From Paterno’s First Game To Handshake Snubs, Penn State-Maryland Has A Lot Of History
Since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014, the Terrapins have been one of the many teams to be pitted as rivals with the Nittany Lions. Whether it’s reporters trying to draw quotes from coaches and hype the “rivalry,” or All. Of. The. Incessant. Articles. With. Different. Takes.
Forget about all of this.
Two schools with a ton of football history between them are back playing each other every year for the foreseeable future after a 21-year gap without a game from 1994-2013.
Yes, believe it or not, there is a good amount of history in this Penn State-Maryland series.
There was the inaugural game featuring the two teams in 1917 where the Nittany Lions triumphed 57-0 at New Beaver Field. There was also there first-ever meeting at the current Beaver Stadium where Penn State moved to 7-0 all-time against the Terrapins.
There was the first victory for the Terrapins against the Nittany Lions the very next year in 1961. Maryland crammed 39,000 fans in Byrd Stadium and upset Penn State 21-17.
Following that loss, Penn State rattled off four-consecutive wins over Maryland before one of the most significant meetings, in hindsight, in these clashes.
After Rip Eagle retired following the 1965 season, Penn State had a new head coach at the helm — Joe Paterno. Paterno’s first game as head coach in the 1966 season was a home meeting with the Maryland Terrapins.
According to the former director of the All-Sports Museum Lou Prato, this particular game didn’t seem like anything special at the time.
“The actual Beaver Stadium crowd of 37,270 on Sept. 16, 1966 was about 9,000 less than capacity,” Prato said. “And none of the spectators realized the first victory of Joe Paterno’s head coaching career would be so historic.”
Penn State edged past Maryland 15-7 in a comeback victory that featured three safeties for the Nittany Lions’ defense.
Penn State’s winning streak against the Terrapins stretched through the 1988 season with the two teams playing nearly every year. For as many games as the Nittany Lions won, there were a couple close calls throughout the years.
In 1975, before a record crowd of 58,973 at Byrd Stadium that still stands as the most number of fans that have ever packed into Maryland’s stadium, No. 9 Penn State’s 13-game winning streak against the Terrapins was in jeopardy with Maryland driving down the field trailing 15-13 with under a minute left.
Maryland’s kicker Mike Sochko lined up a 42-yard field goal to win the game, but the attempt banged off the upright and Penn State held on to its long-standing winning streak.
The Nittany Lions always found a way to prevail, but the clashes weren’t lopsided until the 1990’s.
Throughout the 1980s, Penn State vs. Maryland was always a classic showdown. One season it was Todd Blackledge leading the Nittany Lions from behind and another season it was the Penn State defense coming up with a crucial two-point conversion stop late in the game leading 25-24. While it never got to the ill-fated level that Wide Right is for Florida State (or the Buffalo Bills), Maryland fans had to feel cursed when kicking again was an issue after the Terrapins missed three field goals in a 20-18 Penn State victory in 1985.
Penn State’s winning streak finally came to an end in 1989, but Maryland didn’t walk away with its first victory over Penn State since 1961. A field goal from Maryland kicker Ray Tarasi tied the game at 13-13 and a Hail Mary from Tom Bill went incomplete as time expired. This would be the last game Penn State ever tied as the NCAA implemented overtime prior to the 1996 season.
Following four-straight comfortable wins for Penn State from 1990-1993, including a 70-7 dismantling in Byrd Stadium, Penn State-Maryland was discontinued until the 2014 season.
After the long absence, the game returned to Beaver Stadium with a bang in 2014. The rivalry/non-rivalry buildup culminated in the infamous handshake snub at the opening coin toss. Maryland prevailed with a last minute field goal to edge the Nittany Lions 20-19.
Penn State returned the next season with a one-point victory of its own in Baltimore. A Malik Golden interception on Maryland’s final drive sealed the 31-30 win for the Nittany Lions.
Heading into Saturday’s Homecoming clash with Maryland, the Nittany Lions lead the series 36-2-1. But with just a handful of current players even born for the last matchup in the original Penn State-Maryland series, it’s fair to say the current generation’s series is tied 1-1.
So on Saturday, whether you think this game is a rivalry or not, sit back and enjoy it. You’re watching history unfold.