It wasn’t so long ago that it looked as though Maryland was going to be a team capable of pulling a significant upset within the Big Ten. But Friday night showed Maryland may not be quite ready for prime time after all. No. 12 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) smashed Maryland (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten), 59-0, in the Big Ten opener for each team.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford got an early exit midway through the third quarter after a stellar performance. Clifford passed for 398 yards and three touchdowns while completing 26-of-31 pass attempts (he was also picked off once on a terrific effort by Maryland’s Nick Cross. Clifford’s passing total was the most in school history for a road game and ranked up near the top of the school’s all-time record book. Penn State also spread the ball around with 13 different players catching a pass in the rout. KJ Hamler, who scored on a 58-yard pass, led all players with 108 receiving yards. Clifford was also the team’s leading rusher with 54 yards and a touchdown.
Maryland had three turnovers (two interceptions by Josh Jackson and one fumble by Tayon Fleet-Davis) and managed just 124 yards of total offense while giving up 598 yards to the Nittany Lions. For a team that won its opener 79-0 and then scored 63 points against Syracuse, Maryland has come crashing back to earth at the hands of two teams from Pennsylvania. Mike Locksley may still have what it takes to turn things around at Maryland, but losing to two teams north of the Mason-Dixon line stings in recruiting for now.
Penn State has now defeated Maryland 59-0, 38-3, 66-3, and 38-14 in their last four meetings. Since 1991, Penn State has outscored Maryland 242-17 in their last four games played in College Park, Maryland dating back to 1991 (including two meetings since Maryland joined the Big Ten). Penn State leads the series 40-2-1 all-time and 5-1 since Maryland joined the Big Ten. Penn State has won the last five meetings.
Penn State managed to avoid a slow start that has hindered them in their last couple of games against Buffalo and Pitt, and the talent difference between the two rosters showed. Whether this makes Penn State a top contender in the Big Ten in the same boat with Ohio State remains to be determined, but this was easily the best all-around performance by the Nittany Lions in the first month of the season.
Penn State will return home next week to face Purdue. Maryland will look for a rebound win next week when they head to New Jersey to face Rutgers.