Greetings, Nittany Turkey readers. I’m thrilled today because I get to write about the renewed Penn State vs. Maryland rivalry, a subject about which I have not so much as scratched the surface in preceding diatribes. I’ll take a look at the Terrapins’ only win in the series, well over a half-century ago, as well as the series’ most recent game, itself over two decades ago, in which the Nittany Lions made a statement that would leave a bad taste in the hard-shelled reptiles’ herbivorous mouths for duration of that hiatus. Then, of course, your turkey will preview and predict the 2014 revival game.
Penn State, as you and Maryland alumnus Orlando orthopedic surgeon Dr. Fred Schroeder well know, owns this rivalry-interruptus with a record of 35-1-1. The last time Penn State lost to Maryland was in 1961, and the Terps’ last game against the Nittany Lions was a 70-7 drubbing on their home turf in 1993. Then, following that banishment there was a two-decade hiatus, bringing us to now.
Dr. Schroeder decried the University president’s decision to join the Big Ten. It pissed him off. Why?
“Now we’ll get beaten by Penn State every year, just like we used to,” he said.
I just smiled.
Moving right along…
The Maryland Terrapins (5-3, 2-2 B10/14) invade Beaver Stadium to face the mighty Penn State Nittany Lions (4-3, 1-3). The Terps are coming off a disastrous 52-7 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, whereas y’all know that Penn State was the better team but lost to the Buckeyes 31-24 in double overtime last week at the Big Whited-Out Beave.
O Maryland, My Maryland, PSU Owns Thee!
The Lion’s heel is on thy shore,
His claws are at thy temple door,
Avenge the 70-7 gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Fat chance, me mateys!
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”
Maryland has had an up-and-down year, making predictions all the more difficult. They lost to Ohio State 53-24 in Week 6, then came back to beat Iowa 38-31, after a bye week. The following week, they lost big to Wisconsin. The health of quarterback C. J. Brown has been in question from time to time as well, and in the Wisconsin game he wound up with a raw quarterback rating of 8.9. LOL.
Maryland’s Last Win: 1961
I know you’re dying to know what the deal was with the Terps’ sole win in this series, back in 1961, so your turkey is here with some factoids about the letdown much regretted by Penn State fans all the way forward to this day, or at least those who were alive and football conscious in 1961, which would mean they’re probably at least as geezerly as this turkey, if not more so. Penn State was indeed the better team, which I’m pretty sure* was robbed by the officiating gaffes of the time. After all, there were only five officials and no video replays (not that that seems to matter much fifty years later), so how the hell could they see everything? Forthwith, I present the aforementioned factoids, heavily weighted toward Penn State because I don’t have easy access to the Maryland information from that time:
- Penn State wound up that year 8-3, the losses being to Miami (25-8), Army (10-6), and Maryland (21-17)
- Maryland finished 7-3 but did not compete in the post-season
- Penn State amazingly shut out Eastern powerhouse Syracuse (14-0) that year
- Penn State wound up the season ranked 17th in the AP Poll
- Penn State was invited to the Gator Bowl where they beat Georgia Tech 30-15
- Penn State was coached by Rip Engle
- St. Joe was assistant coach for Penn State
- Penn State’s quarterback was future University of Florida head coach and Penn State offensive brain trust co-genius Galen Hall, then a senior
- Future Penn State quarterback Pete Liske played primarily as a defensive safety and alternated with Don Caum as backup QB
- Future Penn State quarterback Gary Wydman was on the roster as one platoon right halfback
- Fifth-year senior and future UCF head coach Don Jonas was on the Penn State roster as a kicker and right halfback, but was injured mid-season and limited to kicking duty
- Future Penn State offensive brain-trust coach and Rutgers head coach Dick Anderson was the second-string right end for Penn State
- Maryland was coached by Tom Nugent, who was the last Maryland coach to win his inaugural game back in 1959 until Ralph “Fridge” Friedgen did it in 2001
- Maryland under Nugent was the first college team to put names on their jerseys in 1961
- Nugent’s best year at Maryland was — you guessed it! — 1961
- Lee Corso of ridiculous ESPN headgear fame was an assistant coach under Nugent at Maryland
Penn State’s Last Win: 1993
The 1993 Penn State team was poised for greatness. Finishing the year 10-2 with a quasi-shocking 31-13 win over Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl and being ranked #8 would have been good enough, but the following year would turn out to be a legendary year in Penn State football lore.
Going into the Maryland game, the boys had summarily dispatched five opponents in their first Big 10/11 season. They destroyed the Terps 70-7, ending the rivalry on a high note (but not for Doc Schroeder) as the two schools would compete in separate conferences thenceforth.
You all know the big names of the time: Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter, Kyle Brady, Jeff Hartings & Marco Rivera, Jon Witman, Bobby Engram, Mike Archie — in no particular order. They all wound up playing in the NFL. I believe you know the coach of the time (he’s real fine, my 409) St. Joseph Vincent Paterno. Finally, as you are well aware, the next year was an undefeated, Rose Bowl winning, robbed-by-the-polls, shoulda been Mythical National Championship year for Penn State.
Maryland would go on to finish that season 2-9, its worst finish in two decades. Predictably and understandably, it was Terp head coach Joe Krivak’s final season. Oy vay!
That Was Then and This Is Now
No one is quite sure just how to categorize Maryland in their inaugural Big 10/14 season, although they’re ahead of Penn State in the Big Ten division standings. (Maybe not in the K. John “should have won” standings, though.)
Normally, I’d look at their defense and laugh, saying that Penn State should have a banner day like 1993, but a score more like 1961’s is probably in the offing. Maryland’s up-and-down year suggests that they might actually play a decent game coming into Beaver Stadium, and Penn State’s penchant for petulantly forgetting to come out of the blocks until a half has been played, especially given the noon start, suggests that it won’t be a high scoring game, I’m pretty sure.*
The Smurfs’ defense proved themselves last week against Ohio State, which to this turkey means Maryland ain’t going to be doing much scoring. I’m even hoping to see new freshman starting safety Marcus Allen pick off a C. J. Brown pass. My big Penn State question mark remains the offensive line and the highly dependent running game.
I’m somewhat optimistic about the PSU running game in this one. Akeel Lynch will have a greater role, as he has since Zach Zwinak’s season-ending injury incurred on the first play of the tOSU game. Lynch knows how to get into the open and run his balls off. Athough he’s no Ameer Abdullah or Melvin Gordon, Maryland’s rushing defense ranks second-worst only to Illinois in the conference. So, the deficient Penn State offensive line might feel as empowered as they did against UMass. A last in the conference rushing offense facing a second worst rushing defense. No wonder the game is on ESPN2.
Penn State’s passing offense still ranks second in the conference. It will face a pass defense ranked eleventh. Therein lies the seeds of some dramatic football, if Penn State doesn’t shoot itself in the foot, or have its feet shot at by the officiating crew.† In spite of the crappy ranking for the Terps passing defense, cornerback William Likely is likely to give Christian Hackenberg some trouble. He’s a shut-down corner who leads the conference in interceptions with four through eight games, including one pick-six he ran back for 88 yards. The sophomore has broken up five passes thus far. So, Hack better be damn careful on his side of the field. One hopes that the offensive line will give him enough time to find some free receivers and make accurate, non-tentative throws.
Maryland’s leading rusher is quarterback C. J. Brown, and they have been pretty crappy on the run, ranking 11th in the conference. Advantage, mighty Penn State front seven!
However, the Maryland passing offense has been prolific, averaging 236 yards per game. Against a somewhat mediocre Penn State secondary, they might have some decent opportunities if Brown has one of his good days. Brown’s completion rate is over fifty-five percent, and he has two great receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.
The two schools rank similarly in the middle of the pack in turnover margin, but if you boil out the Gary “Turn” Nova gifts, as I am wont to do, Penn State is still trailing the pack. The forecast calls for showers, so PSU needs to take special care of the ball, youknowwhatImean?
Penn State is number one in the conference in red zone defense; Maryland is number two only to Nebraska, in red zone offense. Something’s gotta give. In such match-ups, though, defense usually wins out.
Moving on to special teams, Penn State sucks throughout, except for field goal kicking, but even there, the Terps field goal kicker, junior Brad Craddock, leads the conference with no misses, a perfect 12-12. His longest was 57 yards, a long-standing record in the NFL until the New Orleans Saint’s right foot toeless Tom Dempsey came along in 1970, but I digress. The aforementioned wide receiver Stefon Diggs leads the conference in average kick return yards facing a Penn State kickoff coverage unit that ranks eleventh, while the aforementioned ace cornerback William Likely likely leads the B10/14 in punt returns averaging 16.3 yards with a long of 69 and one touchdown against a Penn State punting unit that suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks (read this as ranked 12 out of 14). A likely story, verily‡.
Let us hope that special teams’ suckage doesn’t get in the way.
Poised for a Breakout Game?
I’ve seen it written that this game could be a great breakout game for the Penn State offense. I’m kind of on the fence about that because of the natural elation following an excellent effort last week against Ohio State, at least after the crappy first half. I think a lot (all) depends on how well Christian Hackenberg can be protected, allowing his self-confidence to be restored to early season levels. Furthermore, the Nittany Lions must come out ready to play from the opening kickoff. No sleeping through the first half here! You know the history with regard to noon games.
So, yeah, this could be a good game for Hack, Lynch, and the rest of the offense if they mind their Ps and Qs. Hack likely will have to be careful to avoid throwing to the crafty Likely, and the offensive line will have to do a decent job, with Maryland tied for third in the conference in sacks.
They can do it, methinks. Call me a Sanguinarian.
Yeah, verily, we’re into the crappy Central Pennsylvania weather period. No Native-American Summer here, already. Showers are forecast with a cold, clammy high of 46º. A wet field and a wet ball, along with cold hands, creates turnover opportunities, so hang the hell onto the ball, Lions!
We Get da Broad!
The ESPN2 broadcast crew this week is supposed to be captained by Beth Mowins, with analyst Joey Galloway and sideline blonde Paul Carcaterra. I don’t think he’s actually blonde, but I don’t think he’s a Crested Caracara, either, verily, but I digress. I have dubbed this week Babe Announcer Week.
Given that this week is Babe Announcer Week, I’ve decided to choose an alumna instead of an alumnus. I had quite a few alumnae from whom to choose, including Carly Fiorina, who is well-known to us in the tech industry and who also ran for office in California, but today, I decided to memorialize a member of the ill-fated Challenger crew, Judith Resnik.
Judith Resnik was an overachiever for her entire life, tragically cut short in 1986 at the age of 36 by the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. She had a perfect score on her SAT while at Firestone High School in Akron, easily obtaining admission to Carnegie Mellon University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a BSEE in 1970. In 1977, Resnik earned a PhD, also in electrical engineering, at the University of Maryland.
She worked at RCA and Xerox prior to being recruited into the astronaut program in 1978. Resnik first flew on the shuttle as a mission specialist in 1984. She was the first American Jewish woman to go into space and only the second Jew to go into space after Boris Volynov of what was then the Soviet Union.
Among other things, such as her brilliance, Resnik was noted for her prolific hair in a world dominated by buzz-cut men.
Ms. Resnik spent a total of six days in space.
The IEEE posthumously established an award to recognize outstanding contributions in space engineering; it is dubbed the Judith A. Resnik Award. The main engineering lecture hall at the University of Maryland is named for her, as well as a dorm at Carnegie Mellon University. Finally, she is one of the few people to have a crater on the moon named after her.
A wonderfully productive life tragically cut short. That is Judith Resnik’s story.
Brass Tacks: The Official Turkey Poop Prediction
It is time for that big feature, the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for the 2014 edition of Maryland vs. Penn State. With the exception of Big Al, our Nittany Turkey Panel of Experts‘ pre-season picks all went the way of the Lion. The gambling line on this game favors the Nittany Lions by four points, with an over/under of 47.5. The spread has widened from the opening at PSU – 2.5. This suggests a Penn State victory with a final score around 26-22. I don’t think Maryland will score 22 against this PSU defense, and I think it will be a sloppy game, especially if the weather forecast holds true and PSU doesn’t bother to play until the second half. So, I’m pretty sure* this game will wind up being a Penn State win, with a score I’m pretty sure* will be 20-13, with Maryland’s TD being on either an interception, kick, or punt return, and otherwise restricted to field goals. Take the under. Of course, I’m pretty sure* I’ll be wrong, too, as I usually am. But you don’t make or lose a lot of money mind-betting.
So, with 7/12ths of a regular season under our belts, what do you readers think about this team and its chances against the Terps? Any changes from your original predictions?
I’ll be back with a recap and a smirk after the game.
*See last week’s definition of “I’m pretty sure.”
†No, K. John didn’t pay me off to write that!
‡Elizabethan for the current vogue vacuosity “seriously”.