Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Passing game puts it all together, starts off hot
For the first time in a while, Penn State’s passing game put it all together early and often. The Nittany Lions have struggled out of the gates offensively this year, but quarterback Drew Allar and the rest of the offense made sure that wasn’t the case Saturday. The sophomore signal caller was on point, completing 13-of-16 passes in the first half for 124 yards and three touchdowns. The stat line is a quality one, but so were the throws he was making.
He hit a few tight windows that allowed his receivers to catch the ball in stride and make plays in the open field, and two of his most impressive throws came on touchdowns. His first was a fade to the corner when he hit Dante Cephas, who made the catch while keeping a foot in bounds. The other came on his third touchdown when he threw a dart to Tyler Warren in the corner of the end zone. Both passes were placed where only his receiver could catch them and in a spot where they had a high probability of bringing them in. Allar finished the day 25-of-34 passing for 240 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defense makes up for flaws against Indiana
There were causes for concern on defense last week, too, but the Nittany Lions spent a good portion of this game quelling them. Last week, the Nittany Lions gave up two long, methodical drives to the Hoosiers and two big-play touchdowns that could’ve been viewed as cracks forming in an elite defense. Instead, Penn State sealed those issues up, putting Maryland in consistently bad spots Saturday. While QB Taulia Tagovailoa completed his first 17 attempts, the Terps didn’t really threaten in the first half until Liam Clifford committed a roughing the punter penalty that led to their first touchdown. (And Maryland’s second TD, which came when trailing by three touchdowns in the final quarter, came after two key penalties.)
The defense was much better than it was against the Hoosiers and again looked like the team that mostly stifled Ohio State and totally stifled its first six opponents. PSU’s D finished with six sacks, 12 tackles for loss and four forced turnovers — and limited Maryland to minus-49 rushing yards.
Reasons for offensive hope ahead of Michigan
This game went about as well as it could for a Penn State team that needed to get back on track and prove its offense was capable of producing. The Nittany Lions threw the ball well, ran the ball well and defended well. There’s not a whole lot more that you can ask for from a team heading into its biggest game of the season next week against Michigan. There was every reason to believe that the offense would be what it has all season and force the defense to carry it in its biggest moments — and while Maryland’s defense is not elite, it’s also not bad, and the Nittany Lions still moved the ball as well as they have all season.
It remains to be seen how much that will matter against an opponent as good as the Wolverines, whose defense is so good it’s almost like they know what’s coming. But it’s a positive sign and reason to believe next week will be more competitive than originally anticipated.