It was an afternoon to forget for the Maryland football team on Saturday.
The Terrapins were dominated by Penn State in a 38-14 loss in Happy Valley. It was Maryland’s first loss of the season after a 4-0 start to coach D.J. Durkin’s first campaign with the program.
Penn State seemed to dominate Maryland from the opening whistle, including a mind-numbing 372 yards on the ground. The tables were turned because Maryland came into the game as the second-best running team in the Big Ten.
The game left a lot of questions surrounding the Maryland program.
Here’s our three biggest takeaways from the deflating loss.
1.) The run defense was brutal
This was the main reason for Maryland football’s loss on Saturday.
The Terps struggled to defend the run from the opening whistle. On Penn State’s 84-yard drive to start the game, 58 of those yards came on the ground. That seemed to signify what was to come because nothing changed throughout the contest.
Running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Trace McSorley also saw a ton of success running the football. McSorley totaled 81 yards and a touchdown.
When it came to tackling Barkley, he bounced off the first wave of contact on several occasions and gained several extra yards. The most deflating run had to be the 45-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the first half to give Penn State a 24-14 lead. If that doesn’t happen, the Terps trail by just three points at the half and it’s an easier battle to take the lead.
Missed tackles and poor angles were common themes throughout the 38-14 loss. With teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State looming, this may not be the last time we see a defensive performance like this if things don’t improve.
2.) Questions at quarterback
For the second time this season, Perry Hills was forced to leave a game and didn’t return.
Hills re-injured his shoulder on a running play in the second quarter. Backup Tyrrell Pigrome came into the game and ended up punching it into the end zone from seven yards out.
But that was really the only highlight from the true freshman signal caller on this afternoon.
Pigrome went on to complete five-of-nine passes for just 28 yards. While he didn’t turn the ball over, it was still a less-than-stellar showing for the former Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) standout.
Maryland only tallied 270 yards of total offense throughout the entire game. 66 of those yards came on a Ty Johnson screen that went the distance. Part of the offense’s struggles can be chalked up to the fact that the Terps weren’t their usual selves running the football (4.5 yards-per-carry).
If Hills is out long-term, the offense becomes a big question mark. While Pigrome has shown flashes at times this season, it’s still very clear that he’s very young and has a lot of developing still to do. Pigrome really struggled to find open receivers and was even sacked once. With a full week of practice, things could be a lot different, but Maryland certainly left Beaver Stadium with a lot to be desired at the quarterback position.
3.) Struggles on third down defensively
Penn State had a ton of success on early downs due to their strong ground attack.
When the Nittany Lions were forced into third down, the Terps didn’t have a ton of answers. Penn State was successful 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) of their third down attempts.
On Penn State’s opening scoring drive, the Nittany Lions didn’t even have a third down on their 84-yard trek to the end zone. Maryland was burnt fairly often by McSorley and a majority of it was on the ground.
Even when it looked like McSorley was trapped by the pass rush, he managed a way to convert multiple third-and-long plays. Penn State also dominated time possession for the majority of the game, which left the Maryland defense a little gassed.
The Maryland football team certainly will need to tighten up on third downs going forward with a very difficult schedule on the horizon.