By Eric Myers
On the second play of the game, Penn State running back Miles Sanders took the handoff from Trace McSorley and ran 35 yards to the Maryland 5-yard-line, eluding numerous defenders, who missed opportunities to tackle the junior running back.
Two plays later, Trace McSorley ran for a three-yard touchdown.
“It was a setback and [the team] just had to respond. And we didn’t respond how we wanted to and it carried over,” Maryland’s senior wide receiver Taivon Jacobs said.
Penn State’s rushing success on that first play and Maryland’s missed opportunities carried on throughout the Terrapins’ 38-3 loss at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania, on Saturday against the 14th-ranked Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions’ 310 rushing yards surpassed Maryland’s 259 total yardage output. The poor offensive showing in Maryland’s final game of the season came just seven days after breaking out for 535 yards against Ohio State.
McSorley repeatedly put Maryland’s defensive linemen in a bind about whether they should attack the quarterback or running back on read option plays. Maryland’s defense could not contain either position on the ground as McSorley totaled 64 yards rushing with two touchdowns to go along with Sanders’ 128 yards rushing.
Reserve running back Ricky Slade also added 64 yards and two rushing touchdowns to give Penn State four scores in the running game.
The Terrapins’ early missed opportunities on the defensive side of the ball immediately transferred over to Maryland’s offense.
As Tyrrell Pigrome was leading the team’s first drive, he dropped back to throw on 3rd-and-5 at Maryland’s 43-yard line. Jeshaun Jones reeled in Pigrome’s pass along the sideline with an over-the-shoulder catch. After initially being ruled a long completion, a review showed the toe of Jones barely landing out-of-bounds and the officials overturned the call.
On Maryland’s ensuing drive, Pigrome stepped up in the pocket and found Brian Cobbs with a pass down the seam of the field. The 48-yard completion to Cobbs set Maryland up at the 13-yard line. However, a three-yard loss and a false start proved to be too much to overcome and Matt Canada was forced to settle for a field goal.
Three minutes later, McSorley rushed for his second score in his final game at Beaver Stadium to extend Penn State’s lead to 14-3.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Maryland’s defense appeared to come away with a potential momentum-altering takeaway when Antwaine Richardson intercepted McSorley’s pass along the boundary. But, similar to the review on Jones’s catch, Richardson’s foot edged over the sideline before he made the catch.
“Football’s a momentum game,” Canada said. “We had some chances to make some plays, we just didn’t make them today.”
Penn State notched on a field goal a few plays later to stake a 17-3 advantage before halftime.
Maryland needed a spark to ignite their offense in the second half, but was hurt when Anthony McFarland, who rushed for over 200 yards in each of the past two games, left the game with an injury early in the third quarter. The standout redshirt freshman did not register a carry in the second half after being held to just 12 yards before the break.
Maryland’s six second-half drives ended in four punts, one missed field goal and the end of the game.
Penn State, meanwhile, scored three touchdowns in the second half to pull away from Maryland and end the Terrapins’ season.
The theme of missed opportunities not only characterized the game against Penn State, it also defines the end of the season for Maryland.
After a win against Illinois on Oct. 27 to improve to 5-3, Maryland dropped two close games against Indiana and Ohio State during their season-ending four-game losing streak. Those four consecutive losses prevented the Terrapins from winning their sixth game, which would have made the team bowl eligible.
“It’s hard to see that happen when you know how bad they want it. Obviously how bad we wanted it for our seniors, but really for everybody,” Canada said.