Penn State Football’s Offensive Preparation Pays Off In Maryland Win
Penn State’s offense might’ve just gotten its swagger back.
The Nittany Lions dominated the Maryland Terrapins in an offensive steamroll, winning 51-15 at SECU Stadium in College Park, Maryland. The offense’s final point total was the most the group has scored against any Big Ten team this season.
Penn State amassed 404 total offensive yards and six touchdowns, four yards shy of its total yardage against a lowly UMass team. The Nittany Lions’ offense knew what was coming, and therefore executed its game plan successfully.
“I just think Coach Yurcich and the whole offense staff did a great job of getting us in rhythm,” quarterback Drew Allar said postgame. “Not only getting me in rhythm but with the whole offense — I think we did a great job at the beginning of the game by just getting the ball to [KeAndre Lambert-Smith] and [Cephas] on the perimeter.”
Allar and the wide receivers thrived together the whole game. Although he didn’t haul in any touchdown catches, Lambert-Smith finished with a game-high 95 receiving yards while making eight catches on 12 targets. Dante Cephas, on the other hand, led all players with two receiving touchdowns. They were the first two of his Penn State career, as this is his first season donning the blue and white after transferring from Kent State.
“I feel I’m the most confident, comfortable I’ve ever been,” he said. “I’m doing what I need to do — helping the team win… I just had to lock in.”
Cephas was called upon when Trey Wallace went down with an injury against Indiana last week, and it appears he might be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Both Cephas and James Franklin hinted a big game might be coming today, and sure enough, it did.
The Pittsburgh native hasn’t been a huge factor for Penn State, but the team’s preparation in practice before heading to College Park helped him as well as the rest of the offense ease in and feel comfortable.
“We want to keep this rolling with him, but the whole receiving group as a whole has done a great job the past couple of weeks and just being very consistent, and how they’ve been practicing,” Allar said. “I think we’re practicing really well right now which is starting to help us in games.”
Penn State’s offensive coaching staff drew up a game plan that revolved around dealing with Maryland’s cover-zero defensive play style. The Terps have players such as Beau Brade and Tarheeb Still in their secondary who are likely NFL-bound players capable of locking up wideouts.
When the Nittany Lions saw openings, they pounced, and they did it efficiently. Allar ended up completing 25 of his 34 passing attempts for 240 yards against a group that was ranked No. 38 nationally in total defense coming into the game.
“That was definitely the most cover zero we’ve seen all year, but I think we had a great zero plan going into this week because we knew they were aggressive, especially when we started getting on their side of the field,” Allar said. “I think we did a great job of just being prepared and receivers did a great job of having eyes on me and I was able to get into some checks.”
Additionally, Allar and the coaching staff were able to communicate and make necessary adjustments if Maryland’s cover zero play style didn’t match up well with what was being called from the visiting sideline. Penn State’s coaching staff read Maryland’s game plan like a book more often than not.
“When you get cover zero, there’s no safety back there,” Franklin said. “So being able to put air under [the ball] against cover zero, those [defensive backs] can act confident all they want — when you have the entire 53 and a third to cover and that ball’s in the air and you can’t find it and they know where it’s going, that’s an advantage for us, especially with some of the height that we have with some of our tight ends and a few of the receivers.”
The level of preparation Penn State put into this game ended up paying off in a big way. Although the Nittany Lions say they treat every game the same and prepare as such, this looked like one of their best offensive performances of the season given that they executed well and successfully read Maryland’s coverage.
Additionally, Penn State needed the slugfest that took place today. The offense has looked shaky throughout the season, and that was especially true against Indiana and Ohio State. With a must-win game against Michigan at Beaver Stadium looming in approximately one week, this instilled confidence in the team and it is something that’s critical to build from if it is to stand any chance against the Wolverines.
“I think the [planning] really helped the offense in general and I think it’s just something we need to continue to build on,” Allar said.
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