Drop­ping the ball dooms the Terps

Five turnovers spoil de­but of Lock­sley

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RO­MAN STUBBS

PENN STATE 31, MARY­LAND 30

bal­ti­more — Mary­land in­terim coach Mike Lock­sley sim­ply wanted his team to play foot­ball with joy Satur­day, as if they were chil­dren learn­ing the game in the back yard. But by the time Perry Hills threw an in­ter­cep­tion in the fi­nal minute to seal the Ter­rap­ins’ fate in an emo­tion­ally drain­ing 31-30 loss to Penn State at M&T Bank Sta­dium, Lock­sley and his play­ers again were re­minded of the harsh re­al­i­ties of col­lege foot­ball.

In the 13 days since Randy Ed­sall was fired, Mary­land ex­hausted it­self in prepa­ra­tion for Satur­day’s game against the Nit­tany Lions. Every­thing seemed dif­fer­ent Satur­day. With new scenery at a rock­ing NFL sta­dium and play­ers wear­ing new throw­back uni­forms, the pro­gram looked re­ju­ve­nated for stretches un­der Lock­sley. His play­ers jumped on the benches and waved T-shirts on the side­line through­out the day, while the home crowd roared for the first time in weeks.

But Mary­land ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of the same sys­tem­atic break­downs on the field, com­mit--

ting five turnovers and strug­gling to de­fend Penn State quar­ter­back Chris­tian Hack­en­berg, who threw for a sea­son-high 315 yards and three touch­downs on just 13 com­ple­tions. And in the end, the same gut-wrench­ing feel­ing re­turned for Mary­land in a fourth straight loss.

“Lots of guys in there are pretty hurt be­cause we think it’s a game that we re­ally wanted,” Lock­sley said. “We didn’t do the things to take it.”

Hills fin­ished 19-for-28 pass­ing for 225 yards and one touch­down, adding 124 yards and an­other score on the ground as Mary­land (2-5, 0-3 Big Ten) stayed close in a con­test for the first time in more than a month. But he also threw three in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing two on the team’s fi­nal two drives.

The first half was de­fined by missed op­por­tu­ni­ties for Mary­land’s of­fense, which was re­vamped by Lock­sley ear­lier this week to max­i­mize the run­ning abil­ity of Hills. There was an in­no­va­tive qual­ity to the of­fense Satur­day, in­clud­ing de­signed zone-read plays for full­back-turned-quar­ter­back Shane Cock­er­ille and a se­ries of touches for de­fen­sive back Will Likely.

“I saw a dif­fer­ent team to­day. There was a lot more en­ergy and fo­cus. Ev­ery­body no­ticed it,” Mary­land run­ning back Bran­don Ross said.

But Mary­land squan­dered two scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties with turnovers deep in­side Penn State ter­ri­tory on its first two drives, in­clud­ing a Hills fum­ble. Its stand­out se­nior place kicker, Brad Crad­dock, missed a 51-yard field goal. Mary­land also had a third and goal at the Penn State 2-yard line in the mid­dle of the sec­ond quar­ter, but Wes Brown bob­bled an op­tion pitch and Mary­land set­tled for a short field goal and a 13-7 lead that could have been larger.

With Mary­land trail­ing 17-13 in the third quar­ter, Lock­sley fumed as Hills was forced to use a time­out to avoid a de­lay-of-game penalty on a third and 10 at the Penn State 10-yard line. Then Lock­sley de­vised maybe his riski­est play-call of the af­ter­noon — a draw to Ross.

It paid off. Ross cut back and beat the Nit­tany Lions’ de­fense with a 10- yard scor­ing run to make it 20-17.

But Hack­en­berg, who at­tempted just 13 passes in last week’s loss to Ohio State, con­tin­ued to burn Mary­land’s sec­ondary on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion. Af­ter hit­ting Chris God­win for a 31-yard gain over the mid­dle, the ju­nior hit DaeSean Hamil­ton for a 20-yard touch­down pass two plays later as Penn State re­took the lead.

“He’s a great quar­ter­back. You have to give it to him,” said Mary­land de­fen­sive end Yan­nick Ngak­oue, who had two sacks.

Un­like last year’s slugfest in Happy Val­ley, a 20-19 Mary­land win that marked the school’s first vic­tory over the Nit­tany Lions since 1961, Satur­day’s game was a shootout. Hills en­gi­neered a 10play, 88-yard drive on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, capped by 10-yard touch­down throw to ju­nior DeAn­dre Lane late in the third quar­ter.

Hack­en­berg hit Geno Lewis for a 27-yard touch­down pass over Mary­land cor­ner­back Sean Davis that gave the Nit­tany Lions (6-2, 3-1) a 31-27 lead to open the fourth quar­ter. Af­ter Mary­land set­tled for a 29-yard Crad­dock field goal on the next drive, it came up with a fum­ble re­cov­ery on the en­su­ing kick­off. But Hills fum­bled on the next play, and Penn State re­turned the turnover to the Mary­land 28yard line, forc­ing the Ter­rap­ins’ de­fense into its most vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion of the af­ter­noon. The unit held, and Penn State’s Joey Julius missed a 45-yard field goal try.

“We had op­por­tu­ni­ties to take con­trol of the game,” Hills said.

Lock­sley vowed his team would play as if it had noth­ing to lose, and he proved it mid­way through the fourth quar­ter. Mary­land elected to go for it on fourth and two from its 36-yard line a few mo­ments later — but Hills had no one open af­ter a play-ac­tion fake. His des­per­a­tion heave was picked off at the Penn State 37-yard line. Hills had an­other chance af­ter Mary­land re­cov­ered a Hack­en­berg fum­ble near mid­field, but the ju­nior quar­ter­back couldn’t con­vert on fourth and 10 at the Penn State 45-yard line with just over three min­utes re­main­ing.

Penn State punted with 1 min­utes 21 sec­onds left, but Hills was picked off a fi­nal time af­ter his throw over the mid­dle to Lane was tipped. Lock­sley fi­nally sur­ren­dered at that point, re­mov­ing his head­set and star­ing across the field as the Nit­tany Lions cel­e­brated.

“We’re way be­yond moral vic­to­ries,” he said. “To­day we didn’t take care of our busi­ness.”

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Perry Hills fin­ished 19 for 28 for 225 yards, one touch­down and three in­ter­cep­tions.

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Penn State’s Bran­don Bell causes Mary­land quar­ter­back Perry Hills to fum­ble in the fourth quar­ter.

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