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Previewing The Enemy: Maryland Terrapins

It’s week three of the Big Ten season, and Penn State football needs a win badly.

After falling to now-No. 13 Indiana and No. 3 Ohio State through the first two games of the 2020 campaign, the Nittany Lions welcome Maryland for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Beaver Stadium Saturday. While a contest against the Terps would usually mean a sigh of relief for Penn State fans, this Maryland team isn’t necessarily the doormat of the Big Ten this time around.

The Terps have lost their last five matchups against Penn State and haven’t even scored a touchdown against it since 2016. To their credit, however, they’ve picked up a win this season before the Nittany Lions.

The Team

After a brutal 43-3 loss to Northwestern to open the season, Mike Locksley’s squad now sits at 1-1 thanks to a 45-44 win over Minnesota in an overtime thriller last week.

Locksley is now in his second full season as the Terps’ head coach and has yet to find much success. Maryland finished with a 3-9 mark in 2019 with just one Big Ten win (over Rutgers). The group opened last fall 2-0 with big wins over Howard and Syracuse, but it collapsed in conference play when it had to face the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, and of course Penn State.

While it’s obviously way too early to watch the standings too closely, Maryland’s .500 record leaves it tied for third in the Big Ten East with Michigan State, Rutgers, and Michigan.

Offense

The Terps’ offense did next to nothing in their season opener against the Wildcats. Maryland produced just 207 yards of offense, including 94 yards through the air and three interceptions for Taulia Tagovailoa. Jake Funk led the team rushing with a pedestrian 35 yards.

The group woke up against a struggling Minnesota defense in week two, however. Tagovailoa exploded for 394 passing yards and three touchdowns, while he also rushed for 59 yards and two scores. One of his prettiest plays of the night came on a touchdown in overtime that would eventually be the game-winner for the Terps.

Tagovailoa scrambled to his right and dove for the pylon for the score. He clearly broke the plane (take notes, Michael Penix Jr.).

“I thought he played extremely well in week two,” Franklin said about Tagovailoa during his Tuesday press conference. “You watch that Minnesota game it’s hard not to be impressed. You look at the completion percentage, decision making, his ability to make plays with his feet, as well as extending plays in the pocket. It was impressive.”

Funk was also a force in the backfield alongside Tagovailoa. He led the team with 221 rushing yards and a touchdown, and averaged an absurd 10.5 yards per carry on 21 attempts.

Maryland’s weapons at receiver position also proved to be tough to stop week two. Jeshuan Jones hauled in three receptions worth 103 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown. Dontay Demus Jr., on the other hand, led the team with seven catches worth 101 yards and a score.

While it was clearly an impressive day for the group as it put up 675 total yards of offense, it’s ugly day against Northwestern shouldn’t be forgotten. It should also be kept in mind that Minnesota’s defense has looked horrible through two weeks, as it gave up 49 points and 481 total yards to Michigan week one. The Golden Gophers are now allowing 578 yards per game to opposing offenses this season, a mark that’s good for worst in the conference.

Despite the fact that their dominant performance came against a clearly suspect defense, the Terps still definitely have several impressive weapons on offense. Brent Pry’s defense will have plenty to worry about entering this week three contest.

Defense

While Maryland’s offense blew up in week two, the defense has consistently been pretty bad thus far. The Terps have given up at least 40 points to both of their opponents this season, and are allowing an average of 494 yards of total offense per game. That’s second-worst in the Big Ten behind just Minnesota.

Both the passing and rushing defense have been troublesome for Locksley’s squad, as Northwestern and Minnesota exploited both. Golden Gophers’ quarterback Tanner Morgan’s performance is what really stands out, however, as he exposed the secondary last weekend. Maryland allowed the redshirt junior signal-caller 394 yards through the air and three scores, and forced him to throw just nine incompletions.

One of few bright spots on the Terps’ defense, however, has been Chance Campbell. The junior linebacker leads the group with 27 total tackles this season and has the team’s only sack of the year. That second stat is what’s most alarming for Maryland, as its struggled to generate much of a pass rush or run stop from its front seven.

Outside of Campbell, the Terps haven’t gotten a lot of production on the defensive side of the ball. Northwestern gashed the group for 325 rushing yards, including 103 yards on 10 attempts for Drake Anderson. Outside of Minnesota’s passing game, the Golden Gophers rushed for 262 yards. Mohamed Ibrahim had himself a day against Maryland’s defense, as he had 41 carries for 207 yards and four touchdowns.

This is good news for a Penn State offense that has struggled to get its run game going, especially against Ohio State.

As for Maryland’s secondary, they obviously struggled against Minnesota, but Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey had a solid 212-yard day against the Terps in the season opener. Maryland has forced just one interception on the season, and cornerback Tarheeb Still leads the group with a modest two passes defended on the year.

Special Teams

The Terps’ special teams unit has been solid overall this season. After a somewhat bumpy sophomore campaign in 2019, Joseph Petrino has nailed two of his three field goal attempts. Petrino hit a career-long 51-yard field goal against Minnesota last weekend, and has hit all six of his extra point attempts.

Colton Spangler and Anthony Pecorella have split punting duties thus far this season. Spangler has attempted four punts with an average of 37.8 punts, while Pecorella has attempted just two. The latter of the pair is averaging a better 40.5 yards per punt, with a long of 47 yards.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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