Penn State 31, Maryland 30
Avast, me hearties! Penn State unleashed the Hackenberg long ball in a desperate attempt to claw their way past their new rivals, the Merryland Terrapins. In the end, Penn State prevailed, beating the Terps 31-30.
While the final score indicates that this should have been a highly contested, exciting see-saw game, at times it looked like neither team wanted to win. It came down to who held the ball last, and I mean “held”. On many occasions during this fumble-fest, it seemed like both teams were trying to hang onto a greased pig. Penn State lost three fumbles; Maryland lost two. Throw in the Nittany Lions’ three interceptions of Maryland quarterback Yinzer junior Perry Hills, and you have the quintessence of a slopfest.
Looking at it positively, when the Terps loaded up the box to stop Saquon Barkley (65 yds on 20 carries with one touchdown), they went to man coverage in the secondary, which gave our boy Christian Hackenberg some freedom to launch Wally Richardsonesque mortar rounds in the general direction of Chris Godwin (4 receptions for 135 yds and a touchdown) and DaeSean Hamilton (5-96, 1 TD). These are great receivers who can make spectacular catches out of jump balls. Although ineffectual with the short passing game and still below 50% in completion percentage, Hack had a career day with 13 completions of 29 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
One cannot look at the Nittany Lions’ defensive effort as a positive by any stretch. No no no! Not what we expect from this vaunted defense! Maybe we expect too much. The defensive brain trust was well aware of Perry Hills’ running capabilities from watching his performance in the Ohio State game. Yet, they gave up 124 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries by Hills. Hills also threw 19 passes for 28 yards and another touchdown, but was intercepted three times. The sad fact is that this vaunted Penn State defense allowed 466 yards to a balanced offensive effort by Maryland, and yeah, that means the so-called great run defense couldn’t cut it.
Of course, the defense got little help from the offense, when it came to keeping them fresh. Turnovers notwithstanding, the Terps were able to hold onto the ball for 35:41 to the Lions’ 23:27. That suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks, as does the continued abysmal third down conversion rate. Penn State converted three of thirteen. If the short passing game continues to suck, there will be no improvement in this situation. The defense will be back on the field quickly, and they’ll be gassed. Try to chase a slippery running quarterback with a gassed bunch of big guys and the results are entirely predictable.
Whither Goeth Penn State?
This is not a winning strategy for future games. Maryland is one of the crappiest teams in the Big Ten, and PSU played them even-up in most ways. The Terps lost the turnover battle, so they lost the game. Our secret weapon, Saquon Barkley was bottled up, so the long pass became our weapon of choice. A great receiver like Chris Godwin gives us that flexibility, but only against defenses like Maryland (#104 in passing efficiency defense) or Indiana (#106), especially when they resort to man coverage. Looking at the remaining schedule, we have Illinois (#25), Northwestern (#4), Michigan (#1), and Moo U. (#81). OK, so in John Donovan’s great offensive mind, we revert to the run, right? Not so fast, Lee Corso! Maryland’s rushing defense is ranked #82. Remaining opponents are #50, #41, #2, and #19. Penn State must get the short passing game working or we’ll be looking at another 6-6 record.
And another thing — Gesicki. Why the hell keep throwing in his direction if he can’t catch? Week after week at our gathering, we ask the same question and scratch our heads at the continued failed experiments. What’s up with Kyle Carter? He seemed healthy enough to make one catch for 17 yards. Gesicki dropped all his passes, damnit. This cost some third down conversions and I’m getting sick and tired of watching not only Hackenberg sailing easy sideline passes over receivers’ heads, but also receivers dropping easy ones. Buncha shit!
The Maryland-Penn State Rivalry
About this rivalry thing. Get off your Penn State high horse and admit it. Randy Edsall called it a rivalry, but we laughed at him last year. PSU barely beat them this year. They compete for recruits in the same part of the country, and they are both playing similarly crappily, so why shouldn’t this be considered a rivalry, already? If you think a rivalry with Maryland is beneath our dignity and you say they’re not good enough to even carry our jock straps, then you haven’t been watching the sad on-field product that Penn State has produced under James Franklin. For the waning years of St. Joe, we saw a decline to mediocrity in many areas, so this is nothing new. It is hard for fans to grasp, but this is not a team that will compete for a Big Ten crown anytime soon. I don’t care what excuses you throw at me to mitigate the obvious. The proof is in the pudding.
Going Forward, Down the Road, At the End of the Day…
Yeah, a win is a win and Penn State is now bowl eligible. They’ll no doubt get an offer from the Ty-D-Bowl ToiletBowl.com Bowl (that’s three “bowls” in one!). However, does this feel satisfying to you? Somehow, deep inside, even the most sanguine of the Sanguinarians must feel unsettled about the state of this team. I sure as hell do.
So, on we go. Right tackle Andrew Nelson was hurt again, so the Traffic Cones will be even worse than they were in this game, in which they gave up four sacks and didn’t make holes for our great freshman running hero, Saquon. Special teams still bite the big one. Illinois next week is not a sure win, but speak up. I’m listening.
I’ll be back with a preview and prediction of the upcoming game with the mighty Illiniweks (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions opened as six-point favorites to beat the Native Americans from Illinois back home at Beaver Stadium.