The most anticipated Maryland football game of the season thus far will take place in two days. In a Friday night game under the lights, the Terps will welcome No. 12-ranked Penn State.
The spotlight may have been brighter had Maryland entered the week with a top-25 ranking of its own, but hopes of that were squashed with a loss to Temple 11 days ago. Regardless, primetime games don’t come the Terps’ way very often, and Friday’s game is gearing to be an exciting one.
That is, of course, if Maryland can buck the trend that has plagued it in recent years. The Nittany Lions have the upper hand in the all-time series between the teams, to put it kindly — the Terps have a 2-39-1 record against the team from Happy Valley. Let’s take a look at the history between the programs.
Pre-Big Ten Era
The first meeting between the schools came in 1917, when Penn State thoroughly dominated for a 57-0 victory. They didn’t meet again until 1937, and from then on, a Penn State-Maryland matchup was a common occurrence.
The Terps and Nittany Lions met every year from 1960 to 1993, save for ‘76 and ‘83. Penn State, having been an independent, started playing in the Big Ten in ‘93, and after that first season, the sides wouldn’t meet until Maryland realigned to the Midwest’s premier conference.
Prior to 2014, the sides had matched up 37 times. The Nittany Lions came out on top 35 times, losing once and drawing another. The Terps’ lone win came in 1961, when the Dick Shiner-led offense under head coach Tom Nugent secured a 21-17 victory.
Across the 37 meetings, Maryland was outscored by a whopping margin of 1,152-418. For those who are not mathematically inclined, that averages out to a score of 31.1-11.3 per game, which isn’t great.
Last Maryland win — Nov. 1, 2014 (Terps win 20-19)
After not facing each other for 20 seasons, Maryland and Penn State renewed their rivalry in 2014. The Terps were led by Randy Edsall in what would be his final full season in charge, with Mike Locksley as the offensive coordinator. On the other side, James Franklin was in his first season at the helm for the Nittany Lions.
The game itself was an absolute slugfest, with the two teams combining for just 411 total yards of offense — Penn State had a slight edge, outgaining the Terps 219 to 192. Quarterback C.J. Brown had a rough day under center, completing just 18-of-38 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. His favorite target was wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who hauled in six catches for 53 yards.
On the other side, quarterback Christian Hackenberg was even worse, completing just 18 of his 42 attempts for 177 yards, adding a touchdown and an interception. The rushing attack was laughably bad on both sides, as the Terps gained 31 yards on 31 carries, while the Nittany Lions rushed the ball 41 times for 42 yards.
But down 19-17 with two minutes to go, Maryland managed to do just enough to grab the victory. A punt return by defensive back William Likely gave Brown and Co. the ball at Penn State’s 42-yard line. Four plays, 17 yards and 69 seconds later, kicker Brad Craddock nailed a 43-yarder to seal a victory for the Terps.
Hackenberg’s attempt at a game-winning drive ended with him fumbling on fourth down, Penn State’s fourth turnover of the afternoon. Maryland was able to kneel it out for a road victory.
When the Terps pulled off the win on the road in 2014 as new members of the Big Ten, it was a sign that perhaps the tides were turning in the rivalry.
That certainly wasn’t the case, or at least it hasn’t been thus far. Penn State has won the last four games, and rather handily at that. The Nittany Lions have outscored the Terps 173-50, or an average of 43.3-12.5. That’s thanks to three blowout victories, including a 66-3 beatdown in 2017.
But the most memorable meeting in this group was on October 24, 2015, as it was Mike Locksley’s first game in command. Randy Edsall had just been fired following a 49-28 loss to Ohio State, and Locksley was named the interim.
The teams met at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the Ravens. Hackenberg was still Penn State’s quarterback, but the offense had a couple of future-NFL skill players in running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Chris Godwin that would each score a touchdown that day.
On Maryland’s side, quarterback Perry Hills was nearly a one-man offense, throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown while adding 124 yards and a score on the ground. Craddock hit another field goal in the fourth quarter of this one, cutting the Terps’ deficit to just one point with 10:15 remaining. But the score didn’t change in the final 10 minutes of action, as the Nittany Lions held on for a 31-30 victory.
In summation, when Penn State and Maryland have faced each other over the last 102 years, it hasn’t been pretty. The Nittany Lions have won 39 of the 42 all-time meetings, and they’ve done so in blowout fashion.
But with Mike Locksley installed as the full-time head coach, perhaps it’ll be a different story on Friday. As it stands right now, Penn State is only favored by about six points, so a close battle under the lights is a real possibility.