Five Things We Learned: Maryland
Penn State (4-0, 1-0) scored early and often in a 59-0 rout of Maryland (2-2, 0-1) on Friday night at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions recorded their fifth straight win against the Terrapins and first shutout since 2017. Here are five things we learned from the Friday night matchup:
Penn State fixed their problems on third down
In their first three games, Penn State was 7/30 on third down (23%) which was 127th in the FBS. James Franklin put an emphasis on third down during the bye week and it showed. The Nittany Lions were 9-for-14 on third down (64%) and were 8-for-9 with the starters in the game. If the Nittany Lions can keep this up going forward, they will be one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
Penn State’s defense showed why they’re one of the best in the country
The Nittany Lion defense may have played their best game yet. Jan Johnson got the momentum early with an interception; Tariq Castro-Fields stopped Maryland’s only productive drive of the night with a pick, and Maryland’s offense did not hit 100 yards until the fourth quarter. The scary part was the second team played almost as impressive as the starters. Guys like Adisa Isaac and Ellis Brooks had the best games of their careers. Brent Pry has a unit he could be proud of.
KJ Hamler is one of the most electric players around
Another point that James Franklin made during the bye week was that Penn State has to get the ball to its dynamic receiver KJ Hamler more often, and now you can see why he was saying that. Hamler made defenders miss all over the field during a 58-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He was also Penn State’s leading receiver with six catches for 108 yards with a touchdown when 13 different Nittany Lions caught a pass. Sean Clifford looks he has found chemistry with Hamler, which will be big moving forward.
Sean Clifford had his best game as a Nittany Lion
The first three games had ups and downs for first year starter Sean Clifford. Friday night was all ups. Clifford was 26-for-31 for 398 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He was also Penn State’s leading rusher with 54 yards and a touchdown. Clifford also set the Penn State record for passing yards in a half during the first half. There will still be ups and downs going forward, but Clifford has proven that this job is his for a while.
Penn State took all the criticism they heard during the bye week to heart
The first three games of the season left a lot of questions about this Penn State team. They answered most of them: third downs, KJ Hamler’s use, defensive line pressure. Credit is owed to this coaching staff for working hard during the bye week to address some of these issues. There are still some questions, mainly the running back situation, but that will work itself out as the season goes along. Coaching gets their first A of the season this week.
Penn State will welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to Beaver Stadium next for a noon kickoff on Saturday Oct. 5.
Kevin McConlogue is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.