In 2014, after a double overtime thriller, the Lions played lethargic football, and gave Maryland their first win over Penn State since 1961, the second win in series history. Fast-forward to 2020, and Maryland, once again, took advantage of a lethargic game by the Nittany Lions and picked up its largest margin of victory in the three wins, a 35-19 laugher that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
On Saturday, Maryland was looking to make it three in a row. Penn State left plenty of opportunities on the table, dominating the Terps in several key statistics, except points. At one point in the game, the Lions had held the ball for 22 minutes, but only had seven points to show for it. This gave Maryland every opportunity to hang around, and continue the tale of the lethargic Lions vs the motivated Terrapins.
Lucky for us, one Jahan Dotson was not going to let that happen two years in a row.
The first four possessions of the game all led to punts, but the Nittany Lions started theirs with two three and outs. Maryland, on the other hand, found some success with the same types of quick outs that were so successful last season. Unfortunately for them, this defense was more than willing to give them the yards in the 20s, but clamped down when it mattered.
A drive that started at their own 46, the Terps drove the ball all the way to the Penn State 18, but a series of mistakes pushed them all the way to the Penn State 36, turning a would-be field goal attempt into a punt.
A few possessions later, Sean Clifford had two big passes to finally put the Lions on the board. The four-play, 75 yard drive had two runs and two passes, the last of which was a 38-yard play to Dotson, who shook off a defender to take the ball past the plane.
The rest of the quarter saw two more drives by each team, one ending in a punt, and another ending in a turnover on downs.
The struggle bus on offense continued for both teams, as four more drives ended in punts for both teams. Penn State found some semblance of a running game, as both Keyvone Lee and Noah Cain started to “gash” the Maryland defense, two yards at a time.
The end of the half saw Maryland have some more success with the quick outs, which turned into an eight-play, 86-yard drive that closed the game at 7-6, after the Terps missed the extra point.
In somewhat of a baffling turn of events, the Nittany Lions, with three timeouts and 1:15 left in the half, decided that they were content with going into the half up a point instead of trying to get into field goal range, choosing not to save time until there were three seconds left on the clock.
Maryland, once again, came out swinging in the third quarter. They stuck with what worked in the first half, and put together an eight-play drive that stalled at the Penn State 36. In response, the Lions, starting from their own five-yard line, took 14 plays and nearly six minute of clock to go up 14-6.
Two more failed drives, a Maryland fumble, and a Penn State punt, capped the offense-deprived third quarter.
After threatening basically all afternoon, Maryland finally saw the end zone again, capping a 10-play, 52-yard drive that started in the third quarter. Taulia Tagovailoa completed a pass to Corey Dyches for the score, and later completed another to Chigoziem Okonkwo to secure a tying two-point conversion.
Penn State, finally with some sense of urgency, responded by capping their own touchdown response, this one being a 86-yard pass to Dotson, who, again, shook off a defender who should have had him. After a sack that put Penn State at its own 14-yard line, Clifford looked for his favorite target, and Dotson did the rest.
The Lions managed another scoring drive to give themselves some cushion. With a little over 10 minutes on the clock, the Lions went 74 yards in 3:55, to tack on a field goal that would make the score 24-14 with 6:33 left in the game.
Maryland’s last ditch attempt to close the gap sealed the deal for the Nittany Lions, as Tagovailoa would be intercepted twice in their drive. The first, an interception by Jaquan Brisker, was negated by a holding Penalty on the Nittany Lions. The second, however, was a pick by Ji’Ayir Brown, one he would return 87 yards for the defensive score. Down 31-14, Maryland tried one more time, but their last drive of the game would end in a turnover on downs after seven plays.
Stats And Storylines
2 - Amount of timeouts Penn State had going into the half. Luckily for them, the baffling clock management to end the first half did not come back to bite them.
5 - Number of red zone trips for the Terps. Maryland could only turn two of them into points.
93 - Rushing yards by the Nittany Lions. Not great, but far from the dismal performances int he previous three games.
242 - Number of receiving yards by Dotson, a school record.