UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Redshirt senior quarterback Trace McSorley marched Penn State down the field on the first drive of the game and never looked back as the Nittany Lions dismantled Maryland, 38-3, at Beaver Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Saturday was the last time McSorley and 21 other seniors suited up in front of the home faithful and they surely did not disappoint. It was McSorley who once again stole the show to the tune of a 230-yard passing day while also adding 64 yards on the ground.
McSorley accounted for three touchdowns, two on the ground and another through the air to tight end Pat Freiermuth. The touchdown to Freiermuth came on McSorley’s last pass at Beaver Stadium and was a fitting home ending to a career that saw McSorley re-write the Penn State record books.
McSorley, who’s been banged up of late, looked the healthiest he’s been in quite some time.
“I think this is probably the best he’s felt in a while. I also think it has also helped the last couple games we’ve been able to protect him,” James Franklin said after the game.
A healthy McSorley is bad news for whoever Penn State plays in a game and in this game it was a healthier McSorley that Maryland could hardly stop.
“I’ve been feeling really good, this last week really, and the last couple days in particular, I’ve felt really good,” McSorley said.
That McSorley was able to end his home career on his own terms as far as health should be a sigh of relief for Franklin and company. McSorley, who set the all-time school career completions record against Maryland, earned the right to end his career on his terms and went out with another big-time performance at Beaver Stadium.
“Obviously, that first-drive touchdown, I was able to get out and run around a little bit and even threw a block out there at one point,” McSorley said. “At that point it was just one of those things, I felt like myself.”
The performance McSorley and the seniors put together was a fitting end to a class that recorded 38 wins and helped put the Nittany Lions back on the national map following NCAA sanctions and a bowl ban. With said performance, Penn State was able to get a lot of the players who stuck out the down years on the field and it wrote a picture perfect scenario for all involved Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t know if you could’ve written a better script for how this last game would’ve went for this senior class,” Franklin said. “Not only with Trace getting the curtain call, but Johnathan Thomas running the ball, (Joe) Arcangelo catching a pass, (Christopher) Welde getting in there. It just was fantastic seeing those guys getting on the field having a chance to play.”
THE GAME BALLS
My top three performers:
1. Trace McSorley
Penn State quarterback
McSorley threw for 230 yards on 12-for-22 passing and a touchdown while adding 64 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns on the ground.
2. Ricky Slade
Penn State running back
Slade scored twice on 11 carries for 64 yards in extensive second-half action.
3. Kevin Givens and Yetur Gross-Matos
Penn State defensive linemen
The duo combined for two sacks and five and a half tackles for loss.
Against Ohio State last week, Maryland’s Anthony McFarland rushed for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday, McFarland mustered just 12 yards on six carries while the Maryland offense as a whole accumulated 74 yards on the ground.
“We took practice seriously this week because of the seniors and to send them out on a good note,” Givens said. “We had a good game plan this week.”
It was another dominant performance for the Penn State defensive line which kept the rushing attack of the Terrapins at bay.
“I thought our defense played fantastic,” Franklin said. “That team had been running the ball on everybody and you think of the tackles for loss we were able to get, the sacks, the pressure, played really well.”
Gross-Matos continued his tear as he recorded three and a half tackles for loss and four total tackles. Givens found himself involved statistically as he notched two sacks after being more of a disruption the past few weeks.
To put the dominance in context numerically, Maryland was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on 25 percent of its plays against Penn State and it was the third straight game the defense dominated up front.
The Nittany Lions finished with 40 sacks, the fourth straight season they’ve done so. The sustained quality of play has Penn State playing at an elite level.
“Our defense, probably as much as any unit, just kept getting better,” Franklin said. “We came into the season with a lot of question marks on that side of the ball at linebacker, at defensive tackle, we just kinda kept getting better and tonight was a really good example of that.”
As the Nittany Lions now prepare for a bowl game which will be determined next weekend, they’re doing so with incredible momentum on defense.
Miles Sanders is good at football.
He has struggled this season in an area where Saquon Barkley never struggled and that’s holding on to the football. Sanders fumbled for the seventh time this season, the fourth of which he lost.
It’s possible Sanders could enter the NFL Draft following this season, but if the ball-protection problems persist, he won’t find himself on the field on Sundays. The fumble against Maryland didn’t hurt Penn State nearly as bad as it could have, but if a fumble were to happen when the stakes are higher, it could be disastrous.
Sanders’ fumble was the lone blemish on an afternoon that saw the junior running back eclipse the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season as he rushed for 128 yards.
It might not have ended in a touchdown or led to points, but Penn State pulled out a hook-and-ladder pass to end the first half and it was a sight to see while it was in progress.
Penn State runs a hook-and-ladder to close out the first half. https://t.co/7kLdco4Wv1
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) November 24, 2018
Penn State established the running game early with Sanders breaking off a 35-yard run on the first possession. From there, it was all downhill for the Nittany Lions as they rushed for 310 yards against the Terrapins.
With a soggy field and constant rain, it was imperative Penn State make its presence known on the ground early against a defense that gave up 283 yards rushing last week against Ohio State.
Sanders led the way with 128 yards on 14 carries while McSorley and Slade each added 64 yards on 11 carries.
THE OTHER SIDE
After taking Ohio State to overtime before losing, Maryland couldn’t get the same results against Penn State.
A stifling defensive front kept the Terrapins’ offense in check. Maryland’s the defense just could not handle McSorley and the Penn State offense.
The Terrapins struggled to move the ball for most of the game, resulting in a 259-yard performance while quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome could muster just 185 yards through the air.
With the loss, Maryland’s season comes to an end after a roller coaster ride of an offseason followed by a tumultuous regular season involving former coach D.J. Durkin and the university.
THE INJURY UPDATE
• Juwan Johnson, wide receiver, dressed for Saturday’s game and saw action for the first time since being injured against Iowa .
• Connor McGovern, right guard, started at center for Michael Menet after leaving the game briefly last week with a shoulder injury.
No. 12 Penn State will now begin bowl preparations. The Nittany Lions’ bowl destination will be announced Dec. 2.
Visit our Penn State team page for everything from this game.