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Maryland football lost its first game at Penn State, looks to rebound against Minnesota

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Our weekly outlook on the Maryland football program.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Welp.

At this time last week, Maryland’s football team was 4-0 and getting damn close to a top-25 ranking. But the Terps couldn’t keep up with Penn State, as a 17-14 second-quarter deficit turned into a 38-14 blowout. Although the 24-point margin is due at least in part to Perry Hills’ first-half shoulder injury, Maryland was clearly the worse team.

Minnesota is up next. The Golden Gophers are 3-2 and have lost their last two games, a 29-26 overtime defeat at Penn State and a 14-7 home loss to Iowa. This is a winnable game at home for Maryland, but the Terps will have to play much better than they did against the Nittany Lions.

Maryland vs. Penn State - what we saw

  1. Penn State ran over, around and past the Terps. The Nittany Lions tallied 372 yards on the ground and averaged six yards per attempt. Saquon Barkley led the way with 202, while quarterback Trace McSorley tallied 81. The highlights were Barkley’s 45-yard score at the end of the first half and his hurdle of Will Likely, but McSorley killed the Terps in a different way, scrambling for five first downs and a touchdown.
  2. Perry Hills went down again and missed the second half. Hills was banged up on an inside run late in the second quarter and didn’t return. True freshman Tyrrell Pigrome entered the game and immediately ran for a 7-yard touchdown, but it’s unfair to ask him to lead a comeback against Penn State in Happy Valley. He was 5-of-9 for just 28 yards, throwing almost exclusively screens and check-downs (he overshot Levern Jacobs on his one shot downfield). DJ Durkin said Hills should “be fine” in his teleconference with reporters on Monday.
  3. Maryland’s run game regressed to the mean. After a 400-yard outburst against Purdue, the Terps were held to 170 yards on 38 attempts on Saturday. (Sacks count against rushing totals, and Maryland lost 30 yards on four of them, but even then, the yardage total was cut in half). Ty Johnson followed a 204-yard performance with three yards on three carries, although he did have a 66-yard receiving touchdown. Lorenzo Harrison’s 76 yards led the way, but the rest of Maryland’s backs didn’t keep up.

Maryland vs. Minnesota - what we’re expecting

  1. More downfield passing. The Terps became one-dimensional against Penn State, and one would imagine DJ Durkin and Walt Bell will do what they can to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s unclear who will be under center for Maryland, but there are similar problems to be fixed no matter who it is.
  2. The Terps ought to win the explosive-play battle. Minnesota ranks toward the bottom of the country in IsoPPP, which measures explosiveness, on both offense and defense. Maryland, meanwhile, is above-average in creating big plays and avoiding the same from the opposition.
  3. A focus on keeping Mitch Leidner in the pocket. The senior quarterback is Minnesota’s second-leading rusher, just like McSorley is for Penn State. McSorley’s 81-yard performance on the ground could have been avoided, and with the Gophers lacking a running back as dynamic as Barkley (all respects to Rodney Smith), Maryland can stay back and make sure it doesn’t get beat.