet again until 1937 and played each other five times between 1937 and 1944. The two programs then were common opponents between 1960 and 1993. During those 34 seasons, the Nittany Lions won all but two meetings collecting a 29-1-1 record in their 32 meetings. The only two seasons the two programs didn’t meet was 1981 and 1983.

The two programs then wouldn’t meet again until 2014 when the Nittany Lions took on the Terrapins for the first time as conference foes. The Terrapins would come out on top in that game by a final score of 20-19, that game is also known for being the game that Maryland refused to shake hands with Penn State prior to kickoff.

Since then, the Nittany Lions have won the last four meetings including outscoring Maryland 104-6 over the last two seasons. The Nittany Lions will look to make it five straight wins over Maryland on Friday night.

Last Season (5-7, 3-6)

Last season was the lone season of Matt Canada’s head coaching tenure as he took over for D.J Durkin following Maryland’s scandal rising from the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

The Terrapins, like this season, started the season off strong in the first two weeks, picking up a win over a top-25 ranked Texas and beating Bowling Green before losing to Temple. Once the Terrapins entered conference play, they were up and down through the first four games, collecting a 3-2 record. But over their last four games of the season, they weren’t able to get back into the win column, losing to Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, and of course the Nittany Lions. Matt Canada was not kept following the season and Maryland hired Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Recruiting and offseason:

Maryland’s 2019 recruiting class was ranked 47th overall and 11th in the Big Ten by 247Sports in the 2019 class rankings and is headlined by former Penn State target Nick Cross. They also landed top-10 dual threat quarterback Lance LeGendre who was featured in the Netflix series QB1 during his senior season of high school last year. Comparatively, Penn State’s class ranked 12th in the nation and second in the Big Ten. In addition to their recruiting class, the Terrapins added five transfers including former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson.

What they did last week: Bye week

Last weekend for Maryland was a bye week but in Week Three, the Terrapins suffered their first loss of the 2019 season at the hands of Temple. The Maryland offense struggled throughout their loss in Philadelphia especially as they got closer to scoring range. Quarterback Josh Jackson who looked solid through the first two weeks also struggled, completing 15-of-38 passing attempts for 183-yards, one touchdown, and one interception. They also allowed 427 total yards of offense to the Owls including 277 through the air.

Offense:

So far this season, Maryland is showing an offense that looks to run the ball slightly more than they pass it with 136 rushing attempts to 110 passing plays this season.

So far, that 56/44 split has payed off for the Terrapins as they’ve averaged 260.3 yards through the air and 277-yards on the ground per game this season. They’re also averaging 53.0 points per game though a 79-0 win does inflate that number much like the Nittany Lions own 79-point performance against Idaho inflates their points per game number of 47.0.

That being said, the Maryland offense looks a lot more dangerous it does from a season ago. Having a capable quarterback in Josh Jackson has helped them so far despite Jackson not lighting up the stat sheet. Through three games, Jackson has completed 51-of-100 passing attempts for 724-yards. He’s thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions as well.

While having a quarterback like Jackson has helped, the Terps’ biggest weapon has been sophomore running back Anthony McFarland. McFarland has only carried the ball 46 times so far this season but has made the most of his carries with 225-yards and five touchdowns. He also has three receptions for 59-yards and one touchdown. Also getting a fair share of carries is junior running back Tayon Fleet-Davis. Fleet-Davis has 27 carries for 146-yards and one touchdown so far this season. McFarland and Fleet-Davis are the two likely options to carry the ball on Friday night.

When it comes to receiving threats, the ball has been spread around plenty so far this season with 11 different receivers having receptions. Three receivers do stand out about the rest however in sophomore wide receiver Dontay Demus, sophomore tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo, and sophomore wide out Deon Jones. Combined, the three have 25 receptions for 396-yards and three touchdowns.

Overall, this is on paper a better offense than the Nittany Lions have faced the last few times they’ve taken on Maryland. That being said, this is an offense that the Nittany Lions defense should be able to handle.

Defense:

With the coaching changes, comes a new defense for the Terrapins. After running a 4-2-5 the last few seasons, they have moved into a 3-4 defense under Mike Locksley and defensive coordinator Jon Hoke. The change was much needed for a Maryland program that allowed 29.5, 37.1, and 28.7 points per game over the last three seasons.

Through the first three weeks, all the changes Hoke has brought to College Park seem to be working. The Terrapins defense has performed rather well, allowing just 13.3 points per game. Even in their loss to Temple, the defense performed well enough for the Terrapins to possibly steal the victory. They’ve been much easier to attack through the air so far, allowing 224-yards per game while allowing just 73.7 yards per game on the ground.

Leading Maryland defensively has been senior defensive back Antoine Brooks who has recorded 25 tackles so far this season as well as one pass deflection and one fumble recovery. Ohio State transfer and senior linebacker Keandre Jones is also among their top defenders with 14 tackles including 4.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks in there games this season. Both numbers lead the Terrapins so far this season.

The Maryland secondary hasn’t performed poorly by any standard so far this season but they haven’t been a shutdown season either. The Terrapins have two interceptions so far this season including one from sophomore defensive back Jordan Mosley. They also have six pass deflections so far this season including two from senior defensive back Tino Ellis.

Overall, the Maryland defense looks much improved but that being said, they haven’t exactly faced imposing opponents offensively. The Nittany Lions will be their first major test this season and will likely show who the real Maryland defense is this season. Like on offense, the defense on paper is much improved in 2019 and should not be as much of a “walk over” defense as they have been in the past, if at all.

There is plenty of talent on Maryland’s roster defensively but now it’s up to them to make the plays. If Maryland’s defense can make the Nittany Lions one dimensional on Friday, they’ll have a shot at upsetting the Nittany Lions if Penn State’s week three performance against Pittsburgh was any indication. The one thing safe to say is that both Maryland’s defense and Penn State’s offense are in need of big performances on Friday night.

Special Teams:

Returning kickoffs for the Terrapins is a combination of mostly Javon Leake and DJ Turner. Leake has returned two kicks for 40-yards while Turner has returned one for 22-yards. DJ Turner has been the Terrapins primary punt returner this year and has done well doing so, returning three punters for 107-yards and one touchdown.

Kicker Joseph Petrino has made all 18 extra points he’s attempted so far but missed the only field goal he attempted, a 42-yard attempt against Temple. Petrino could be an interesting X-factor in the game if it’s close on Friday night. Last year, he was rather solid, hitting 12-of-14 attempts. Punting wise, the Terrapins are using two punters in Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella. Both have done decent this season, averaging 40.3 and 40.9 yards per punt respectively.