By Harry Allison
Sean Clifford threw for 398 yards and three touchdowns and visiting Penn State battered Maryland 59-0.
The Nits led 38-0 at halftime and finished with 619 yards in its Big Ten opener. After Jan Johnson got things started by ending Maryland’s first possession with an interception, Clifford cruised into the end zone from the 8 and the rout was on.
“Right from the start we didn’t give ourselves a chance, and for us, that was the disappointing part,” first-year coach Mike Locksley said.
After halftime, most of fans remaining from a rare sellout crowd of 53,228 at Maryland were the several thousand cheering for the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0).
“It was one of the more complete games that we have played in our six years, really in all three phases,” said coach James Franklin, a former Maryland assistant who took over at Penn State in 2014.
Clifford said, “I agree with that 100 percent. You win a lot of games when teams don’t score and we score a lot. That’s just down to basics. I’m really proud of how both sides executed today, special teams as well. It was a complete win.”
Because the Terrapins (2-2, 0-1) won their first two games at home by a combined 122 points and Penn State was coming off a tight 17-10 win over Pittsburgh, the Nittany Lions were favored by only a touchdown.
But past performances held true. Penn State leads the series 40-2-1, winning the previous three by scores of 38-14, 66-3, 38-3 before adding this romp — the Terrapins’ worst home shutout lost ever — to the list.
How can Maryland turn it around?
“Good teams don’t beat themselves,” Locksley said.
Maryland had three turnovers, was penalized nine times for 85 yards and tackled poorly.
Clifford threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler (above) for a 14-0 lead, connected with Nick Bowerson on a 15-yarder to make it 28-0 and hit Journey Brown for 37 yards for a 35-point cushion.
After making his 14-for-30 performance against Pittsburgh a distant memory, Clifford remained on the sideline with 5:45 left in the third quarter and Penn State up 45-0.
“I took that Pitt game very personal,” Clifford said. “I had a lot of issues that I saw on the tape. I knew that I needed to make some corrections to be where we want to be.”
Clifford, a redshirt sophomore, made his fourth start following the departure of standout Trace McSorley (now with the Ravens). Perhaps the only flaw in his 26-for-31 gem was that he now has one interception to go with his 11 TD passes.
Maryland, meanwhile, has regressed terribly after winning its first two games under Locksley. The Terrapins were ranked No. 21 after beating then-No. 21 Syracuse on Sept. 7, but an ugly loss at Temple and this embarrassing defeat has left Locksley searching for answers.
Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson, who was so impressive during the first two weeks, has since struggled. His second pass of the night was picked off and he finished 10 for 21 for 65 yards and two interceptions.
The Terrapins garnered only 128 yards in offense. Until late in the fourth quarter, Clifford had more yards rushing (54) than the entire Maryland backfield.