With under a minute remaining in the first half, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and his offense were dealt a third and long.
Rolling out to his right and throwing off his back foot, the sophomore connected with a wide-open Dontay Demus Jr. in the corner of the end zone for a 34 yard score, pushing the Terps’ lead to 21.
In a complete turnaround from their 59-point loss to Penn State last season, the Terps trounced the Nittany Lions in the 35-19 victory. The team has never scored that many points in the matchup, with the previous high as 30 back in 1982.
“To come over here at their place, it’s a blessing,” Tagovailoa said. “Our team looks forward to the opportunities, we like to compete, and...it’s just a blessing. Hopefully, we can continue to build off of this like we built off of Minnesota.”
Going into Saturday’s contest, Maryland had been outscored 136-3 in its previous three contests against Penn State. The Terps also hadn’t beaten the Nittany Lions since 2014 — a game in which current head coach Mike Locksley was the offensive coordinator — one of just two previous wins in the matchup.
And while the win marks a positive shift for Maryland (2-1), Penn State continues to spiral, now with an 0-3 record. The team hasn’t had such a bad start since 2001, at which point current head coach James Franklin was on Ralph Friedgen’s coaching staff alongside Locksley.
Maryland’s offense was sparked by long plays to start the contest, with its first four touchdowns averaging 44 yards.
On the first drive of the game, Tagovailoa finished with a perfect 3-for-3 passing by finding freshman receiver Rakim Jarrett on a slant that he took 42 yards to the end zone. The five-star recruit scored two drives later, this time on a catch and run of 62 yards over the middle.
“We’ve been able to get points off of our opening drives, which is one of the reasons that when we won to toss the day we decided to take the ball to put our offense on the field and give us a chance,” Locksley said. “It’s been a strength of ours to try to generate some momentum.”
Jarrett, who had a relatively quiet first two weeks in a Maryland uniform, exploded in the first 15 minutes, tallying 108 yards on three receptions for two touchdowns. The freshman finished the contest with five receptions for 144 yards and the two scores.
The Terps entered halftime with a 28-7 lead following a 38-yard rushing score from Jake Funk and the dime to Dontay Demus Jr., which marked a 246-yard passing first half for Tagovailoa.
“He’s putting in work,” Demus Jr. said of Tagovailoa. “He’s in our offense every day, every night just trying to do everything he can to help us move forward. And I feel like if he keeps doing this, he’s gonna be one of the best players.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Maryland kept the Nittany Lions quiet all night long. In an offense that averaged 30 points through the first two games of the season, Penn State was forced to punt four times in the first half and it found the end zone just three times in the contest, one of which came in garbage time.
Following its team’s explosive scoring first half, the Maryland offense slowed in the third quarter, but the defense stayed in rhythm to keep the Nittany Lions at bay, starting the third quarter with a touchdown of its own.
Linebacker Chance Campbell, who has starred for the Terps all season, scooped a fumble near the Maryland sideline as Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford was hit from behind for a sack that jarred the ball loose. The junior then charged 34-yards to the end zone.
The sack-to-score play was one of seven sacks on the night for Maryland. The total is the most for the Terrapin defense since 2016, when it had the same amount against Rutgers.
Two of Maryland’s sacks came in back-to-back plays with five minutes remaining in the third quarter as Penn State were threatening within the Terp’s 30. The major loss of yardage led to a missed field goal attempt for the Nittany Lions.
In an attempted comeback late in the fourth, the Nittany Lions turned it over twice more, this time in the air as junior defensive back Kenny Bennett picked off Clifford on the first play of the drive, followed by sophomore Nick Cross on the following defensive play.
Penn State totaled 93 plays on the night compared to Maryland’s 61, many of which not amounting to anything as Clifford completed just 47.4% of his passes in the game.
Though the offense didn’t manage to score a touchdown in the second half, its first half performance along with a stellar defensive effort halted any real momentum for the Nittany Lions as the Terps’ completed the historic victory and their second consecutive game with at least 35 points.
“It’s a big one for a young team to come up here in State College and win a game against a traditional power like a Penn State,” Locksley said. “I’m happy for our players. I like the way that these guys have gone about their business and how they prepare for these types of games....I still think we haven’t played our best football just yet.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland took advantage of its third down opportunities. After converting just 36.8% of its third downs through the first two weeks, the Terrapin offense found the first down marker nine times on 16 attempts on third down against the Nittany Lions.
Maryland’s high conversion rate led to 35 total points on the night, with three touchdown plays coming on third down. On the other side of the ball, Penn State converted just 45% of its third down opportunities.
2. The Terps’ wide receivers are an all-around threat. Rakim Jarrett’s 144 yards on the night made him the first true freshman Terrapin to tally at least 100 receiving yards and two scores in a game since Stefon Diggs in 2012. Jarrett was second in the receiving core with five receptions, behind Dontay Demus’ six catches for 86 yards.
3. Jake Funk continued to dominate on the ground. After a career day against Minnesota in which he ran for 221 yards on 21 attempts, the senior showed no signs of slowing down in Happy Valley. Funk finished with 16 rushes for 80 yards, including a 38 yard score in the first half.