COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Penn State needed just two plays to dictate the type of night it planned to have against Maryland.
Never mind the large crowd that packed Maryland Stadium early, or the Maryland dignitaries such as former Terrapin coach Ralph Friedgen and former Terrapin and NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith who counted among those in attendance.
The amplified atmosphere didn’t faze Penn State, as the Nittany Lions exploded for two touchdowns in their first four plays on offense Friday night to set the tone in a 59-0 win.
“I thought it was probably one of the more complete games we have played in our six years,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Really, kind of in all three phases. We played at a high level defensively. (Maryland) has been putting up a bunch of points against a bunch of different people. Challenging schemes, challenging personnel, and our defense played lights out.”
The Nittany Lion defense not only forced three turnovers, but it held Maryland to its lowest-scoring output of the season. The Terrapins entered Friday’s contest with nation’s No. 10-ranked offense. By game’s end, Maryland tallied just 128 yards of offense.
Penn State linebacker Jan Johnson intercepted Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson’s second pass attempt of the contest. A Maryland illegal block below the waist and personal foul penalty on the play set up Penn State with first-and-goal.
“I just opened up to the right — that’s the side I was supposed to open up to — my guy ran under,” Johnson said. “So I zoned off and (the quarterback) didn’t see me come across and just threw it to me.”
Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields grabbed the Nittany Lions’ second interception in the first quarter to thwart a Maryland drive when he snagged Jackson’s pass near the Penn State goal line.
“We were in a zone, so I just had to get depth and width on both routes,” Castro-Fields said of his interception.
Nittany Lion quarterback Sean Clifford scored on an 8-yard run on the ensuing play. The touchdown, which was also the first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career, put the Nittany Lions ahead 7-0.
Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler effectively silenced the home crowd on Penn State’s second drive of the contest.
Hamler pulled in a pass from Clifford off a slant pattern on third-and-9 from Penn State’s 42. As Hamler secured the football near the first-down line, he accelerated, leaving behind his Maryland defender. Hamler darted upfield, high-stepping on his way to end zone on a 58-yard touchdown play.
Hamler finished with 108 yards receiving and one touchdown, his second 100-yard performance of the season.
Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson was 9-of-20 for 62 yards, and running back Anthony McFarland was held to 24 yards.
Clifford aced his first road test. He threw three touchdown passes against one interception — his first of the season.
All four of Penn State’s running backs saw playing time by the second quarter. Meadville High graduate Journey Brown, making his second consecutive start, added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and finished with 21 yards. Ricky Slade had a team-high eight carries for 28 yards and one touchdown.
“We feel good,” Brown said. “We had an extra week of preparation for this game, and I feel like we took the time and attacked it. We took it in hand, and it showed. We were ready for it. We were ready for all the looks. We watched a lot of film, we practiced, and I think it showed.”
The Nittany Lions tallied 619 yards of offense.
Penn State’s Micah Parsons was flagged for targeting midway through the first quarter and was disqualified.
With the win, Penn State has outscored Maryland 163-6 over the last three years and it extended its series lead to 40-2-1. Penn State will put its 4-0 record up against visiting Purdue next week.