Maryland is now 1-22 all-time in games at Penn State – and really happy about it. The Terps and Nittany Lions started the modern chapter of their 38-game all-time series on Saturday, and the Terps managed a 20-19 win against a deeply flawed but still formidable opponent. Maryland's pregame act and Brad Craddock's icy winning kick provided memorable highlight points, but there was a lot more to Maryland's performance in all facets of the game.
Blue-chipper: Brad Craddock
Solid buys: L.A. Goree, Keith Bowers
Polarizing investment: Randy Edsall
Craddock had deservedly built himself a reputation as a premier collegiate kicker even before today. His stock has soared all year, and nothing he did today was likely to change his long-term outlook. But kicking is mental, and Craddock hadn't faced a make-or-break kick in the final minute of a game since his infamous miss against North Carolina State in 2012. If you were worried about Craddock's mental state heading into his game-deciding try today, you now know you shouldn't have been. Craddock is now 14-of-14 on the season and should be the clear frontrunner for the Groza Award.
Goree had his first real standout game of the season. The senior inside linebacker was in on a sack-fumble of Christian Hackenberg in the first half, coming right after Brandon Ross had coughed the ball up to Penn State. He was also one of the prime culprits in stacking up Hackenberg on the fourth-down-and-short play that effectively ended the game. Goree wound up with two fumble recoveries and was credited with six tackles, but he was a factor all day. On a similar note, Bowers did commendable work on the edge of the defensive line, putting a lot of pressure on Hackenberg himself.
Edsall made one genuinely questionable decision, when he elected not to accept a holding penalty on Penn State before a Sam Ficken field goal try. Penn State had taken a holding penalty on its failed third-down conversion attempt, but it was in fine position for a Ficken kick, at the Maryland 29-yard line. Edsall could've taken the 10 yards and let Penn State's miserable offense take its hacks at his defense once more, but he chose to let Ficken kick and functionally surrendered three points unnecessarily.
Other than that, though, Edsall coached a smart game. He managed the clock well and smartly used Maryland's timeouts on defense, not offense, in the final minutes of the game. Knowing that the clock stops on first downs in college football, he used the timeouts to force Penn State to either move the ball or give it to Maryland with time and field position. The Terps followed through on defense, then on Will Likely's 15-yard punt return, then with a brief drive and Craddock's winning kick. It was a well-executed conclusion, grounded in Edsall's sound clock management.
More importantly, Edsall gave himself a much better shot at receiving a contract extension with Saturday's win, and he gave Maryland what can't be less than a somewhat helpful recruiting chip by beating a regional opponent like Penn State. Edsall wasn't perfect, but taken on the whole, his day was very, very good.
Diverse stock: Sean Davis
Pregame shenanigans aside, Davis still had an interesting day. He took two completely pointless special teams penalties that set the Terrapins back in field position, and he was victimized on Penn State's two biggest offensive plays: an 8-yard touchdown fade from Hackenberg to Jesse James over his head and a 33-yard completion on third-and-long from Hackenberg to Geno Lewis, where Davis was turned around and couldn't stick with his man down the left sideline.
But Davis had three pass breakups as a cornerback, filling in there for the injured Jeremiah Johnson. He shifted to a new position and played pretty well there on most of his snaps, despite the occasional lapses. His game was rough around the edges, and he remains unusually susceptible to being roasted. But give him some credit for stepping up in a new role.
Polarizing investment: C.J. Brown
Penny stock: Maryland's offensive line
These things tend to feed into one another. Maryland's offensive line wasn't good, as evidenced by the six sacks Brown took and the 1.1-yard rushing average the Terps posted. Those are both, um, not good. But Penn State's defensive line is exceptional, and Sal Conaboy did a capable job against the excellent tackle Anthony Zettel. Brown didn't do a good job picking up the blitz himself, and he was particularly at fault for not identifying a blitzer and releasing the ball quickly on a sack by Penn State free safety Marcus Allen. He also suffered from what have become all-too-usual accuracy issues in trying to deliver the ball to Maryland's receivers, who had their own problems catching the football.
In the interest of fairness, it must be noted that Brown was effective in guiding Maryland's brief but crucial last drive of the game. The Terps started that drive at the Penn State 42-yard line, out of range for even the rocket-legged Craddock. Brown's 13-yard dish to Wes Brown was the key play in a 17-yard series that wasn't perfect but got Craddock into a comfortable position for the game's biggest play.