Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following The Nittany Lions' Win Over Maryland
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Penn State dominated from the outset and never looked back on Friday night, beating Maryland 59-0. The Nittany Lions were practically perfect against Maryland and improved to 4-0 because of it.
Grading out one of the most dominant performances of the James Franklin era is pretty straightforward. Even so, here are the grades following Week 5's victory.
Sean Clifford (26-for-31) came up two yards shy of 400, and the Nittany Lions came up two yards shy of 200 on the ground. It was a bruising effort all over as Penn State made the most of two early Maryland turnovers and put the Terps on the ropes before fans had even finished filing into the stands. A 9-for-13 rate on third down reversed course in an area Penn State had struggled and 7.6 yards per play kept the chains moving. Not to mention 4.8 yards per carry.
You could probably find something to nitpick with here, but 59 points and balanced and efficient play is hard to knock. KJ Hamler was explosive and the Nittany Lion receivers continued to have a dependable year. Pat Freiermuth looked like one of the best tight ends in the nation and Nick Bowers wasn't far behind.
A small note: Penn State did give up eight tackles for a loss, although a few came in mop-up time. But when you have 30 first downs to Maryland's 10, there are going to be ones that go backwards. In total, Penn State ran 81 plays to Maryland's 58.
All told, this group earned its blowout and did it in impressive fashion. The offensive line gave up four sacks, but that mostly came in mop-up time with the second- and third-team units.
Maryland had fewer than 100 yards of offense for most of the game and while some of that was self-inflicted, it was largely the result of a long and fast defense that swarmed to the ball and gave the Nittany Lions momentum play after momentum play. Jesse Luketa was solid in place of Micah Parsons, who was ejected for targeting in the first half, while Penn State's coverage unit managed six pass breakups.
Ellis Brooks led the way with six stops and 2.5 sacks while Maryland converted on third down just four times on 15 attempts.
Two early turnovers swung the game quickly, and a Keaton Ellis strip-and-recover closed out a dominant, ball-hawking night in College Park.
If there was a way to dominate, Penn State's defense found it, and the Terps had no answer for the entire night. Brent Pry's defense looked the part and the beneficiary of the bye week. This is the group fans have been waiting to see, and it delivered time and time again on Friday. Maryland won't be the most dynamic offense Penn State sees this season, but the Nittany Lions showed up, and that counts for something.
Special Teams: B
Jordan Stout had kicks returned and missed a 50+ yard field goal, proving that he is, in fact, human. Jahan Dotson had a 30-yard return and Maryland wanted no part of letting KJ Hamler return anything sent his way, so the speedster ended the night without a return. Blake Gillikin managed a punt over 50 yards but had at least one he would like back. Jake Pinegar was good on his lone field goal try and his many extra point kicks. This group doesn't get knocked for anything specific, especially since the missed field goal didn't matter, but considering how good it has been playing, anything less than that hurts the grade.
This group has come so far in the past 12 months, and the complaints here are ultimately minor in the grand scheme of things.
59 points. Blowout offense and shutout defense. You can't find much to take issue with here as Penn State put together one of its most complete performances of the James Franklin era. The Nittany Lions will faces tougher tests in the coming weeks, but they proved a point on Friday night and did it impressively. Purdue will travel to State College next week, but for now Penn State will enjoy an extra day off and a victory deserved.