COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The Mike Locksley era was supposed to signal the end of frustrating Maryland football. This was going to be the end of watching a team recruit some of the top players in the nation and still not be able to compete with the big boys. This was going to be the end of a Maryland that could play like a top-25 team one week and play like a bottom-25 team the next.
Just two weeks after suffering their first loss, however, Maryland was embarrassed by Penn State at home in their conference opener to the tune of 59-0. Here’s what went wrong for the Terps (besides everything).
Josh Jackson’s first drive
It didn’t take long to realize that Maryland was in for a long night. The Terps received the opening kickoff, but Jackson threw an interception on just his second attempt of the game. Jackson did not see linebacker Jan Johnson playing pass coverage in the middle and the defender cut off the pass and took it in the other direction. To make matters worse, Jackson capped off the play with a late hit on Johnson just after he stepped out of bounds, tacking on an extra 15 yards for Penn State and putting the ball on Maryland’s 8-yard line.
It took Penn State just one play to score as quarterback Sean Clifford kept the ball himself and took it untouched into the end zone.
K.J. Hamler’s slick moves
If there was one player Maryland had to contain, it was Hamler who’s big-play potential can change a game in an instant. The Terps learned that the hard way in the first quarter when Hamler took a short pass, broke loose and showed off his speed. Cornerback Marcus Lewis looked like he was in good position to bring him down after a big gain, but that’s when Hamler showed some moves.
Hamler gave a stutter step and Lewis stayed with him, but when Hamler cut inside, Lewis couldn’t stop. He made a desperate dive at Hamler’s legs, but to no avail, as Hamler cruised to the end zone to cap off the 58-yard play. Hamler would finish with six catches, 108 yards, and a touchdown.
With the Terps already down 14-0 in the first quarter, Maryland tried to make a game of it with a lengthy drive into the red zone. On the 14th play of the drive with the ball at Penn State’s 11-yard line, Jackson threw into double coverage at the edge of the end zone and his pass was picked off by cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields.
That was the last time Maryland would make it into the red zone. Penn State would march 95 yards down the field in 11 plays for a touchdown, the second touchdown the Nittany Lions were able to score off a Jackson interception. The difference in quarterback play in this game was painfully obvious. Jackson was wildly inconsistent, threw two costly turnovers and had trouble making easy completions in the face of Penn State’s pass rush.
Clifford, on the other hand, was steady as a rock all game. He completed 26 of 31 passes for 398 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception and it took a great individual play from Nick Cross to haul in the interceptions. Clifford also added another 54 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Compare that to Jackson who completed only nine of 20 passes for 62 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and seven rushing yards.
The entire first half
Let’s be honest, the entire first half was a mess.
Penn State had seven first-half offensive possessions. The results of those drives were five touchdowns, one field goal, one interception, and zero punts. Maryland completed only six passes and was out-gained on offense 383 to 94. Penn State converted all of their third downs while the Terps had only three conversions in nine attempts.
If this was boxing, the referee would have stopped the fight.