One For The Road: Penn State 31, Maryland 30

A wild game that featured only one second half punt (after a typically B1G six-punt, turnover-ridden first half), ended as most Penn State wins do: On the shoulders of its defense. Carl Nassib recorded a sack on third down with Maryland down one late in the game and late in Penn State territory. A hold on fourth down, and then an interception by Malik Golden on the ensuing drive sealed the victory.

After back and forth scoring in the second half, Geno Lewis’ leaping touchdown grab over a Maryland defender gave Penn State a 31-30 lead — one that proved to be the decisive score. It wasn’t easy, and certainly wasn’t pretty at times, but the Lions were able to withstand Maryland’s late comeback bid. Take a look at how the action unfolded.

How It Happened

After an issue-free coin toss, the Lions elected to defer to the second half. On its first drive, several sizable Maryland gains preceded Grant Haley’s second interception of the year deep in Penn State’s territory. It set the tone for the half: Big Maryland gains offset by even bigger penalties.

Per tradition this season, Penn State was unable to make any noise offensively pinned deep within its own ten-yard line. After a Maryland punt, the Nittany Lions were again gifted with a chance to string together a drive and generate momentum. Saquon Barkley was hit hard as he hit a crowded hole, losing the ball in the process. Brian Gaia was able to recover, but the second chance wasn’t enough to bolster the listless offensive unit, as Hackenberg missed Geno Lewis on the sideline on third down.

Hills on the other hand seemed to be finding plenty of success on the ground — until he met John Reid. Penn State’s freshman sensation levied a shot on the unsuspecting Hills, jarring the ball loose. Marcus Allen quickly recovered, setting up a Hackenberg laser to DaeSean Hamilton, followed by yet another deep ball to Godwin. The pass put Hackenberg ahead of Zack Mills as Penn State’s all-time leading passer.

Barkley was the handoff recipient on the ensuing play, easily walking into the end zone to give Penn State a 7-0 lead after the extra point. Maryland was quick to respond, however, converting on a deep attempt from Hills to set up Ross for a rushing score.

Will Likely opened the second quarter with a jet sweep upfield into Penn State territory. But the drive failed when Brad Craddock, one of the best kickers in the nation, missed a long field goal left. Penn State’s next drive ended as quickly as it started. Barkley coughed up his second fumble on the day after a sloppy handoff. This time Maryland scooped it up to take over deep in Penn State territory. A Craddock field goal attempt sailed through the uprights, giving Maryland its first lead, 10-7. He soon added one more after the next Penn State series stalled deep in its own territory.

Down six late in the half, Hackenberg wasted no time. A two-play, 75-yard drive ended with a bomb to Chris Godwin in the corner of the end zone. He snagged the ball despite a pass interference penalty, which the Lions declined. Julius’ extra point gave Penn State a 14-13 lead. One final Julius field goal before the half gave the Lions a 17-13 lead into the locker room.

Maryland opened the second half with a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive that took 4:05 off the clock. It began with a steady dose of running that wore down Penn State’s defense, and ended with a Ross touchdown scamper from 10 yards away, giving the Terps a 20-17 lead.

Penn State marched right back with a seven-play, 79-yard drive of its own, capped by a 20-yard pass to Hamilton. No. 5 curled right as the Hackenberg’s pass arrived, then waltzed in for the score and the regained advantage. But like clockwork, Maryland responded with another big drive: 10 plays for 88 yards over 4:28. Hills found DeAndre Lane in the corner of the end zone from 10 yards out, his first career touchdown. Those three drives took all but 51 seconds of the third quarter.

Penn State stormed back. A balanced run-pass drive resulted in a 27-yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis in the corner of the endzone. Leaping over the defender, Lewis secured the pass in bounds. It was possibly the play of the year for Penn State, and gave the Lions the 31-27 lead.

Maryland answered with a field goal, that, after a roughing the kicker penalty to extend the drive, probably should have led to a touchdown. And then, after Brandon Bell drilled the Terps passer, and Sickels scooped up the forced fumble to Maryland’s 31, the Lions were back in scoring position again. The drive faltered, adding intrigue to the wild second half, after Julius’ field goal from long range sailed left.

Ater a pair of turnovers — a Trevor Williams interception then a Christian Hackenberg fumbled snap — Maryland took possession near midfield, down 31-30 with five minutes to play. It was a convenient time for Nassib to record his first sack of the day, setting up a fourth and ten that the Terps failed to convert. A Malik Golden interception sealed the deal after Maryland was gifted with one final possession, sending the Lions home victorious.

Player Of The Game

He was far from perfect, but on Saturday, that didn’t matter. Christian Hackenberg came up big when he needed to, finishing the day 13-29 for 315 yards and a trio of touchdown passes, including a number of beautifully-placed deep balls — his last finding Geno Lewis in the corner of the end zone. He exuded passion all game, and deserved to emerge victorious.

What’s Next?

Up next for the 6-2 Nittany Lions is a home matchup against 4-3 Illinois on Halloween at Beaver Stadium, and will kickoff at noon on ESPN2.


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About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected].

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