Penn State Preview: Maryland

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Each week throughout the 2019 season, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays. 

Game details: No. 12/11 Penn State @ Maryland, 8:00 p.m., broadcast on Fox Sports 1. 

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): Kick-off temperature of 73 degrees, mostly clear skies. 

The line: Penn State – 6.5 

Last week: Both teams enter this Week 5 matchup coming off a bye. 

All-time series: Penn State leads 39-2-1.  

Last meeting (2018): Penn State dominated Maryland, 38-3, on Senior Day a season ago. Trace McSorley opened the scoring on Penn State’s first possession of the game, running into the end zone from three yards out. McSorley capped off his home career for the Nittany Lions with 230 yards and a touchdown through the air, plus an additional 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. 

Throwback classic (1993): Since Penn State scored 79 points in its Week 1 win over Idaho, take a look back at another 70-point showing for the Nittany Lions in their 70-7 thrashing of Maryland in 1993. 

Overview: The Terrapins have come down to earth a bit after a scorching start to the season. Maryland opened with blowout wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse, which earned the Terrapins a spot in the Top-25. They then put up a dud in Week 3 at Temple, falling 20-17. Penn State, meanwhile, crushed Idaho in Week 1 and produced an excellent second half to down Buffalo 45-13. Week 3 saw the Nittany Lions hold off Pitt 17-10. Add all that up, and it’s really difficult to predict how Friday night’s matchup is going to unfold. Which version of each team will we see? 

Penn State wins if: The offensive line gives Sean Clifford time to throw downfield. Clifford was under duress a lot against Pitt, and turned in an uneven performance because of it (14-of-30 for 222 yards and zero touchdowns). He’s going to have to have a much better day connecting with the likes of KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, who was held to just one catch against Pitt, if Penn State is going to get the road dub. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Maryland wins if: The Maryland rushing attack has a big day. The Terrapins want to run the football and run it often. Like Penn State, they have a rotation of running backs they like to use throughout the game. Anthony McFarland remains their bell cow and most explosive weapon out of the backfield despite the rotation. If he and the rest of the running backs get going, it will open up the passing game for Josh Jackson, and make life really difficult on the Penn State defense. 

Count On: A sea of white amidst the Maryland “blackout” in the stands. Penn State fans have been encouraged to wear white. With only about a four-hour drive separating the two campuses, and with plenty of Penn State alumni and fans in the Washington, D.C. area, there should be a heavy Nittany Lion presence throughout the stadium. 

Keep an eye on: Yetur Gross-Matos. Gross-Matos blew up the Maryland rushing attack in the 2018 matchup between the two teams, doing a great job of setting the edge on multiple occasions and getting into the backfield with 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Penn State is going to need him at his best in this year’s game, both in disrupting the ground game and getting after Josh Jackson. After being held without a sack or a tackle against Pitt, I expect Gross-Matos to bounce back and shine in Week 5. 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State hasn’t given up a touchdown to Maryland in the last two meetings, crushing the Terrapins 66-3 in 2017 and winning 38-3 a season ago. As good as the Nittany Lion defense is, I expect that to change Friday night. 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 38, Maryland 30 

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Maryland 23

From The Archives: Penn State V. Maryland (1993)

In an otherwise stress-free game for Penn State on Oct. 2, 1993 — a 70-7 thrashing over Maryland — there were two bizarre instances that grabbed a few headlines post-game. 

During the first quarter, fullback Brian O’Neal was clobbered in the head by a glass bottle thrown from a Maryland fan in the stands. 

O’Neal was hit in the helmet by the bottle while diving in the end zone for Penn State’s second score of the game and the bottle completely shattered. 

“I got some glass in my eye,” O’Neal told reporters afterward, “but luckily the doctor got it out pretty quickly.” 

That followed another bizarre play, when sophomore tailback Ki-Jana Carter was racing his way to the end zone with no defenders in sight. 

Suddenly, to the confusion of everyone, he halted in his tracks about five yards out. 

He had heard a whistle. 

The only problem was the whistle was never blown by a referee on the field, instead it came from someone in the Terrapin student section. 

The head referee ruled that the play would be nullified and the Nittany Lions had to settle for a do-over. 

O’Neal and Carter ultimately got the last laugh when the scoreboard read zeros at the end of the night, and Penn State eased to its 63-point margin of victory. 

Penn State, in its inaugural season as a member of the Big Ten conference, blew past a hapless Terrapins squad. 

As editor John Black ’62 noted in the Football Letter , “Running at will and passing when they felt like it, the Nittany Lions amassed a season-high 526 yards rushing and 659 total net yards.”

Four Nittany Lion backs set career rushing marks, including Carter, who galloped for more than 12.2 yards per carry and finished with 159 yards and three touchdowns. 

Carter, O’Neal, Mike Archie, and Brian Milne each reached the end zone on the ground at least once.  

“Two more touchdowns came on passes from quarterback Kerry Collins to split end Bobby Engram, who set a Penn State record of seven TD catches by a sophomore,” Black noted in The Football Letter.

Senior Craig Fayak and freshman Brett Conway rounded out the offensive explosion with field goals and a number of extra points. 

The 1993 Penn State football season will always be a bit overshadowed by the historic campaign a season later. 

The 1994 Nittany Lions team is, of course, one of the greatest college football teams ever to step foot on a field. 

But even the high-powered offense of the ‘94 squad couldn’t replicate the incredible output the ‘93 team achieved against Maryland.

Get To Know The Metro D.C. Chapter of the Alumni Association

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Schlegel/Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter

Andrew Schlegel ’12 had landed a dream job.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, he had grown up around agriculture, attending local farm shows every January and experiencing the Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences program one summer at Penn State. 

He graduated from Penn State in 2012 with a degree in food science and a minor in international agriculture, which helped him join the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Washington, D.C. 

The only problem with the move to the nation’s capital? He didn’t really know anyone at first.

“I knew that there were Penn Staters in the area,” Schlegel said. “So I kind of took it upon myself to go out and see what was out there. I found the Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter of the Alumni Association, went to one or two of their events, and they were really welcoming.” 

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Schlegel/Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter

He couldn’t think of a better way to adjust to his new surroundings than using his Penn State connection in the area. He started attending the chapter’s football game watch parties, then joined their softball team to get to know some members a bit more. 

After a few years, he took on the role as membership chair for the chapter, and then became social chair for a year-and-a-half.

Schlegel moved up to vice president. He’s now been chapter president for just over a year, and he’s wasting no time in trying to help expand the chapter’s footprint in the Washington, D.C. area. 

“One of the big things I’ve tried to focus on is just having more events in general. We’ve always had a very social aspect to the chapter, but getting involved in the community service, professional development and scholarship fundraising, has been important,” Schlegel said. “I want us to use different ways to reach alumni.” 

The chapter’s usual student scholarship donation totals of $15,000 per year, as impressive as that number was, increased this past year to $20,000.

The Metro D.C. Chapter has also recently teamed up with other Big Ten alumni groups in the area for different events throughout the year, namely a “Big Ten Day of Service,” which saw the various chapters come together to clean up a local park. 

Not surprisingly, one of the more popular events the chapter hosts remains its football viewing parties. 

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Schlegel/Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter

“We currently have five football viewing sites,” Schlegel said. “One in Northern Virginia, in Arlington. One in Bethesda, Maryland, and three more spread out in the D.C. area along the metro lines. Each of them offer their own unique perspective.” 

In addition to providing that unrivaled Penn State gameday atmosphere, Schlegel said the chapter uses the watch parties for much more than just the football games. 

Each site offers something different, whether that’s a white out party at the Arlington location whenever the football team hosts a Penn State White Out game, or various raffles and food and drink specials during each watch party. 

“We like to utilize the viewing sites as a way for people to give back to the chapter, like donating to our scholarship fund,” Schlegel. “People love Penn State football and they want to watch with other Penn State fans and alumni. It’s a great way to get those people together and showcase for them that the chapter is there. Let them know what we have to offer. Talk to them and let them know there’s this wider network of Penn Staters in the area.”

Schlegel and the rest of the Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter will have a heavy presence when the football team, fans and alumni travel to College Park this Friday for the Nittany Lions’ matchup with the Maryland Terrapins.

The chapter teamed up with the Washington Nationals to provide tickets for its members and other Penn Staters for the Nationals’ game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday afternoon, before hosting the Thursday Night Mixer at the Mission Navy Yard.

Before the game itself on Friday, the chapter is teaming up with the Penn State Alumni Association for the Penn State Tailgate, to be held at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center just across the Terrapins’ stadium. 

Each Penn State Tailgate features the Nittany Lion, Pep Band, and Penn State Cheerleaders, along with an opportunity to hear from special guests and share in Penn State camaraderie.

The Chapter was able to secure some tickets to the game for members, tickets that became a hot commodity with the Terrapins’ strong start to the 2019 season, and a rejuvenated interest from their fanbase for the game against Penn State. 

Photo Courtesy of Andrew Schlegel/Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter

It promises to be a few days of fun for Schlegel and the chapter, who said he’s said he and other members are always excited when a Penn State Athletics team comes to the Washington, D.C. area. 

“Now that Maryland is in the Big Ten, there are a few more opportunities. Anytime a team comes to play here we always try our best to make sure we’re posting about it, that we get some alumni out to the games to support the athletes,” Schlegel said.

“Football is obviously the big one. The stadium is probably going to be sold out for this year’s game. Parking is pretty much sold out. It’s a big deal for our alumni in the D.C. area, and Baltimore, Annapolis, and even Virginia. We’re really excited.”

To learn more about the Metro Washington, D.C. Chapter, visit www.psuwashdc.org or email Andrew at president@psuwashdc.org

The Metro D.C. Chapter is one of 300-plus Penn State Alumni Association affiliate groups worldwide. Visit alumni.psu.edu/groups to connect with Penn Staters in your area.

More Than Just Football

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

While football — practices, games, film study, etc. — is obviously a large part of the college experience for Penn State players, there’s more to that experience than just the football.

Like any other college student, they have interests and hobbies away from the field. They have aspects of Penn State specifically that they love, besides suiting up on Saturdays during the fall or attending an 8 a.m. class in the Thomas Building.

We caught up with a few Nittany Lions to see what other areas they enjoy most about the Penn State experience.  

For linebacker Micah Parsons, his favorite non-football aspect of Penn State is the opportunity to get an up-close look at the Nittany Lions’ dominant wrestling program, which won an NCAA title in Parsons’ first year on campus and has captured eight of the past nine championships overall. 

“Being able to go to those wrestling matches for free is crazy,” Parsons said. “To be able to see Cael (Sanderson) and them do what they do best, it’s an awesome feeling.” 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Parsons is a regular at nearly every home wrestling dual for Penn State, and doesn’t shy away from his support on Twitter, particularly when the Nittany Lions are competing on the mat at the Big Ten Championships or for an NCAA title. 

“If I could play any other sport here it’d definitely be wrestling,” he said. “They have like a mini college football experience and atmosphere in Rec Hall or the BJC. It’s loud, insane and intense. It’s amazing to watch it as a fan.”

Running backs Nick Eury and Ricky Slade agreed the support of Penn State fans and alumni is unrivaled.

When the team travels for away games, Eury and Slade are accustomed to seeing Penn States invade the opposing team’s stadium. 

“With Penn Staters, no matter who it is and even if you’ve never met them before, they make you feel like family,” Slade said. “I like it. It’s a home away from home type feeling when you’re around other Penn Staters.” 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Eury said he’s even interacted with Penn State fans on vacation, who approach him in his blue and white gear and strike up a conversation, talking to him as if they’ve known him for his whole life when they only just met a few minutes before then. 

That Penn State connection doesn’t really ever end. 

“Wherever you go if you’re wearing a Penn State hat or shirt, they’re excited to talk about it and you’re excited to talk about it. That’s such a cool thing,” Eury said. “Wherever you go, there’s going to be a Penn State fan and they’re going to love you for going to Penn State. The Penn State brand is incredible.” 

Eury might be getting a little bit more attention from Penn State fans. You might remember his incredible touchdown run in the season opener against Idaho, in which he dragged three Vandal defenders into the end zone for his first career touchdown.

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton couldn’t narrow his favorite Penn State trait outside of football. 

There a few things that will stick with him long after his playing career is over. First, he said he was thankful for the opportunity to join a fraternity at Penn State. 

Second, the bonding and relationships built with his teammates.


The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

“I love them to death. It’s one of my favorite parts of being here, being in college, Shelton said. “We get each other through things. Friendships for life.” 

And lastly?

“That Penn State education, man. I’m getting a degree that’s going to be extremely valuable in getting my foot in the door in my profession,” Shelton, who is majoring in journalism, said.  “Getting a high-class education is so important to me.”

Nittany Lion Look Back (And Ahead)

Pittsburgh/Maryland

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Saturday’s meeting between No. 13 Penn State and Pittsburgh — the 100th meeting between the two Power 5 programs in the Commonwealth — had an old-school feel to it at times. Both defenses controlled most of the game, with neither offense able to get into much of a flow. 

A 13-play, 88-yard drive in the third quarter by the Nittany Lions offense, coupled with a goal line stand in the fourth quarter for their defense (aided by the puzzling decision by Panthers coach to kick a field goal from the one-yard line) was enough to see Penn State come away with the 17-10 win. 

Looking Back

Star of The Game: LB Micah Parsons

This was the kind of performance Penn State fans envisioned from Micah Parsons when James Franklin and his staff secured his 5-star commitment as a recruit in December of 2017. Parsons was all over the field on Saturday, despite missing a few snaps to get checked on in the injury tent in the fourth quarter. He led the team with nine tackles and played a key role in setting the tone early for the defense. The scary part in all of this? This is only Parsons’ second season of playing linebacker. He’s only going to get better. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Moment of Magic: K Jordan Stout sets a program record

With Pitt just having taken a 10-7 lead in the waning minutes of the first half, Penn State needed any type of score it could get to go into halftime. The Nittany Lions offense moved the ball into the Panthers’ territory but the drive stalled with a few seconds left. Jordan Stout nailed the ensuing 57-yard field goal to tie the game and give Penn State some momentum to close the half. Stout’s kick broke the program record for longest field goal, previously held by Chris Bahr’s 55-yard boots in 1975 against Temple, Ohio State and Syracuse. 

Looking Ahead

Bye Week Blues

Penn State enters its first bye week of the season 3-0, but no doubt with plenty to correct between now and when it faces Maryland for a Friday night clash on Sept. 27. The Terrapins  also have a bye week this week and will look to rebound from a deflating road loss at Temple. The loss to the Owls will sting head coach Mike Locklsey after his team put together a complete performance just a week earlier in a 63-20 demolition over then-No. 21 Syracuse. 

Jackson brings stability 

When Josh Jackson transferred to Maryland from Virginia Tech in February, Terps fans hoped he would finally bring some stability to a quarterback position that had been a revolving door in the last handful of seasons. Through three games, Jackson has certainly done that, tossing 724 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can maintain that type of production the rest of the season, Maryland will almost certainly reach a bowl game. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

A familiar face 

Penn State fans should be familiar with Mike Locksley. He coached the Terrapins in an interim role during the 2015 season and nearly pulled off the upset over Penn State in a 31-30 loss in Baltimore. He was also on Ron Zook’s staff at Illinois during the Fighting Illini’s best run of recent memory in the mid-2000s, and helped recruit players like Vontae Davis and Arrelious Benn to Champaign. His first two games were nearly perfect back on the sidelines for the Terps on a permanent basis, though the loss at Temple has brought things back down to earth a bit.

Penn State Preview: Pitt

Penn State at Pitt  (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.

 

Game details: No. 13/11 Penn State vs. Pitt, noon kickoff, broadcast on ABC.

 

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 292-74. 

 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 74 degrees, with a few showers.

 

The line: Penn State – 17.5

 

Last week: Penn State used an explosive second half to upend Buffalo 45-13, while Pitt outlasted Ohio 20-10.

 

All-time series: Penn State leads 52-43-4.

 

Last meeting (2018): Penn State dominated Pitt in the rain at Heinz Field, winning 51-6.

 

Throwback classic (1981): Once upon a time, Pitt’s football program was nationally relevant. The Panthers were ranked No. 1 in 1981, but not after the Nittany Lions overcame an early two-touchdown deficit to score 48 consecutive points, resulting in a 48-14 victory that dethroned and derailed Pitt. Todd Blackledge outdueled Dan Marino, completing 12-of-23 passes for 262 yards, and two touchdowns to Kenny Jackson. The defense intercepted Marino four times, and the Panthers lost three fumbles. You can read more about the game in this New York Times article.

 

Overview: Here it is, the 100th and last scheduled meeting between Penn State and Pitt. Did this use to be a rivalry? Sure? Is it anymore? Eh, not really. The game is still important, just as much as Idaho and Buffalo, though not more beyond that. As James Franklin said earlier this week, players aren’t choosing Penn State because of the outcome of one game, so there aren’t recruiting implications like before. And it’s a non-conference game. Pitt won in 2016, and Penn State went on to win the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl. The Panthers, meanwhile, finished the year 8-5 with a loss to Northwestern in the Pinstripe Bowl. So, this game doesn’t have lasting ramifications like it once did. 

 

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions establish the running game. Most likely, Penn State will have a handful of explosive plays, with Sean Clifford proving he can throw a nice deep ball. However, Penn State can’t depend on those plays to win. A solid ground attack should go a long way to ensure the Nittany Lions win their third straight in this series.

 

Pitt wins if: the Panthers can put together sustained drives all game. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett struggled last year — indicated by the six points the Panthers scored — though he threw a career-high 321 yards in last week’s victory over the Bobcats. Pitt will need that level of playmaking to have a chance Saturday.

 

Keep an eye on: KJ Hamler. The speedy and electric wide receiver scored on a jet sweep in last year’s game at Heinz Field, and he’s spoken about having his role expanded. Basically, the idea is to get Hamler the ball as much as possible, put him in open space, and let him do what he does best.

 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State has won nine straight games over non-conference opponents.

 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 42, Pitt 21

 

Vince Lungaro: Penn State 38, Pitt 17

From the Archives: Penn State V. Pitt (1974)

IMG_3987

Penn State-Pitt matchups over the years have featured some classic battles.

And also, some memorable stories.

We’ll throw it back a little further for this week’s edition of From the Archives, looking at how The Football Letter’s creator and original writer Ridge Riley ’32 shared an in-depth look at Penn State football like nobody else could.

The year was 1974. The site: Three Rivers Stadium.

Penn State has largely dominated this series for the last 50-plus years (25-8-1 since 1966), and this impressive run includes a win coming on Thanksgiving night in their regular season finale in ’74.

During a pre-game players meeting — which preceded the team prayer — running back Tom Donchez gave such a fiery pep talk that he closed out his remarks by throwing his helmet off the side of a locker.

The helmet bounced off and hit starting linebacker Greg Buttle square between the eyes, knocking him out cold. This was problematic, perhaps mostly because Buttle called the defensive plays.

Riley recounted this sequence in The Football Letter that recapped the victory, writing that when Joe Paterno heard Buttle couldn’t play, the legendary coach was heard muttering, “Oh God, can’t we even get through the team prayer without an injury?”

In a sign of the times, even though he was “wobbly and a trifle pale,” Buttle played from the start after he was “patched up like a prizefighter,” Riley wrote. Despite his injury, Buttle was “king of the linebackers,” and assistant head coach John O’Hara proudly declared after the game that Buttle never missed a signal while calling plays.

This last note is even more remarkable since Buttle reported later, “Everything seemed to be in slow motion for the first quarter. I hadn’t known what hit me, and when I came to, everybody was gone. It was just like a bad dream.”

After receiving six stitches in a gash over his eye at halftime, Riley wrote that Buttle played even better in the second half, as the team leader refused to come out of the game.

Ranked No. 10 nationally going into the contest, Penn State collected a 31-10 victory over No. 18 Pitt. The Nittany Lions then capped off the season with a 41-20 victory over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.

A classic 1-2 punch.