No. 12 Penn State’s 59-0 demolition of Maryland on Friday night was one of the more complete games the Nittany Lions have put together in the James Franklin era. After the poor first half against Buffalo and the narrow victory over Pitt in Week 3, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous heading into this one.
Almost immediately, sitting in the sea of white shirts on one half of Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, my worries disappeared. Right from the opening possession, it was clear the Nittany Lions were locked in for this one as Jan Johnson intercepted Terps quarterback Josh Jackson to set up a Penn State scoring drive.
It only got worse from there for the home faithful, with a large chunk of them heading for the exits halfway through the second quarter. A boisterous student section that taunted Penn State players and fans early on in the game all but disappeared before halftime, heading back out to the College Park night.
In the last three meetings between the two programs Penn State has outscored Maryland 163-6. Yikes!
Star of The Game: QB Sean Clifford
After struggling against Pitt, Clifford rebounded for his best performance of the season on Friday, going 26-of-31 with 398 yards and three touchdowns. He added another 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Clifford completed his first nine passes of the game, setting up the offense for a needed fast start to quiet the Maryland crowd. He looked in control and comfortable in the pocket all night, so credit to Penn State’s offensive line as well. If Clifford performs at that level consistently for the rest of the season, Penn State can beat every team left on its schedule.
Moment of Magic: WR KJ Hamler’s House Call
With Penn State up 7-0 and facing a third-and-nine near midfield, the Terrapins were close to swinging a bit of momentum back in their favor at the 9:48 mark of the first quarter. Then KJ Hamler happened. The premier playmaker on the Nittany Lions’ offense snagged Clifford’s pass over the middle and evaded two tacklers to gain the first down. He wasn’t done, though, keeping his balance before sprinting to the right side of the field. A hapless Maryland defensive back tried to cut off Hamler’s angle to the end zone but instead was juked two or three times by Hamler before falling to the turf. KJ eased into the end zone from there and Penn State was rolling up 14-0. There aren’t many players more electric with the ball in their hands in college football than KJ Hamler.
It’s safe to say things haven’t gone according to plan for Jeff Brohm and Purdue this season. After reaching bowl games in each of the past two seasons, many expected the Boilermakers to be in the hunt for a potential Big Ten West division title in 2019. Instead, they’re off to a 1-3 start, with losses to Nevada (who just lost by 51 to Hawaii), TCU and Minnesota.
Two Key Injuries
Purdue lost star wideout Rondale Moore and quarterback Elijah Sindelar on the same play in Saturday’s loss to the Golden Gophers. Neither will play in this week’s matchup with Penn State. That’s bad news for Purdue with the Nittany Lions defense playing well right now.
Up Steps Plummer
Sindelar’s injury means redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Plummer is likely to get the start at Beaver Stadium for Purdue. Playing in relief of a concussed Sindelar, Plummer had an up and down showing in the Week 3 loss to TCU, going 13-of-29 for 181 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. It was more of the same against Minnesota once Sindelar went down with a broken clavicle. Plummer tossed for 245 yards and two touchdowns on 41 attempts, but threw two more interceptions.