Game Grades: Maryland
No. 12 Penn State (3-0) faced its first Big Ten conference game on Friday, Sept. 27 against Maryland at College Park. Penn State came right out of the gate in explosive fashion, and maintained that power to defeat Maryland, 59-0. Here’s how the Nittany Lions’ different units performed:
Sean Clifford had an exceptional performance in his first Big Ten game as the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback, finishing 26-for-31 and passing for 389 yards, alongside four touchdowns (three through the air and one on the ground). Clifford looked composed in the pocket, hitting his playmakers in space with quick throws, along with an occasional deep ball and the recognition to scramble from pressure in order to gain valuable yards.
The running back committee, also known as the #LawnBoyz, contributed as well, as Journey Brown had a rushing and receiving touchdown, while Ricky Slade recorded a touchdown on three catches.
As for the receiving corps, KJ Hamler set the tone by taking a 58-yard reception to the end zone using his elusive footwork. Dan Chisena caught a 40-yard reception while being interfered with, and Nick Bowers hauled in a 50-yard reception that led to a touchdown.
The offensive line capped off a dominant offensive performance, as it created holes for the running game while also preventing any sacks on Clifford.
The entire defensive unit was spectacular, shutting out Maryland and only giving up 128 total yards. The defensive line played to its highest potential by dominating Maryland’s offensive line. Yetur Gross-Matos recorded five tackles, two for loss, while Shane Simmons and Fred Hansard each recorded a half-tackle for loss.
In the linebacking unit, Josh Jackson record one interception and Ellis Brooks led the team with six tackles and 2 ½ sacks. Jesse Luketa was able to step in for the ejection of Micah Parsons by recording five tackles.
The secondary dominated as well, only giving up 68 yards thanks to Jonathan Sunderland, Jaquan Brisker and Garret Taylor detecting screens and assisting in stopping the run. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland native Tariq Castro-Fields deflated a red zone threat from Maryland by intercepting the ball, and Keaton Ellis recovered one fumble too.
Special Teams: A
The coverage team did an exceptional job limiting the dangerous Javon Leake in the return game. Jordan Stout did shank his only field goal attempt, a difficult 51-yard kick, but Jake Pinegar was able to nail a 21-yard field goal.
In three punting attempts, Blake Gillikin averaged 41 yards and booted a long of 52. Jahan Dotson highlighted the return game with a 30-yard return, as Maryland limited KJ Hamler’s opportunities.
There are not many negatives to find in a 59-0 win. James Franklin and the rest of the coaching staff prepared the Nittany Lions well enough following their bye. In an atmosphere that was previewed to feature a loud and intense crowd, the Nittany Lions looked calm and collected, and that poise helped Penn State get the victory in College Park.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.