After a tough couple of weeks to grade, it sure is nice to get a fun blowout to do again! Let’s get right to them...
Yeah, it’s pretty clear at this point that Drew Allar throwing his first career interception last week was a good thing for him. Ever since then, he’s gone full-on “F it, grip it and rip it” mode and it showed today as he was absolutely dialed in with the passing, throwing for 240 yards and four touchdowns on 25-for-34 passing. Drew also featured a set of wheels that totally caught Maryland’s defense off guard, with a few designed runs, totaling 39 yards on the ground, including a 21-yarder. It can’t be emphasized enough just how critical it is that Drew makes opposing defenses respect his running ability, since it opens up things for the rest of the offense.
We also saw the debut of the “Beau Pribula Package” inside the red zone, although Beau seems to have developed a nasty habit of tripping over himself and his teammates on his designed runs. However, we did get treated to an amazing TD play where both Drew and Beau were on the field at the same time, in what someone in the BSD Slack channel best described as the “Philly Special mixed with a Chiefs shovel pass.”
Running Back: A-
Kaytron Allen got the start and showcased why, by plowing his way to nearly a hundred yards with some tough running, culminating in an absolute monster of a TD in which he seemingly dragged a few Terps defenders trying to tackle him from ten yards out, all the way into the end zone. PSU will absolutely need some more of that next weekend when Michigan comes to Happy Valley.
Wide Receiver: A
Yes, KeAndre Lambert-Smith once again had a solid game (eight catches, 95 yards), coming awfully close to the century mark in receiving yards, but the real story of this unit is the long-awaited emergence of Dante Cephas, who scored his first two TD’s as a Nittany Lion, making a pair of excellent catches in the end zone in spots where only Allar could place it. Cephas’ stat line of six catches for 53 yards to go with the pair of TD’s was really encouraging, as PSU desperately needed a No. 2 receiver to establish himself with Tre Wallace being out with an injury.
Tight End: A-
Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren each had four catches and a TD and were heavily featured in the passing attack. While their blocking was okay overall, PSU could’ve had a couple more explosive plays had their held on to their blocks for a split-second longer.
Offensive Line: A
Pass protection seemed a little spotty the first drive or two, but they quickly settled in and gave Allar plenty of time to scan the field and find his target. The O-line was also solid in getting some push up front to allow the ground game to operate.
Defensive Line: A
Penn State’s defense as a whole was responsible for six sacks, four turnovers, a turnover on downs, and holding Maryland’s ground attack to a near-record in futility with minus-49 yards rushing. Adisa Isaac and Hakeem Beamon led the charge, as they were responsible for two of the six team sacks, and the D-line as a whole just absolutely mauled Maryland’s O-line from the get-go, forcing Taulia Tagovailoa to have to get rid of the ball quickly or scramble away from trouble, which the linebackers were ready for. Zane Durant had a fumble recovery on what looked to be a promising drive for Maryland early in the game, while Isaac forced a fumble himself.
After what had been a relatively quiet sophomore campaign for Abdul Carter, he reminded us why he wears the patented No. 11 jersey, as he was in hot pursuit of the ball carrier, leading the team in tackles with six of them, including a sack. Curtis Jacobs also had 1.5 tackles for a loss before leaving the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. Given that Jacobs appeared to be moving around okay on the sidelines and yukking it up with his teammates and staff, it seems more like a precautionary thing given that Michigan lies ahead. Shout-outs to Dom DeLuca and Tony Rojas, who both telegraphed some Taulia short passes for interceptions.
You may furrow your brow at this grade for the secondary, when you conisder that Taulia was 22-of-25 for 211 yards and a TD in the first half, but the vast majority of his pass completions were screen passes or quick one-read slant throws. Yes, there were a couple of passes downfield that could’ve been defended a little better, hence the A-minus, but the fact that the Terps only mustered 15 total points on two scoring drives (both of which were aided by penalties), speaks for itself. Shout-out to Johnny Dixon for recording yet another corner blitzing sack.
Special Teams: A-
Aside from Liam Clifford completely whiffing on an aggressive attempt to block a punt and roughing Maryland’s punter, which set up the Terps’ first scoring drive of the game, special teams were actually pretty solid. Alex Felkins was money, nailing all three of his field goal attempts, Riley Thompson averaged nearly 45 yards on his two punts, and Singleton took the ensuing kickoff return into Maryland territory, right after Maryland cut the PSU lead in the fourth quarter down to 31-15, setting up an easy TD drive to put any hopes of a miracle comeback to rest.
Kudos to Mike Yurcich, who showcased some creativity with the red zone packages, ensured the offense showed a balanced run/pass attack, and allowed Drew to be Drew. It’s also unusual to see a Manny Diaz-coached defense play a little “bend but don’t break” against a passing attack, but giving the Terps the mini-cushion for short pass plays later on led to PSU telegraphing them for interceptions. Let this be a lesson to the coaching staff to not “turtle up” against Michigan next weekend.
PSU came into this game being on “Upset Alert” by some national pundits, but once again delivered an absolute beatdown of a win in Maryland’s own stadium. All three facets of the game (offense, defense, special teams) were solid, for the most part, and the coaches seemed to have the right game plan with the players mostly executing it properly.
[BONUS CATEGORY] Weather: A+
If you’re not a resident of the Washington DC Metro Area like Yours Truly, you may not realize how common it is to get temperatures in the mid-60s on an early November afternoon. It sure made for some pleasant tailgating and football-watching weather! And a huge shout-out to all the PSU fans who made the trek to College Park and made the stadium look like a 50/50 partisan split. Given that a large alumni base exists in the DC and Baltimore region, it’s not terribly surprising, but it’s still a very welcome sight.