The running game continues to be a mess
Entering Saturday’s contest Maryland’s rush defense was among the worst in both the Big Ten and the entire FBS. Despite this, the Nittany Lions continued to struggle to be able to establish any sort of consistent rushing attack.
While Noah Cain appeared to be in the best rhythm he’s been in while running the ball in quite a few weeks, he still finished with just 35 yards rushing to go with just 3.5 yards per carry.
John Lovett average just 3.4 yards per carry and, thanks in large part to sacks, Sean Clifford had negative yards rushing. As a team the Nittany Lions rushed for just 97 yards while averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.
The lone running back who had a strong day for the Nittany Lions was Keyvone Lee. He had 8 carries for 50 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Lee also had a pair of receptions for 17 yards. It definitely appeared that Lee should have gotten more touches on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the season the struggles of the running game has been a combination of poor offensive line and running back play. Saturday afternoon the running backs had a better game, but the offensive line struggled to give them much more to run and in moving defenders.
Jahan Dotson was not going to let Penn State lose
Jahan Dotson continues to solidify himself as not just one of the best wide receivers in the country, but also one of the best wide receivers in program history. When the Nittany Lion offense needed a play on Saturday the senior wide receiver stepped up and took the game over.
Dotson hauled in a career high tying 11 passes for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dotson’s 242 yards is a new single game program record, while his 3 touchdowns are a new career high and tie for the second most in a single game in program history.
When Penn State needed a big play in the game Dotson would step up time and time again. No play in the entire game may have been bigger than Dotson’s 86-yard touchdown catch in the early seconds of the 4th quarter after Maryland had tied the game at 14.
Big game Dotson came through for the Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon.
At times, coaching decisions left a lot to be desired
There were a lot of times on Saturday afternoon that the Penn State coaching staff was leaving a lot to be desired. Mike Yurcich has mostly had a strong season but there was some questioning play calling on Saturday.
The biggest coaching question came right before the half when the Nittany Lions started a drive at their own 25 with 1:15 left in the half and all three timeouts remaining. After a pair of Lovett runs they had the ball at the Maryland 35.
At this point it appeared the Nittany Lions would be attempted to drive for at least a field goal before the half. Following a Clifford incomplete pass the Nittany Lions ran the ball twice before calling a timeout with just :03 seconds remaining in the half. They then kneeled the ball to end the half.
Not trying to get points before the half was foolish. It was made extra foolish due to Penn State having all three timeouts left and picking up a first down just two plays into the drive. Thankfully, it was a decision that did not come back to bite them.
Defense continues to step up
All season long Penn State’s defense has been one of the best in the Big Ten and the entire Power 5. While they allowed 371 passing yards to Taulia Tagovailoa the defense made stops and plays when they needed to.
The Terps had multiple drives where they advanced into Penn State territory and seemed prime to score points. Rather it was tackles for a loss, the defense drawing penalties, or stopping the Terps on 4th down, many time those drives did not result in points.
Brent Pry’s unit also forced a pair of turnovers in the red zone. Now, albeit, the fumble Ji’Ayir Brown included some luck due to a poor snap that went off a Maryland helmet, he still had the awareness to get the ball.
Brown’s game clinching interception also occurred in the red zone. Brown intercepted a Tagovailoa pass and proceeded to return in 87 yards for a touchdown to set the final at 31-14.
The Nittany Lion defense, as they have done much of the season, certainly bended at times on Saturday. To their credit, also as they have done for much of the season, many times they did not break.