Previewing The Enemy: Penn State vs Maryland
By David Abruzzese and Ethan Kasales
Penn State takes on Maryland in Happy Valley two years removed from the infamous handshake snub in 2014. The Terps come in 4-0 ranked sixth nationally in yards per game rushing with 300 — something that might conern the injury depleted Lions. Let’s take a look at Penn State’s matchup with Maryland.
Maryland’s high-octane offense revolves around its roots on the ground. The Terrapins are extremely dangerous running the football — a notion that should be considerably daunting given Penn State’s thin depth at the linebacker position.
Quarterback Perry Hills is the consummate dual-threat quarterback with 550 yards and five touchdowns through the air to only one interception. On the ground, he’s just as effective with 104 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries. He’s the focal point of the offense — everything starts with him, and runs through him.
Spreading the wealth in terms of who carries the ball has been Maryland’s mantra of sorts. The Terrapins have an abundance of options on the ground — yet each option has fewer carries than one might assume. The leader for the bunch is Ty Johnson, who’s the team’s clear-cut home run threat. He leads the team with 330 yards plus three touchdowns, but averages 11.9 yards per carry with only 28 touches on the season. With Penn State’s depleted front seven, he’ll be public enemy No. 1. Lorenzo Harrison earned the bulk of the carries up to this point with 38, and he leads the Terrapins with four touchdowns and 286 yards. In all, five total Terrapin runners have eclipsed the 100-yard mark, meaning the Lions should expect to face a multitude of different runners in different capacities — all of whom will be fresh and ready to go.
D.J Moore and Teldrick Morgan are the team’s top two receivers with two touchdowns apiece, but expect Penn State to hold its own defending the pass with Malik Golden expected to return; the real test comes on the ground.
Penn State can win this game, but it must start fast on offense and make sure its front seven simply hangs in and prevents the home run. If it does that, expect the Lions to emerge victorious.
Last year’s leading tackler is back for the Terrapins in redshirt junior linebacker Jermaine Carter, Jr., who should play a significant role in Maryland’s attempts to load the box for Saquon Barkley. Classmate and fellow linebacker Shane Cockerille is another one to keep an eye on as he currently sits atop defensive coordinator Andy Buh’s squad with 32 total tackles through the first four games of the season.
Junior defensive lineman Jesse Aniebonam is averaging a sack a game thus far for the Terrapins, who will look like a totally different team than the one Penn State saw at M&T Bank Stadium last fall. With Jim Harbaugh’s first defensive coordinator at Michigan — D.J. Durkin — now at the helm in College Park, expect to see some new wrinkles this weekend in Beaver Stadium. It might be tough for the Nittany Lions to get things going early considering they’re fresh off an emotional overtime win over Minnesota and Homecoming is scheduled for a noon kick this Saturday.
Penn State’s tall receivers like Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson, and Saeed Blacknall, who is expected to make his return this weekend after missing the last four games, will be key in terms of going up for 50-50 balls downfield against the Terrapin secondary. Diminutive corner William Likely, who stands 5-foot-7, should not be overlooked, however, because he can swing the outcome of a game with one play given his elite speed. Likely will also be a major threat in both aspects of the return game, as the senior out of Belle Glade, Fla., already showcased what he can do on a 64-yard kickoff burst in a 30-24 win over UCF.