Maryland defense no match for Penn State run game in first loss

Photo courtesy of Ally Jubault.
Photo courtesy of Ally Jubault.

One week after pummeling Purdue University in their first Big Ten matchup of 2016, the University of Maryland Terrapins suffered their first loss of the season Saturday at Penn State University, 38-14.

A Terps’ defense that looked strong through the first four games of 2016 couldn’t hold back the Nittany Lions’ run game. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley rushed for over 200 yards, and quarterback Trace McSorley added 81 yards on the ground. While Penn State ran all over the field, Maryland struggled to do so.

The Terps have relied heavily on the ground game this season, averaging 300 yards per game coming in, but were held to just 170 yards Saturday. They found no success in the air, either, as Perry Hills and Tyrrell Pigrome combined to go 10-for-16 with 100 yards.

The Terps never led in the game, but played it close in the first half. Penn State received the opening kickoff and marched down field for a touchdown to put Maryland in an early hole. But after trading three-and-outs, the Terps responded, tying the score at 7-7 on a 66-yard screen from Perry Hills to Ty Johnson.  The Nittany Lions added a field goal and another touchdown, and the Terps found themselves down ten.

Maryland players had plenty of opportunities that they could not follow through with. Hills threw a first-quarter interception that led to the Penn State field goal, and later lost a fumble inside the red zone on the first play of a drive that seemed destined to end in points. On the next drive, Hills was injured on a quarterback run play inside the red zone, and was replaced by Pigrome. He wasted no time, rushing seven yards and diving across the goal line on his first play for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 17-14 with the first half drawing to a close.

The Terps appeared to be right in it, down only three going into the half, and they would receive the second half kickoff. But Barkley had other plans, as McSorley handed him the ball three times in the final 41 seconds, the final carry going for 45 yards and a touchdown. Whatever momentum Pigrome’s touchdown had given the Terps was gone, and they finished the first half down 24-14.

“We had some momentum there going into the half, had good field position, and ready to go, and that just swings it the other way,” Maryland head coach DJ Durkin said after the game. “Just one thing after another.”

The second half was all Nittany Lions, as the Terps were shut out in the final thirty minutes. They committed no turnovers, but rather were overwhelmed by the Penn State defense. Only one second half drive made it to Penn State territory, midway through the third quarter. Durkin elected to go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Penn State 22-yard line, but running back Jake Funk was stopped and the Terps turned the ball over on downs.

When all was said and done, Penn State scored 14 more points in the second half to seal Maryland’s fate. A day that had begun with high hopes for the Terps ended in a 24-point loss. They were outgained 524 to 270, and they surrendered 372 rushing yards a week after allowing just 10 to Purdue.

“I think it was just the big plays and we shouldn’t have let them happen and then we got down on ourselves,” Johnson said in a postgame press conference. “That’s what happens when you get stopped on the first or second and third.”

After the first loss of the year, the Terps are ready to learn from their defeat and get ready for their next matchup.

“We will just have to know how to move past this loss,” Maryland linebacker Jermaine Carter said in a postgame press conference. “We have to take it and get better this whole week of practice and prepare for Minnesota and just go out there and ball out.”

The Terps return home to face Minnesota at 12 p.m. on Oct. 15.

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