By Annie Ross
Penn State suffered another ignominious defeat yesterday at Beaver Stadium, this time to a Maryland team that now sees itself on the same regional level with the Nits.
And Maryland coach Randy Edsall teared up as he tried to explain what all of this meant. Maryland’s 20-19 win over Penn State on Saturday.
It was the program’s first win in State College in 23 tries, its first victory in one of the Big Ten’s cathedrals, or that it made the team eligible for a bowl game. Saturday was the declaration of a rivalry.
“You don’t know what this means to our program,” Edsall said.
Edsall called it the biggest win of his four years in College Park, and it certainly had the most bravado. Place kicker Brad Craddock nailed a 43-yard field goal with 51 seconds left, and Maryland’s defense came up with a fourth-down stop in the final seconds to stun more than 103,000 at Beaver Stadium.
“There should be a trophy for this game. It’s a bordering state,” Edsall said. “Let’s have some fun.”
A combative tone had been set four hours earlier. Maryland earned a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for pregame antics that included Terrapins captains P.J. Gallo, Sean Davis and Stefon Diggs refusing to shake hands with Penn State’s leaders, as well as a minor scuffle between the teams. Edsall and Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson apologized after the game for the handshake snub, and Gallo said it wasn’t “a smart decision.”
“I’ve never been a part of that,” said Penn State Coach James Franklin, once the Maryland coach in waiting. “In 20 years, I’ve never seen that before.”
It was the second straight week that Maryland (6-3, 3-2) endured long stretches of ineptitude on offense, especially in the first half, when the Terrapins had 10 more penalty yards than yards of offense. Their most effective drive came early in the second quarter, when quarterback C.J. Brown found Gallo for a two-yard touchdown on a bootleg pass.
But Penn State’s offense found the tank, too, thanks in large part of a Maryland front seven, which dominated the line of scrimmage for much of the day. A week after being carved up for 7.3 yards per carry and 52 points at Wisconsin, the unit held Penn State to 219 total yards and never allowed sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg (18-of-42 passing for 177 yards) to get comfortable.
Penn State settled for three field goals to take a 9-7 lead into halftime. Then, after Wes Brown fumbled near midfield, Hackenberg hit Jesse James with an eight-yard touchdown pass to make it 16-7 with about three minutes left in the third quarter.
“We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” C.J. Brown said. “We weren’t doing anything crazy.”
Still, as Maryland struggled to sustain drives — it finished 1 of 14 on third downs and had just 196 yards of total offense — it was never out of it. The Terps settled for a 25-yard field goal by Craddock to make it 16-10 early in the fourth quarter after Wes Brown mishandled a pitch on an option call from the 1-yard line. But then Alex Twine recovered a Penn State fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Four plays later, Brown bulldozed his way for a one-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 25-yard completion from C.J. Brown to Amba-Etta Tawo.
Suspense for the game started last spring, when Edsall and Franklin traded barbs over the Washington area’s fertile recruiting grounds. It continued this past week, when Edsall reminded his players that the program was 1-35-1 all-time against the Nittany Lions, and that it had never won in State College. Edsall was careful in the days before the game to avoid calling it a rivalry game, but it had emotional undertones thanks in large part to the 13 Pennsylvania players on Maryland’s roster.
Craddock didn’t know one way or the other. The native of Australia had thrown himself at Edsall from a world away in 2012, and when Maryland offered him a scholarship, he accepted almost immediately without even visiting. He hadn’t attempted a game-winning field goal since two seasons ago, when he infamously missed against North Carolina State.
“Kicking is one of those things that makes you humble. You can miss any kick on any day. Even if you make a little mistake,” Craddock said. “You just need to be right on the day and push through.
Hackenberg had driven his team 33 yards in eight plays to set up a 48-yard field goal from Sam Ficken to give Penn State (4-4, 1-4) a 19-17 lead with just less than seven minutes to play. Craddock trotted onto the field about five minutes later and knocked in his kick, making him a perfect 14 of 14 on field goals this season.
Hackenberg and the Penn State offense crumbled on the ensuing drive. Linebacker L.A. Goree scooped up a Hackenberg fumble on a fourth-and-one scrum on the Penn State 28-yard line, and Edsall reacted by extending both of his arms into the air. A few minutes later, he was trying to articulate the win’s impact, and before he left his postgame n