If Penn State didn’t recognize Maryland as a rivalry game before Saturday, it might now. The Terrapins invaded Beaver Stadium, refused to shake hands during the pregame coin toss and escaped with a 20-19 win. The Nittany Lions (4-4, 1-4 Big Ten) dropped their fourth straight contest and turned up the pressure on their postseason bowl hopes.
Maryland pushed the rivalry narrative hard, and coach Randy Edsall said it was an “emotional” week for his team. The same storyline began to unfold at Rutgers earlier this season, where fans were venomous and hungry to make a statement. Only this time around, the Terrapins managed to beat the Nittany Lions, almost in spite of themselves.
Penn State’s defense again turned in a dominant showing in a losing effort, this time holding Maryland to 194 total yards and forcing two turnovers that led to both of the team’s offensive touchdowns. Marcus Allen (11 tackles, sack), Mike Hull (nine tackles, fumble recovery) and Austin Johnson (six tackles, sack) all delivered standout performances.
But the Nittany Lions stuck to long-running offensive themes that spoiled another big effort by the defense. The offensive line struggled to protect and open holes. Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch combined for 65 yards on 29 carries and each had a long run of eight yards. The special teams units struggled, save for a perfect 4-for-4 effort by placekicker Sam Ficken.
Now with just four games left, Penn State needs at least two wins to take advantage of postseason eligibility that was restored by the NCAA earlier this season. The Nittany Lions enter a key three-game stretch with a road trip to Indiana this weekend, a home date with Temple and a road finale at Illinois before ending their season with Michigan State at home.
Can Penn State get the requisite two wins? Do the Nittany Lions have a new rival in the Big Ten East division? Bob Flounders, Andrew P. Shay and Ross Tucker debate those points and more this week on the Keystone Sports Network. Check out audio from the show below and visit KeystoneSportsNetwork.com and @KSNSportsNet on Twitter for plenty more podcasts and analysis.