No. 10 Penn State tries to add to Maryland's woes
Penn State Nittany Lions at Maryland Terrapins
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Penn State and Maryland don't share much other than a border and a coach that could have been the head man at one school, but wound up at the other.
That coach would be James Franklin, who has guided No. 10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2) to another great season after winning the Big Ten in 2016. But back in 2010, he was in his second stint as a Maryland assistant and was named the "coach in waiting" behind Ralph Friedgen.
Then the Maryland athletic leadership changed, Friedgen was fired and Franklin wasn't hired, moving on to a head coaching job at Vanderbilt. And now he's back for the first time at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, looking to put the nail in the Terrapin's 2017 season.
Penn State is headed in the other direction, ascending to a bowl game for the fourth straight season under Franklin and drawing admiration from all over.
"I think everyone in the country knows, (they're an) extremely talented team," said Maryland coach DJ Durkin.
"Offensively speaking, I think they have probably the best player in the country in the backfield, as well as their quarterback does a phenomenal job for them of getting the ball down the field, a lot of big plays and keeping plays alive, scrambling. He can beat you running and throwing."
Meanwhile, a 17-7 loss at No. 17 Michigan State last Saturday dropped Maryland to 4-7 overall, 2-6 in the Big Ten, eliminating the Terrapins from bowl consideration. Penn State will be the third straight nationally-ranked opponent for Maryland, which has already lost three in a row and six of the last seven games.
"We've gone through some extraordinary circumstances this year and I think it's important our guys know this and realize as a program, that we're here to win, and win the conference," said Durkin.
"I really think that we're putting the right pieces together to be able to do that moving forward. We've had our share of adversity this year, I think in some ways we've handled it well, in some ways we haven't. All of that is something we can learn from and grow from moving forward."
That adversity includes losing starting quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome in the season-opening upset at No. 23 Texas, and then losing backup Kasim Hill two weeks later. The Terrapins had one touchdown and 204 total yards at Michigan State last week with sophomore Max Bortenschlager making his eighth start. He began the year fourth on the depth chart.
Penn State rolled up 609 yards in beating Nebraska 56-44 last Saturday. Quarterback Trace McSorley, the Big Ten leader in total offense, had 325 yards and three touchdowns passing. Saquon Barkley, a Doak Walker Award semifinalist and probably the most versatile running back in the nation, had 224 yards from scrimmage and rushed for three scores.
"We rushed for 263 yards, zero turnovers, which I'm really proud of as a coach," Franklin said. "The weather conditions weren't great. Not putting the ball on the ground at all, not making any poor decisions with the ball, I was really proud of that."
There's a lot to be proud of at Penn State, including an amazing 37-2-1 all-time record against Maryland in a series that was stopped after the Nittany Lions' 70-7 road victory in 1993. The programs wouldn't meet again until 2014, when Maryland claimed its second win ever in the series, 20-19, in the first Big Ten game between the schools.
Since then, it has been 31-30 Penn State in a game in Baltimore, and last year's 38-14 home win for the Nittany Lions. Maryland desperately wants this to become a big rivalry, but historically, the Terrapins haven't held up their end.
Now, with no postseason this year after going to the Quick Lane Bowl in Durkin's first season, this is the Terrapins' last chance to make a statement in 2017.
"You want to win every game," said senior linebacker Jermaine Carter, Jr., about this contest's meaning. "You don't want to just point out one game. We're going to go out here and play. It's not going to be different than any other week. We're going out and expect to win."
Updated November 21, 2017