By Michelle R. Martinelli
Less than three minutes into the first quarter, it became clear Maryland’s defense was not prepared to attack Penn State’s run game.
Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley combined for 58 yards on the ground in three plays during the game’s opening 84-yard drive, ending with a Penn State touchdown.
Emblematic of the remaining 57 minutes, the Nittany Lions relentlessly pounded the ball while handing Maryland its first loss of the season, 38-14 on Saturday in Happy Valley.
In the first four games this season, the Terrapins (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) held their opponents to an average 119 yards rushing yards, while they had 300. This time the tables were turned against them, as they fell to 2-37-1 overall against Penn State.
The Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1) finished with 372 rushing yards — and a whopping 524 total — compared with Maryland’s 270 overall, just 170 of which were on the ground.
Barkley ran up 202 yards on 31 carries with a touchdown, while McSorley had 18 carries for 81 yards and threw 10-for-19 and 152 yards and two touchdowns.
Time and time again, the Maryland defense had sloppy and missed tackles, and it couldn’t break away from Penn State’s grip, creating giant holes for the Nittany Lions — like Barkley’s 45-yard touchdown run with 15 seconds left in the first half.
At first, it didn’t look the the score would be so lopsided. Midway through the first quarter, Maryland senior quarterback Perry Hills completed a short, second-and-10 pass to sophomore running back Ty Johnson who took it in for a 66-yard touchdown and a tie game.
But Penn State’s 17 second-quarter points left the Terps already playing catch-up before the first half was over.
They had a chance for a big momentum shift when junior linebacker Jermaine Carter blocked the Nittany Lions’ punt with about four minutes left in the half, but they couldn’t capitalize.
In fact, they squandered their momentum and the ball when Hills was immediately sacked and then fumbled the ball at Penn State’s 20-yard line.
To make matters worse, Hills left the game late in the second with an undisclosed injury and did not return. He completed 5-of-7 passes for 72 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
But the team’s desperation was not lost on freshman quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who took over for Hills and launched himself into the end zone on his first drive to get the Terps within three at 17-14.
Although Pigrome showed potential for the future, Maryland remained scoreless in the second half as the Nittany Lions continued to increase their lead.
Pigrome threw 5-for-9 and 28 yards but had 39 yards on the ground on 10 carries to go with his opening touchdown run. Freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison led the Terps run game with 76 yards in six attempts.
Next up for Maryland is Minnesota at home in College Park at noon Saturday.