Going into its first Big Ten game of the season, Maryland football was set out to prove its 20-17 loss to Temple last time out was a fluke.
Head coach Mike Locksley’s squad was looking to set a new tone against Penn State, showing it could at least put up a fight against the one of the conference’s powerhouses.
And quarterback Josh Jackson was hoping to get back in his groove, bringing the offense back to the dominance it showed in the first two games of the season.
None of that happened in the Terps’ 59-0 loss to the No. 12 Nittany Lions. It started ugly, got uglier and never got better.
“Obviously disappointed, disappointed in our effort, disappointed in the discipline we played with tonight. We were outcoached, we were outplayed,” Locksley said. “And that’s on me as the head coach and the leader of this football family to have our guys prepared to go out and play the type of game we need to play.”
For the second consecutive game, Jackson threw an interception on the team’s opening drive. This time though, it put the opponent in the red zone. The Penn State offense capitalized, scoring on the very next play to put Maryland down 7-0 early.
After getting the ball back, the Terps went three and out, once again outplayed by the Nittany Lion defense. Penn State quickly got back to work, scoring another touchdown on three plays to put Maryland down 14-0 less than six minutes into the contest.
It seemed as if Maryland had finally started to gain some momentum back after allowing Penn State two scores in the first six minutes. But in the red zone with the team’s best chance to pounce, Jackson threw his second interception of the first quarter. Once again, the turnover led to a Nittany Lion score, and the Terps found themselves 21-0.
“I think the air came out of us,” Locksley said. “We put together a good drive, and you know, it was not a great decision obviously to throw the interception down there in the red zone. We wanted to at least come away with some points in there.”
By the end of the first half, Maryland was down 38-0 — its worst halftime deficit since November 2016 against No. 6 Ohio State.
The chances of a comeback were already slim going into the second half, but the Terps couldn't even manage to make it more of a respectable loss.
The offense didn’t show a single glimpse of hope, continuing its horrific showing. They had nine yards of offense in the third quarter, going three-and-out on every single drive. On one drive, Jackson nearly threw two more interceptions and then was sacked on the next play.
Maryland finished with a mere 128 yards and 10 first downs on offense, going 4-for-15 on third down chances.
The stage was there for Maryland. Friday night lights. The first sold out crowd since 2015. Former head coach Ralph Friedgen in attendance, along with countless alumni. But instead it turned into an embarrassing display to start the conference slate, diminishing the once high hopes for Locksley’s first season at the helm.
“Our fans came out and created a hell of an environment for us today,” Locksley said. “We went out and didn’t do our job as a team. And that’s disappointing. But again, as I said last week, we’re not going to overreact to one game.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland had a lot of penalties. Locksley has stressed all season that he wants his team to be disciplined and not beat itself with penalties. But against the Nittany Lions, the Terps had nine penalties for 85 yards, as well as one player ejected for targeting. Eight of those penalties came in the first half alone.
“As a team, that’s probably the most disappointing part of this game —was how we beat ourselves in the first half,” offensive lineman Ellis McKennie said. “We beat ourselves and that’s something that we’re gonna have to figure out as a team, how do we get more disciplined, how do we not beat ourselves early in games to give ourselves a shot.”
2. Josh Jackson looked awful. For the first time this season, Jackson didn’t manage a single touchdown. The quarterback who once led all Power Five freshman in passing yards at Virginia Tech was nowhere to be found, throwing two picks and getting sacked four times while going 10-for-21 for a mere 65 yards.
3. The defense lost its juice. Going into this one, Maryland hadn’t allowed 21 points in a single game in 2019. The Terps conceded 21 points to the Nittany Lions by less than two minutes into the second quarter. At halftime, the defense had allowed quarterback Sean Clifford 287 passing yards — the most by a Nittany Lion quarterback in a half in program history.
The Maryland defense ranked sixth in the country in defensive third down conversion percentage (23.9 %) through its first three games, but allowed Penn State to convert 9-of-13 third downs. The Terps had also ranked ninth in the country with 14.3 first downs allowed per contest, but conceded 30 first downs to the Nittany Lions in this one.
Oh, and Penn State finished with 619 yards — the most Maryland has given up all season.