BALTIMORE -- In the first game of Mike Locksley tenure as Maryland’s interim head coach, Maryland had an opportunity to win on its final drive -- something that it has not had in a number of weeks.
But five turnovers by quarterback Perry Hills, including one on that last drive, held the Terrapins back in a narrow 31-30 loss to Penn State on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) The offense stays the same
Maryland seemed to have found something against Ohio State with Perry Hills under center as a dual-threat quarterback. The Terrapins stuck with it and had similar success against Penn State.
Essentially, the thought is to keep defenses honest by adding the dimension of Hills’ legs, while also giving him another outlet to create other than just moving the ball through the air. Maryland used a heavy dose of zone-read looks to mix it up.
It is an offense with more freedom, which Maryland lacked through much of its first six games.
If you look at Hills’ numbers outside of his mistakes, the numbers look efficient. He finished 19-of-28 for 225 yards with one touchdown. But it was the turnovers that ultimately set Maryland back.
2) Repeated mistakes hurt Maryland
Maryland drives reached into Penn State territory routinely early in this game, but turnovers forced them to stall out. A Perry Hills interception on a deep ball while he was hit functioned as a deep punt, but a Hills fumble on a later drive in the first quarter stopped a promising Maryland drive that was inching toward the red zone.
Instead of touchdowns, Maryland was settling for field goals and trailed 17-13 at halftime.
Two more turnovers from Hills followed in the second half. A fumble and an interception in the fourth quarter ended one major drive opportunity and kept a spark from igniting another.
3) Beaten by Penn State’s deep ball
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg broke the school’s all-time passing yardage record in the first quarter against Maryland, but the Terrapins kept him at bay (or at least inefficient) through a quarter and a half.
It was the deep ball that burned them. Hackenberg connected on passes of 38, 40, 38, 37, 17, 24, 31, 20, and 27. And almost none of those were catch-and-runs. They were purely well-placed passes by Hackenberg or terrific adjustments by wide receivers to make a play.
4) An opportunity and a missed opportunity and a dodged bullet
After a Brad Craddock field goal cut the Maryland deficit to just one point at 31-30 with just over 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, junior Denzel Conyers stripped the ball on the ensuing Penn State kick return, setting Maryland up with an opportunity to take the lead.
But on the next play, Hills was hit and fumbled. Penn State returned the ball into Maryland territory and had a chance to put themselves up by more than a field goal after the drive stalled, but a missed field goal kept it 31-30.
5) Never able to capitalize
Conyers was around the ball again later in the fourth quarter. A dropped stap by Hackenberg created a fumble, which he recovered.
But Maryland couldn’t get anything going on the drive that followed. One final chance on a last drive saw Hills throw his third interception of the game off a ball tipped by wide receiver Malcolm Culmer. It was his fifth turnover of the day.