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Grading Maryland football’s position groups after its loss to Penn State

The Terps struggled against the No. 14 Nittany Lions.

Maryland v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Maryland football was flat-out dominated by Penn State, losing 30-0 and never really coming close to making the Big Ten East showdown into a competitive contest.

The loss dropped Maryland’s record to 6-4 and continued a historical trend of the program getting blown out by the Big Ten’s best teams. It is the first time this season that Maryland has lost back-to-back games.

Here’s how each of the Terps’ position groups fared Saturday.


One week removed from what was at the time the least productive showing of his career, Taulia Tagovailoa had an even less impressive stat line against Penn State. The redshirt junior went 11-for-22 for just 74 yards and looked lost all game.

Tagovailoa had minimal time to make decisions due to the Nittany Lions’ effective pass rush, but he is usually an elusive player that succeeds when he gets outside the pocket. He did not showcase that Saturday and frankly looked scared to get hit, not taking advantage of the times when he was given a clean pocket to work with.

Late in the game, Tagovailoa was relieved by Billy Edwards Jr., who didn’t complete a pass and had less than marginal success rushing.

The quarterback position is one of, if not the single most important position in sports. When the play from that spot isn’t up to snuff, a team has little to no chance of winning — especially when facing a top team on the road.

Grade: F

Running back

Early on, Maryland’s running backs couldn’t get anything going. The team had just seven first-half rushing yards and was rarely able to turn any play into a positive one.

Roman Hemby led the Terps with 68 rushing yards and Colby McDonald and Antwain Littleton II combined for 29. The second half was far more friendly to the running backs than the first — it would’ve been hard for it not to be — but wasn’t by any means a strong one.

No running back recorded positive yardage in the passing game either.

Grade: C-

Wide receiver

Tagovailoa did them no favors, but once again Maryland’s wide receivers were unable to rise up to the occasion.

Rakim Jarrett led the team with three receptions for 30 yards and Jacob Copeland and Jeshaun Jones were the only other two wide receivers with a catch, combining for just 13 yards.

Unlike previous rough showings from the Terps’ wideouts, there were no drops — a sign of slight improvement. But for a group with as many future professionals as this one, that should be the standard.

Grade: D

Tight end

The Terps didn’t get much out of their tight ends Saturday. C.J. Dippre and Corey Dyches combined for 31 yards receiving and were more or less non-factors.

At times, the tight end room has been better at blocking than it has been receiving and has been able to impact the game in a positive manner without hauling in more than a few passes. That wasn’t the case Saturday, as Dyches and Dippre did almost nothing of note in the blocking game and weren’t able to help stave off Penn State’s pressure.

Grade: D

Offensive line

Perhaps no position group looked as outmatched Saturday as Maryland’s offensive line. The Nittany Lions rushed the passer at will and Tagovailoa was sacked seven times for 49 yards.

The unit couldn’t impose itself when run plays were dialed up either. Especially in the first half, many plays were either blown up in the backfield or barely crossed the line of scrimmage. It took until slightly after midway through the second quarter before Maryland no longer had negative offensive yardage.

Frustration and a lack of execution contributed to three holding calls and a false start penalty called on the Terps’ offensive line. It was a poor overall performance from the group.

Grade: F

Defensive line

Penn State dominated on both sides of the trenches, also manhandling the Terps’ defensive line. The group had no sacks and never truly threatened Sean Clifford or either of the other two quarterbacks the Nittany Lions put in the game.

The nail in the coffin was Maryland’s inability to stop the running back duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. They led the way for Penn State to rack up nearly 250 rushing yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, almost never not getting to the second level.

The most glaring mistakes came on fourth downs. On two separate occasions, Maryland allowed Penn State to find the end zone on long touchdown runs on fourth-and-short. It’s one thing to allow a first down, but those runs sealed the game long before halftime.

Grade: F


Maryland’s linebackers, similar to the defensive line, couldn’t stop the run. The group made few plays and disappeared for much of the game.

While Penn State’s linebacker group had its way with Maryland’s offensive front, the Terps rarely got pressure on Sean Clifford. When they did, he easily evaded it. They weren’t solely responsible for the fourth-down touchdowns, but when Singleton broke outside on the first one, the linebackers couldn’t get any leverage and were stuck behind him.

In their two games since returning to as close to full health as is possible at this point in the season, the linebackers have had their two worst performances.

Grade: F


The Terps’ secondary didn’t necessarily play well, but it was the best of the three position groups on defense.

Penn State relied on the run but still had minimal effectiveness in the passing game, only throwing for 139 yards on a wet evening. Beau Brade and Dante Trader Jr. led the team in tackles, but that says more about the front seven’s inability to stop the run than it does about their play.

The defensive backs did get bailed out on a few occasions, though. They got beat over the top twice by Nittany Lion receivers, but Clifford overthrew them. They also missed a lot of tackles and allowed plays that could’ve been short gains or even losses to turn into big gains.

Grade: C-

Special teams

The busiest of Maryland’s special teams players were the punters, who punted a season-high nine times Saturday. Colton Spangler punted eight times with an average of 44.6 yards per boot and Anthony Pecorella had one opportunity that went for 38. Many of the punts had minimal hang time and didn’t work to stop Penn State from starting drives with good field position.

The biggest single mistake from the Terps’ special teams was a roughing the punter penalty on Trader that negated an opportunity to get the defense off the field and instead gave Penn State the ball back. The Nittany Lions turned that extra possession into a field goal.

Octavian Smith also started the game with a bad return on what could’ve been a touchback and struggled returning kickoffs from then on.

Grade: D


Once again, Maryland’s coaching staff had a weak performance against Penn State.

The play-calling was again ineffective and did nothing to remedy the struggles the team was having on offense. Like the week prior, it was a hard day for Tagovailoa to throw the ball and he wasn’t getting much protection, yet rarely did a passing play not head downfield. The running backs and tight ends also weren’t made a big part of the system, except for running plays that would end right in the hands of a Penn State player.

The defense made second-half adjustments and only allowed three points in the final 30 minutes, but that didn’t make up for the 27 allowed in the first half. The touchdown runs on fourth down killed any chance the Terps had at gathering momentum and not only were poorly executed, but also poorly designed. Especially given the fact that Michigan’s Blake Corum had broken off a long touchdown on a fourth-and-short against Maryland earlier in the season, there seemed to be no adjustments made to account for that possibility.

The Terps simply weren’t ready to play Saturday and were out of the game almost right after it started.

Grade: F