Nit­tany Lions roar past Mary­land

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -


“So proud of our foot­ball team,” he said. “Re­ally, re­ally proud of our team and our en­tire build­ing. I say it a lot. Our equip­ment staff and our man­agers, how hard they work to pick all the slack up this [year]. Our med­i­cal staff, our train­ers. Our weight room staff, our nutri­tion staff and ev­ery­one that cooks the food for us. Our aca­demic staff.

“I love our play­ers and they de­serve all the credit. But every­body in our build­ing did a great job and it stinks that we didn’t win to­day and it re­ally stinks the last two games [be­fore] we came up three points short. But this is one hel­luva sea­son, one hel­luva group of kids, and as a staff we’re re­ally proud of them.”

Mary­land (5-7, 3-6 Big Ten) had noth­ing left in an emo­tional tank that had been slowly drained over the past six months — since the day of­fen­sive line­man Jor­dan McNair (McDonogh) suf­fered heat­stroke at a May 29 con­di­tion­ing test and died June 13.

The re­silience of the Terps had been tested many times since the sea­son be­gan.

It started with a tear­ful cel­e­bra­tion af­ter beat­ing then-No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field on Sept. 1 — with ju­nior of­fen­sive line­man El­lis McKen­nie, a fel­low McDonogh grad, wav­ing a ban­ner with McNair’s No. 79 adorn­ing it.

It in­cluded two ex­ter­nal re­views, the first look­ing into the cir­cum­stances that led to McNair’s death and the other into me­dia al­le­ga­tions of a “toxic” foot­ball cul­ture un­der DJ Durkin.

It reached some­thing of an emo­tional cli­max with the tu­mul­tuous 36-hour pe­riod late last month when the third-year coach was re­in­stated by the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land’s Board Re­gents on Oct. 30, then fired the fol­low­ing day by univer­sity pres­i­dent Wal­lace Loh.

‘’This sea­son was filled with ad­ver­sity, and bat­tling through ad­ver­sity,” se­nior de­fen­sive tackle Mbi Tanyi said. “That’s like the big­gest thing we can all take from this sea­son. We lost our team­mate and to keep bat­tling through game in and game out, I can’t say how proud I am of every­body who put ef­fort in.”

Said grad­u­ate re­ceiver Taivon Ja­cobs, who wound up spend­ing six years at Mary­land: “Just stick­ing to­gether, just work­ing through ev­ery­thing we’ve been through and stay­ing as one. Un­for­tu­nately we came up short with some things and some things we wish we could get back. Just got to keep mov­ing for­ward.”

Be­fore an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally sparse crowd on se­nior day in State Col­lege — the crowd was an­nounced at 98,422, but ap­peared to be much smaller — Mary­land’s fourth straight los­ing sea­son ended with an all-too-fa­mil­iar re­sult: an­other de­feat to the Nit­tany Lions, who are now 39-2-1 in this one-sided ri­valry.

The de­feat pre­vented the Terps from be­com­ing bowl-el­i­gi­ble af­ter be­ing on the brink of it with a 63-33 win over Illi­nois on Oct. 27. Mary­land then lost four straight to Michi­gan State (24-3), In­di­ana (34-32), Ohio State (52-51) and Penn State.

Asked what it was like to fall one win shy of their goal, Tanyi said, “Just more ad­ver­sity. Just got to keep bat­tling through it. To come up short is dis­ap­point­ing, but each week we’ve got to show up to play. This is how it is, col­lege foot­ball.”

Af­ter gain­ing sup­port in re­cent weeks de­spite the losses — es­pe­cially for try­ing to win with a 2-point con­ver­sion in over­time against the Buck­eyes last Sat­ur­day — the 46-year-old Canada might have coached his last game for the Terps.

Hop­ing to keep what­ever spot­light is left on his play­ers, Canada de­clined to dis­cuss his fu­ture.

“We’ve taken it day to day. That’s what we’re go­ing to do,” Canada said. “We’ll get it up to­mor­row, see what hap­pens. That’s not the story.”

The vic­tory for Penn State (9-3, 6-3) closed out McSor­ley’s ca­reer with yet an­other record — this one for com­plet­ing his 694th pass, most in school his­tory — but also might have been the last home ap­pear­ance for coach James Franklin, who is ru­mored to be a can­di­date for South­ern Cal­i­for­nia head coach.

Af­ter rush­ing for 298 yards in last week’s over­time loss to the Buck­eyes at Mary­land Sta­dium — the se­cond most in pro­gram his­tory — McFarland was held to 12 yards on six car­ries. The red­shirt fresh­man didn’t get a carry in the se­cond half af­ter ap­pear­ing to rein­jure the shoul­der he hurt last week.

A year af­ter los­ing 66-3 to the Nit­tany Lions in the reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale in Col­lege Park, things didn’t work out for the Terps from the start.

As hap­pened of­ten this sea­son, the Terps won the coin toss. But in­stead of putting their of­fense on the field as they al­most al­ways had done, they sent out their de­fense. It took just four plays for Penn State to take a lead it would never lose on a 3-yard touch­down run by McSor­ley, who added a 20-yard touch­down run later in the first quar­ter.

“It was a set­back, and we just had to re­spond and we didn’t re­spond how we wanted to,” Ja­cobs said.

By half­time, the Terps trailed 17-3 and things quickly de­te­ri­o­rated in the se­cond half, with grad­u­ate line­backer Tre Wat­son, the Big Ten’s lead­ing tack­ler, get­ting ejected for the third time this sea­son for tar­get­ing. An of­fense that ac­counted for 535 yards against Ohio State had just 259 on Sat­ur­day, in­clud­ing 74 on the ground.

Asked how he would like this year’s team to be re­mem­bered, Canada said, “Just as a group of kids that stuck to­gether, that had to deal with things that no­body should deal with. How they ma­tured, how they re­sponded to ad­ver­sity — all the things that came out. The tim­ing of all the things that hap­pened and ev­ery day they went back to work.

“That re­ally should be the only story. The game, this is our liveli­hood, our pro­fes­sion and we have to win. What these guys did, they played hard ev­ery game. Any­body that wants to ques­tion that’s wrong. And that’s not al­ways the case. They had ev­ery ex­cuse in the book not to play hard.”

Canada sin­gled out se­niors, in­clud­ing safety Dar­nell Sav­age Jr., who was play­ing “ba­si­cally on one leg” and oth­ers who could have moved on to the next phase of their lives but wanted to play in one more game.

“How many se­niors stayed out there un­til the last whis­tle to­day?” Canada said. “You look across the coun­try and as soon as things start hap­pen­ing and ad­ver­sity hits, se­niors start tap­ping out and get ready for the draft.

“No­body did that on our team. Guys are dy­ing to play be­cause they wanted to play for each other. It’s an un­be­liev­able group of kids. Un­be­liev­able. … I’m still happy at how hard our kids wanted to play.”

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