STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The conditions for Maryland last week at Wisconsin were inhospitable and inconducive to its offense, with clouds and rain shrouding Camp Randall Stadium most of the afternoon.
Terrapins coach Mike Locksley took the blame for that loss, statistically and visually Maryland’s worst performance of the season.
The conditions for Maryland on Saturday at Penn State were similar but less intense, with clouds and rain shrouding Beaver Stadium most of the afternoon.
The result was the same. And felt even worse.
Maryland was dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and got absolutely nothing going on offense in its worst performance of the season, losing 30-0 to the No. 14 Nittany Lions.
“I have no problem with the way we prepared. I have a problem with the way we’ve executed,” Locksley said. “And again, we’ve got to take a hard look, and it starts with me inside.”
While saying that it’s not “the time to panic,” Locksley suggested that changes could be coming in “personnel schemes,” “who’s on the field, who’s not on the field” and “what we’re calling [and] how we’re calling it” after the program’s first shutout loss since 2019. That shutout also came at the hands of Penn State.
“It is time that we, starting with myself, take a deep look at everything we’re doing — on offense, on defense, on special teams — and find a way to get us back on the right track,” Locksley said.
Talented Penn State freshman running back Nicholas Singleton carried 11 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, bumping his total to 10 on the season. Both scores came on identical scenarios.
In the first quarter, on fourth-and-inches from the Maryland 45, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, with three backs behind him, turned and handed off to Singleton. He made one cut off the right tackle and sprinted in untouched to put Penn State up two scores.
In the second quarter, on fourth-and-inches from the Maryland 27, Clifford, in the identical formation, did the same thing. Singleton once again made one cut off the right tackle and for added flair, dragged a flailing Deonte Banks with him into the end zone to put Penn State up three scores. That was more than enough for the win.
“We got into what we call our quarterback sneak defense because they went under center,” Locksley said. The ball hit in the C-gap. We didn’t get across the face of the tackle … we’ve got to play through the gaps, get more penetration. We had some shots to get them on the ground. We didn’t get them on the ground.”
Entering the game, this was a matchup of the third- and fourth-best offenses in the Big Ten, both in scoring and yardage. Exiting the game, it was clear one of them — fourth-best Maryland — hasn’t been living up to that number.
The Terrapins (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) were outgained 413 to 134 a week after only putting up 189 yards against Wisconsin. The first half disparity was just as bad, 296 yards to 27, with only two Maryland first downs. Seven of their 12 drives went three and out.
“We’re an offense that’s gonna be predicated on making four or five yards on first down. We had too many negative yardage plays on the offensive side of the ball,” Locksley said.
The struggles originated at the line of scrimmage, with an offensive line that was missing starting center Mason Lunsford but still didn’t perform like a veteran group that has two-plus years of experience among its other four starters.
Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa lacked any kind of time in the backfield and appeared unsettled again in his second game back from reaggravating a right knee injury. He only threw for 74 yards and was sacked seven times before being replaced in the middle of the fourth quarter by Billy Edwards Jr. Former Terrapins linebacker Chop Robinson, who transferred from Maryland to Penn State in the offseason, exacted a measure of revenge with two of those sacks.
“I think he’s just like the rest of us on the offensive side of the ball,” Locksley said. “We haven’t played very well. We haven’t executed nor gone out and did the things that I’ve seen us do in practices not show up in games.”
Maryland only allowed three points in the second half, but that was merely a product of a game that was already well in hand for the Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-2). It further illustrated the perennial separation between the Terrapins and the Big Ten’s upper echelon — and how much harder Maryland has to work to attempt to close the gap.
“Some of the teams we played, like the big teams — talking about Michigan and Penn State — in the second half we’ve did our thing. But it’s been that first half that really just kind of falls apart. We’ve got to kind of chase back to get where we feel like we should be,” Maryland safety Beau Brade said. “But if we come out strong and come out like we know we need to, then I feel like we’ll be right [there].”
A hard reset and deep introspection await the Terrapins in the coming days as another conference giant in No. 2 Ohio State looms next week.
“I’m going to try to do more to help my team, whether it’s talking more, helping guys out,” said Maryland running back Roman Hemby, who carried 13 times for 68 yards. “And I feel like there was plays that I missed out there as well. So, I feel like once I get everything cleaned up and have my end better than I feel like we’ll be clicking and we’ll have a better chance to put a better product on the field.”
• George Gerbo can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.