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Penn State Slides Past Maryland 31-14, Becomes Bowl Eligible

Penn State football (6-3, 3-3 Big Ten) snapped its three-game losing streak with a 31-14 win over Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) Saturday in College Park.

The Nittany Lions jumped out to an early lead, but the Terrapins, to their credit, stuck around for much of the game and played Penn State tough. However, a massive day from Jahan Dotson that saw him break the program’s single-game receiving yards record was too much for Maryland to overcome in the end.

With Saturday’s win, Penn State became bowl eligible as it heads into a home matchup against Michigan.

How It Happened

Maryland won the opening coin toss and deferred its choice to the second half, giving Penn State’s offense the ball to start the game.

The Nittany Lions started the game with a three and out, and the Terps started the next drive from their own 46-yard line. After picking up a few first downs to move down to Penn State’s 18-yard line, a costly intentional grounding penalty by Taulia Tagovailoa pushed the Terps out of field-goal range and led to a punt.

The two teams exchanged three and outs, and the Nittany Lions started their third drive at their own 25-yard line. Sean Clifford and Co. finally got the ball moving when the signal-caller connected with KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 30-yard gain.

Two plays later, Clifford found Dotson for a 38-yard touchdown to put Penn State ahead 7-0 with 7:55 left in the first quarter.

After a Maryland punt, Noah Cain checked in for the first time and carried the Nittany Lions past midfield with three first downs. When the first quarter ended, Penn State faced a 3rd and 6 from Maryland’s 38-yard line.

The Nittany Lions picked up five yards on 3rd down, but they came up short on 4th and 1 and gave the ball back to the Terps. However, Maryland’s momentum was short-lived, as it punted the ball right back to Penn State.

On the ensuing drive, Clifford and Dotson hooked up for two first downs to help push the ball down the field. The drive stalled, though, and Jordan Stout punted the ball back to the Terps.

Following another Maryland punt, the Nittany Lions picked up two first downs before Stout came on to punt it away on 4th and 9.

The Terps got their offense going on the ensuing drive with a few first downs to advance past midfield. Tagovailoa stayed hot on the drive and had three straight passes of over 10 yards to move down to Penn State’s 13-yard line.

Two plays later, Challen Faamatau punched it in from two yards out, but Joseph Petrino missed the extra point. Penn State led 7-6 with 1:15 left in the half.

Curiously, with over a minute on the clock and three timeouts, Penn State pretty much just ran the clock out and went into the half up 7-6.

The Terps came out in the second half with back-to-back first downs to get to around midfield. Penn State’s defense held strong and forced an Anthony Pecorella punt, which he booted down to the Nittany Lions’ five-yard line.

The Nittany Lions did a nice job dealing with the poor field position, in large part thanks to Keyvone Lee, who totaled 48 yards on seven touches through the first ten plays of the drive.

A few plays later, Clifford and Dotson connected for a 21-yard touchdown to cap off the 14-play, 95-yard drive. The Nittany Lions took a 14-6 lead with 6:51 left in the quarter.

Maryland responded with quite the drive of its own and moved the ball 65 yards in just six plays down to Penn State’s 10-yard line. However, Tagovailoa fumbled the ball on the snap, and Ji’Ayir Brown recovered it to hault the Terps’ momentum and give Penn State the ball back.

Penn State went three and out and punted the ball away, with Maryland starting its next drive at its own 48-yard line. The Terps advanced into Penn State’s territory and faced a 4th and 3 from the 22-yard line, which they converted on a cheeky shovel pass to Chig Okonkwo.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa found Corey Dyches wide open for a 13-yard touchdown. The Terps got the two-point conversation to tie the game at 14 with 14:56 left in the game.

Penn State immediately answered when Clifford hit Dotson in stride, and he took it all the way to the end zone for an 86-yard touchdown to give Penn State a 21-14 lead with 13:55 left in the game.

The two teams traded punts, and Maryland took over at midfield after Stout shanked his kick. Despite the outstanding field position, the Terps were forced to punt it back to the Nittany Lions with 10:28 left in the game.

Dotson stole the show again on the next drive, as he took a short pass 45 yards to set the Nittany Lions up in the red zone. Maryland’s defense bent but didn’t break, as Stout came on and drilled a 24-yard field goal to extend Penn State’s lead to 24-14 with 6:33 left in the game.

The Terps didn’t go away without a fight, as Tagovailoa, with the help of a few penalties, led Maryland down into the red zone. However, Tagovailoa was picked off by Ji’Ayir Brown, and he returned it 87 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 31-14 and put the game out of reach with 2:39 left.

That score would remain the same for the rest of the game, and Penn State snapped its three-game winning streak.

Takeaways

  • Jahan Dotson is a bad, bad man. The star wideout broke Penn State’s single-game receiving yards record with 242 yards in this one. He totaled 11 catches, and the wideout accounted for all of the Nittany Lions’ offensive touchdowns with three. It seems that Dotson is open on quite literally every play, and that certainly showed during Saturday’s contest.
  • The guy throwing Dotson the ball wasn’t too shabby, either. Sean Clifford had himself a day with 363 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He continues to look more comfortable as more time passes since he suffered his injury against Iowa.
  • Despite pulling out a win, there were a few questionable decisions throughout the game that could’ve proved costly for the Nittany Lions. First, on a 4th and 1 play, Penn State opted to go with a direct snap to Tyler Warren, which he ran up the middle for no gain. It was an example of the Nittany Lions getting too cute, as Noah Cain had the hot hand on the drive. Additionally, with 1:15 left in the first half and Penn State having three timeouts, James Franklin opted to simply run the clock out, even when his team advanced to its own 40-yard line with 35 seconds left and had a full set of timeouts.

What’s Next

Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium next Saturday to take on Michigan. The time and channel for the game are currently unknown.

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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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