Game Grades: Maryland
Maryland came into Beaver Stadium undefeated through the first four weeks of their 2016 college football season. When the final seconds came off the clock in Happy Valley on Saturday, Maryland’s perfect season came to an end at the hands of the Nittany Lions.
Behind the run game and turnovers forced by Penn State, the Nittany Lions were able to defeat the Maryland Terrapins by the score of 38-14.
Here are the final grades for Penn State’s performance against Maryland:
Trace McSorley was far from perfect on Saturday. Some of his throws were off the mark or were thrown into double coverage. With that being said, he was able to get the job done with his legs. McSorley ran for 81 yards and a rushing touchdown on eighteen carries. He also threw two touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown to DeAndre Thompkins. But most importantly, McSorley did not turn the ball over for the second game in a row. What McSorley did with his legs was much more important than what he did with his arm.
Running Back: A+
Saquon Barkley had to stay patient against the Terps. After a strong first series, which included 41 yards rushing from Barkley, Penn State’s ground game stalled. The offensive line was not able to create the holes necessary for Barkley to run through for big gains. Finally, Barkley ripped off three rushes for 70 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown run to end the final drive of the first half. Barkley finished the day with 202 yards, continuing his remarkable 2016 campaign.
Wide Receivers: B-
Penn State’s game plan against Maryland was simple. The Blue and White decided to attack the Maryland defense by the ground rather than through the air. This strategy worked well but led to a quiet game from the wide receiving corps. Chris Godwin was held catch-less for the first time this season, with DeAndre Thompkins and DaeSean Hamilton being the only two receivers to catch a ball for the Nittany Lions. Thompkins’s 70-yard touchdown catch effectively sealed the game for the home team.
Tight End: B
Gesicki’s stat line from Saturday will not turn any heads. He had four receptions for a total of 26 yards. But Gesicki’s performance against Maryland can’t be measured strictly by looking at the box score. His five-yard touchdown reception in the opening drive got the Nittany Lions off to a much needed bullish start against an undefeated and confident Maryland football team. Gesicki also drew two defensive pass interference calls, which set up a touchdown run on the next play on two separate occasions.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line was able to create running lanes for Barkley to weave through. McSorley’s touchdown run with six minutes left in the first half and Barkley’s 45-yard touchdown run to end the first half could not have happened without the offensive line creating those large gaps. Besides the three sacks they allowed, this was a great day for the O-line.
It is no secret that this side of the ball has struggled this season. A large part of this group’s early struggles has been due to the injuries they have suffered. Penn State’s defense was able to ignore the fact that they were short-handed and played their best football of the season in this Big Ten clash. Tackling continues to be a massive issue for this unit. These missed tackles contributed to another poor game against the run in which they allowed 170 yards rushing. What allows this grade to be so high is the turnovers produced against the Maryland offense. Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan got into the Maryland backfield often. Sickels hit Maryland QB Perry Hillis as he threw with led to an interception by Brandon Smith. Koa Farmer sacked Hillis later in the game, leading to a fumble recovered by the Nittany Lions. Lastly, sophomore CB John Reid had a strong day defensively with two pass deflections to go along with five tackles, with one coming for a loss. Overall, this was a very encouraging performance from a defense that has had its struggles early on.
Special Teams: C
It was a less than stellar day for the Nittany Lions special teams. A 29-yard punt from the usually superb freshman punter Blake Gillikin helped setup a Maryland touchdown due to the great field positioning surrendered by the short punt. The special teams of Penn State also allowed a blocked punt, which should’ve led to a Maryland score if not for a Maryland turnover on the next play.
Coaching Staff: A
James Franklin elected to run the ball often against Maryland. The decision to use McSorley as a runner paid off big time. Penn State is now 3-0 in games where McSorley runs for more than 40 yards. Hopefully the coaching staff continues to use McSorley’s legs to jumpstart their offense. With Ohio State coming to State College in the next game, the Penn State coaching staff faces a tall task to stay competitive against one of the nation’s best teams.
Charles Hart is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.