By Michelle R. Martinelli
COLLEGE PARK, MD. — On the road in a raucous Happy Valley environment, Maryland football will attempt to do what only two Terrapin teams have done before: Beat Penn State.
In 39 meetings throughout the last 100 years, Maryland has taken down the Nittany Lions only in 1961 and 2014, so this season’s roster includes a handful of players who know what it’s like to win.
Both the 2014 win and 2015 loss were decided by one point, and senior quarterback Perry Hills remembers the pain of losing the lead in the fourth quarter the last time these teams met.
“It was definitely a heart-wrenching game,” said Hills, who threw three interceptions and was sacked four times at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I wish I could have back some of the mistakes. It was a really fun game. Even my roommate, (freshman running back) Jake Funk, said he was in the stands. He said the crowd was ecstatic. It was a great atmosphere, but we came up one point short.”
Before the 2014 win, the teams had not played each other since 1993, with Maryland not yet in the Big Ten.
But since joining the conference, have the Terps picked up a new rival?
“We don’t really like to get into the whole politics of the whole thing, but we like to let the fans and the game speak for itself,” junior offensive lineman Mike Minter said. “We’ve had some really close games the past two years, and it’s always a really fun, energetic game.”
Overcoming the notoriously wild crowd at Penn State will be the first real challenge for the Terps. Although they’ve handled adversity on the road against Florida International and in double overtime at Central Florida earlier this season, this is the first time Durkin’s team will have to consider the atmosphere as an obstacle.
“Honestly, we like playing in environments like that instead of no one (in the stands),” Hills said. “It kind of gets you more energized to go out there and say, ‘We’re going to prove all these people wrong (and) make them shut up.’ So guys are going to be really excited for it.”
To stand a chance of winning, the Terps’ defense will have to contain Penn State’s dynamic quarterback Trace McSorley, who leads what head coach DJ Durkin described as a “big play capability” offense.
While containing McSorley as he scrambles in the pocket — who’s ranked third in the Big Ten averaging 256.8 yards per game — Maryland’s secondary will have to prepare for ample vertical routes from the Nittany Lions.
“We’ve played some mobile quarterbacks, (and McSorley is) right up there as good as any of them, or better,” Durkin said. “He’s really mobile. He does a good job with his eyes downfield, as well, when he’s moving in the pocket.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at noon from Happy Valley on the Big Ten Network.