Maryland football has been searching for answers over the past month. It looked the part again against No. 9 Penn State.
Unable to slow the Nittany Lions’ methodical offense or break through their stout defense, Maryland’s losing streak was extended to four games in a 51-15 loss on Saturday in College Park.
Touchdown drives in the second and fourth quarters were bright spots on an otherwise dreary evening for the Terps’ offense. Meanwhile, their defense was picked apart by Penn State quarterback Drew Allar. On both sides of the ball, the Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) had their way in the trenches.
Explosive plays were few and far between for Penn State, but its ability to consistently string together lengthy drives made sure it didn’t matter. Allar methodically carved through Maryland (5-4, 2-4) to the tune of 240 yards and four touchdowns.
“[Allar] made some throws today,” Locksley said. “The goal was to make him beat us throwing the ball and he did that today.”
Allar’s favorite target was junior KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who made a team-high eight catches for 95 yards.
Missed opportunities defined the Terps’ first half and allowed Penn State to gain an early lead that it never relinquished. On its first drive, Maryland was stopped on fourth down, setting Penn State up with a short field. The Nittany Lions found the end zone not long after when Dante Cephas hauled in a 6-yard pass.
Next came a promising, yet fruitless march to the 20-yard line, nullified when Tai Felton was spun around and lost a fumble. Two punts later, Penn State marched 79 yards down the field to extend its lead to 14-0.
“I hadn’t made a play before that. That was me just trying to make a play and try to put the team in a good position, but I ended up fumbling,” Felton said.
Penn State’s next drive was just as impressive, spanning 75 yards and 12 plays and ending with Allar’s third touchdown pass of the first half.
Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa completed passes to nine different receivers and finished the game with 286 yards and two touchdowns. But, as has been commonplace in his four seasons with the Terps, mistakes began to pile up late. Tagovailoa committed two fourth-quarter turnovers that resulted in Penn State scores.
Tagovailoa was made uncomfortable by Penn State’s manhandling of Maryland at the line of scrimmage. The Nittany Lions had 10 tackles for loss, including six sacks. Maryland managed just two tackles for loss.
Holding little trust in their offensive line, the Terps opted to hand the ball off just seven times. Maryland’s running backs totaled -6 rushing yards, with their longest rush resulting in a gain of just a single yard.
Penn State, on the other hand, did not shy away from diversifying its offense. The running back duo of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton is among the best in the nation, and the sophomores proved it with a combined 111 yards on 22 carries.
With 9:20 left in the game, Allen was bottled up at the 8-yard line but kept his legs churning. The Penn State offensive line joined the effort, kickstarting a physical battle that it unsurprisingly won by boosting Allen over the goal line. Allen lifted himself off the turf and flexed his arms in the face of Maryland safety Beau Brade, who could do little but push him away in frustration.
It was just that kind of day for the Terps.
Maryland has three opportunities remaining to clinch bowl eligibility, two of which come on the road. The other is against Michigan, ranked No. 2 in the most recent AP poll. This losing streak extending to the end of the season is not out of the question.
“The only thing we should be worried about is trying to get a win and get out of the gutter,” linebacker Donnell Brown said. “Because right now we’re in the gutter.”
The Terps are in a tailspin, desperately trying to regain control of their season. Time is running out.
Three things to know
1. Allar was dynamic. Tagovailoa was outshined by Penn State’s first-year starter. Allar kept the ball out of harm’s way and posted his best statistical performance since the first week of the season.
2. Maryland refused to run the ball. The Terps handed the ball off on just seven occasions Saturday and threw the ball 40 times.
3. Four-game losing streak. Maryland has lost four straight games, the first time it’s done so since 2019, when it lost seven in a row. Next week, the Terps play at Nebraska — perhaps their best remaining chance to clinch bowl eligibility.