No. 7 Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead on No. 16 Michigan in front of the whiteout crowd in Happy Valley Saturday night. The Nittany Lions lead the Wolverines 21-7 at the half thanks to two touchdown passes by Sean Clifford and one more touchdown run by the Penn State quarterback.
Michigan was forced to burn a timeout before the first snap of the game. As the play clock was winding down with Shea Patterson and the Wolverines at the end of the stadium with the student section, a miscommunication led to Jim Harbaugh calling for a timeout rather than risk an early mistake with the football. Later on the opening drive, Michigan opted to punt from the Penn State 47-yard line rather than try to convert a 4th-and-1. The Michigan punt trickled into the end zone for a touchback.
Penn State was the first to put a dent on the scoreboard when Clifford dropped a pass right into the hands of tight end Pat Freiermuth midway through the first quarter. Clifford’s 17-yard touchdown pass came on the first play after dropping a dime for Jahan Dotson to get the Nittany Lions inside the red zone for the first time on the night. Clifford later scored a touchdown on the ground by reaching across the goal line on the first play of the second quarter.
After exchanging punts on the next couple of possessions, the Penn State defense picked up the first turnover of the game when Tariq Castro-fields somehow managed to intercept a short screen pass from Shea Patterson in traffic at midfield. Penn State capitalized on the possession with another well-placed pass from Clifford to KJ Hamler for a touchdown.
Michigan did start getting some composure on offense late in the second quarter. After going down 21-0, the Wolverines strung together a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Zach Charbonnet running 12 yards for Michigan’s first score of the night.
The Wolverines still have plenty of work to do, and they’ll need the defense to keep the game within reach. This Michigan offense may not be suited to score a ton of points, but 14 points is still a manageable deficit even in the whiteout conditions in Beaver Stadium.
No. 12 Penn State (9-3, 6-3) ended their regular season on a very positive note, one the Nittany Lions hope will be enough to receive an invite back to a New Years Six bowl game in a couple of weeks. Penn State’s 38-3 win against Maryland (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) saw the senior class go out in winning fashion and brought an official close to the year for the Terrapins. Maryland needed a win in order to become eligible for a postseason bowl berth this year.
Playing in his final home game for Penn State, senior quarterback Trace McSorley made the most of it by becoming the school’s all-time leader in completions and adding his 21st career game with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game. Mcsorley passed the previous school record for most all-time completions set by Christian Hackenberg in the first half and continued to rack up completions to go over 700 for his career. Mcsorley rushed for two touchdowns in the first half and threw his first and only touchdown pass of the game in the fourth quarter to tight end Pat Freiermuth. McSorley finished the day with 230 passing yards without an interception and 64 rushing yards with three total touchdowns before Tommy Stevens entered the game to relieve the Penn State starter.
Maryland’s offense appeared to have run out of steam after last week’s game at home against Ohio State. Anthony McFarland was limited to just 12 yards on six carries a week after a career day. Maryland’s entire running game was held down well by Penn State. The Terps had just 70 rushing yards in the game. Quarterback Tyrell Pigrome picked up just 13 rushing yards and was without a touchdown in the game. Penn State doubled the total offensive production of Maryland, 560-255 as well. It just appeared as though Maryland was out of gas on the road at the end of an emotionally exhausting season, and Penn State playing at home was a bad matchup for that to be the case.
Penn State will now sit and wait to see just what their bowl outlook may look like. Penn State began the week ranked just high enough to be eligible for consideration for an at-large bid to a New Years Six bowl game, but a handful of results this week could pose a threat to the possibility Penn State could play in a New Years Six bowl game (Washington State and Michigan losing), although a clearer picture should be painted on Tuesday night when the next College Football Playoff selection committee rankings are released. Penn State should still be in a spot for consideration, but it is a bit more clouded at the moment. If Penn State misses out on a New Years Six bowl game, the Nittany Lions could still be playing on January 1 with a spot in the Citrus Bowl a strong possibility if passed over for an at-large invitation. Ohio State being selected for the College Football Playoff could help Penn State’s case as Michigan would head to the Rose Bowl in the Big Ten’s tied-in spot.
While Penn State awaits its bowl fate, Maryland will continue to figure out just what happens next with the program. Matt Canada remains the interim coach as the program will now be able to focus on a coaching search to name a new permanent head coach. Despite the loss to Penn State, Canada should be among the list of candidates Maryland interviews for the job unless the school decided to wipe the slate completely clean of the DJ Durkin era and start over. Maryland’s 2019 season will begin on August 31, 2019 with a home game against Howard, followed by a home date against Syracuse.