Penn State football struggles continue vs. Maryland

I’ve tried to sympathize with Penn State football for too long now, but I can’t anymore. Year in and year out James Franklin manages to find new ways to disappoint his players, the fan base and the entire state of Pennsylvania. I’d say he’s been disappointing himself as well, but at this point I think he’s used to his own let down. There cannot be any more excuses for the unacceptable type of play that we’ve seen this season. The program has too much rich history and success to settle for this garbage.

There’s so much to unpack I don’t even know where to start. From a preseason playoff hopeful to one of the most disappointing teams in the span of three weeks, I can’t believe what I’ve been seeing from this Penn State football team. Maryland came into Beaver Stadium and dominated from the opening kickoff on Saturday. The Nittany Lions never had a chance, but then again how could they when the starting quarterback and head coach are incompetent?

What happened?

The Terps took the opening kickoff and scored on six plays after Rakim Jarrett made the defense look like a youth flag football team. The attempts at tackles are getting harder to watch and it’s frustrating watching a true freshman take a slant route 42 yards to the house.

On the ensuing drive, Penn State actually moved the ball down the field before turning it over on downs at the Maryland seven-yard line. On a third-and-eight, Sean Clifford ran for 13 yards to extend the drive and got up to celebrate with one of the most obnoxious first down celebrations that I’ve ever seen from a below average quarterback.

Instead of taking the field goal, Penn State elected to go for it on fourth-and-three. I’m fine with taking an aggressive approach, but the decision on the play call still has me asking questions. A goal line fade in the back corner of the end zone is my least favorite play in football and seeing it fall incomplete only made me feel stronger about that. There just has to be better options in that situation, like maybe trying to get a top tight end in the country involved in the red zone.

Jarrett scored his second touchdown of the game on a 62-yard catch and run on a play that looked exactly like his first. Man-to-man defense is what you play when your defensive backs match up well with the opposing receivers, but clearly that wasn’t the case and Maryland took advantage. After a Penn State three-and-out the Terps got the ball back and extended their lead to 21 after Jake Funk ran 38 yards to a socially distanced defense. Dr. Fauci would be very pleased with the Penn State defense.

Jahan Dotson picked up where he left off last week and made sure the home team wouldn’t be shutout going into halftime. Clifford was finally able to finish a drive as he delivered a dime to Dotson who went up and got it over the defender. The junior continued to shine as offense’s best weapon who deserves recognition as one of the best in the country. He went for 123 yards on nine catches.

Maryland got it back before halftime, however, after a blown coverage to make it a three-touchdown game yet again. On the opening drive of the second half, Clifford was stripped and the Maryland defense scooped and scored to put the game out of reach with all of the momentum.

Clifford finished with three turnovers and completed just 47% of his passes. He also rushed 17 times for 26 yards. That is a stat line you’d expect to see from a true freshman in his first career start, but Clifford is in redshirt junior year and second season as the starter. I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt for a while now, but he’s starting to look like a big problem for this team.

The quarterback is inaccurate, the defense doesn’t tackle and I don’t think I have enough characters to get started on the coach. Watching Saturday’s game made me embarrassed to be a Penn State student. As 25-point favorites, Penn State football showed no heart and was blown out 35-19 to Maryland. This is not the standard and I will not be happy until I see change.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

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