Allegany Communications Sports

University of Maryland football came out looking like a hot mess, then proceeded to play like one in front of a sellout home crowd on Saturday in the latest embarrassing loss to Penn State, 51-15.

The crowd of 51,802 was Maryland’s first sellout since 2019 when 53,228 fans sat in on the Terps’ 59-0 loss to … Penn State. Maryland has now lost 32 games in a row to top-15 teams since 2007.

Dressed in gold (more like yellow) jerseys, black helmets with red script and black pants striped in white and red, the Terps carried themselves the way a dog does after being sheared to get rid of fleas — awkward and unfamiliar to the eye; though it didn’t take long for them to become all too familiar, particularly during this current month-long four-game losing streak.

On the offense’s first possession, Maryland decided to go for it on a fourth-and-1 from its own 45-yard line and promptly lost a yard when the play call was a pass behind the line of scrimmage from quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to tight end Corey Dyches that was smothered by the Lions. Wasting no time, Penn State capitalized with an eight-play, 44-yard march capped by a 6-yard scoring strike from Drew Allar to wide receiver Dante Cephas.

Maryland responded with a promising drive into Penn State territory, but after catching a pass from Tagovailoa for a 9-yard gain, wide receiver Tai Felton was stripped of the ball and Penn State recovered and returned it 14 yards into Maryland territory.

It was soon 14-0 before Maryland cut it to 14-7. But then it was 21-7, 24-7, 31-7 and 31-15, which made it essentially over because the Maryland running game could do no better than to account for minus-49 yards on 16 carries (you read that correctly), the Terps’ usual onslaught of turnovers — two more by Tagovailoa — and their inability to block, tackle or cover Penn State.

It was Men vs. Boys with the usual baffling in-game decisions on the part of the Terps, on the field and from the sideline, beginning with the very first decision not to punt on fourth-and-1 in their own territory, and magnified by the horribly conceived and horribly executed play that was called.

Just as success and progress flow from the top, mismanagement and failure rises to the top, and these are very trying times for Maryland head coach Mike Locksley.

“Give Penn State credit,” he said after the game. “They’re a top-10 team, and they came in here and kicked our butts, and we got outplayed and outcoached. We didn’t make plays in any of the three phases that we’re going to need to make consistently. With that being said, we’re still sitting here on five wins with an opportunity to get to six.”

The 5-0 start Maryland had has proven to be fool’s gold in the past month, and that magic bowl-eligible number of six will be no sure thing, as the Terps are in serious danger of losing their final seven games after a 5-0 start. This week they travel to Lincoln to play a vastly improved and well-coached Nebraska team, followed by a home game with No. 3 Michigan before closing on the road with a Rutgers team that gave Ohio State a handful on Saturday (as did Maryland for three quarters).

The quest for the sixth win also comes well into the season that Locksley vowed would be the season Maryland would begin to “compete for championships.”

“We’re still ready to compete for Big Ten championships,” Locksley said Saturday evening. “It’s just not right now. We’ve shown in the last couple of weeks that we’re just not there yet.”

Locksley also said, “Obviously, we have to give credit to Penn State, they were able to have their way with us today, But I don’t think they’re 51 to 15 better than us. And so to me, that’s where I don’t think we play to our potential.”

Perhaps Maryland is not playing up to the potential of some of its parts, namely the skill positions, but the past month has shown us the Terps are certainly playing down to the potential of two of their most vital parts, particularly in the Big Ten — the offensive line and the defensive line.

The offensive line, after losing two starters to the transfer portal, has proven it cannot withstand Big Ten pressure. In turn, the defensive line has proven it cannot penetrate Big Ten run or pass blocking, both of which put targets on the Maryland offensive backs and receivers and the defensive backs as well, all of which was exposed in painstaking detail on Saturday by Penn State.

This is on the Maryland coaches and recruiters, beginning with head coach Locksley.

As for Penn State not being “51-15 better” than Maryland, I agree. The Lions looked to be more along the lines of 70-15 better, but to the credit of head coach James Franklin (and that is painful to say), they tried to keep the score down late, but Maryland wouldn’t let them, committing three turnovers in four successive plays deep in its own territory.

Maryland left them with no choice other than to score, or to take a knee each time, which would have been the only possible way Saturday’s outcome could have been even more embarrassing.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT