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Penn State’s Defense Hurt By Big Plays In Loss To Maryland

Penn State football couldn’t get its season back on track Saturday against Maryland. The Nittany Lions were dominated on both sides of the ball en route to their 35-19 loss.

After giving up 526 yards of total offense last week against Ohio State, Brent Pry’s defense was dominated in the first half of this game by Maryland’s offense.

The Terps totaled 335 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns in the first half. Taulia Tagovailoa exposed the Nittany Lions in the first 30 minutes of action, as he totaled 246 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 74% of his passes.

The struggles of the defense don’t fall on a specific position group, rather the defense as a whole.

“We gotta get more pressure on the quarterback, we have to contest more balls, be better in tight coverage, and then when people do make catches we gotta get them on the ground,” James Franklin said during his postgame press conference. “We gotta consistently wrap.”

All four touchdowns the Nittany Lions gave up came on plays of 34 yards or more. The big plays were a huge problem for the defense, and was the primary reason for the group’s struggles.

“They made big plays,” Franklin said. “We weren’t as competitive as we needed to be. We were out of leverage. They had a few little wrinkles to challenge our man coverages and did a nice job of executing them. We gotta get better, there’s no doubt about it.”

True freshman wide receiver Rakim Jarrett was responsible for two of those big plays in the first quarter. The speedster scored two touchdowns (42 yards, 62 yards) where he caught the ball over the middle and simply out-ran Penn State’s defenders.

Jarrett finished the first half with five receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland’s two other touchdowns came on a 38-yard run by Jake Funk and a 34-yard reception by Dontay Demus Jr.

The big plays are an absolute killer for a defense, and something defensive end Jayson Oweh described as “demoralizing.” Oweh believes that the defense needs to play as a unit and hold each other accountable.

“We all have to do our job and do it the right way,” Oweh said.

Linebacker Jesse Luketa echoed a lot of what Oweh said, adding that “this isn’t the Penn State standard,” and that everyone needs to play within the framework of the defense.

Additionally, Luketa is confident that the defense can turn it around by “playing our style of football.”

“That’s what we can do and that’s what we will do,” Luketa said.

To make matters worse, the Nittany Lions weren’t able to get off the field on third down. The Terps converted an absurd 80% (8/10) of their third downs in the first half, something that was an issue for Penn State’s defense last week against the Buckeyes as well.

Penn State’s defense did play much better in the second half, as the unit didn’t allow any points and gave up just 70 total yards. However, the damage was already done and Penn State was never able to get much going after falling behind big early on.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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