- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Maryland coach Mike Locksley admits his Terrapins didn’t deliver across the board in a rainy 23-10 loss at Wisconsin last week — their worst performance of the season, both on paper and to the eyes.

“I didn’t think we coached very well. I don’t think we played very well and managed the elements that we dealt with,” Locksley said Tuesday.

The Terrapins will have different elements to deal with Saturday at No. 14 Penn State. Atmospheric, sure, but from 106,000-strong at Beaver Stadium, not the sky.

“That’s what you signed up for when you play in the Big Ten,” Locksley said.

Maryland has a history with the Nittany Lions, with this being the 46th meeting between the schools. It’s the closest thing the Terrapins have in the conference to a rival. But don’t expect anyone in College Park to label it that way.

“It’s not a rivalry game,” Locksley said, flatly. “I told our team there’s no such thing. This is not a rivalry game. Obviously, we have to compete a little better to get it to that point.”

Maryland is 3-41-1 all-time in the series that dates to 1917. While there may be geographic and recruiting ties between the border states — and as receiver Jeshaun Jones noted, plenty of familiarity between D.C.-area players on both squads — the record doesn’t lie.

“Coach is right. It’s definitely not a rivalry,” Maryland linebacker Ruben Hyppolite said. “For it to be a rivalry, we have to win against them more.”

How then can the Terrapins handle this trip to Happy Valley and avoid their first two-game skid of the season? Last year in College Park, the teams were tied at 14 early in the fourth quarter before Penn State scored 17 straight to win. 

The 2020 season provided one of those few Maryland wins: a 35-19 triumph in front of only 1,500 at Beaver Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are still a few holdovers from that team, but it’s not something Locksley thinks they can draw on.

“We have some guys that were here, that were part of going up there and getting a big win. That was something we haven’t done a lot around here,” Locksley said. “But it’s going to come down [to] us blocking, tackling, running, catching and throwing. Putting in the work.”

Similar to Maryland’s Week 6 tilt with Purdue and quarterback Aidan O’Connell, this game features veteran signal-callers with near-identical numbers.

Penn State‘s Sean Clifford, whom Locksley said “seems like he’s been there forever,” has tallied 2,045 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa has 2,078 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions in one fewer game.

“They’ve got the attention of our defense, but it starts with Sean Clifford,” Locksley said. “He’s a veteran guy that we know a lot about and got to do a really good job of containing.”

For Maryland’s offense, which was held to a season-low 189 yards last week, may use some in-house insights to get back on track. Terrapins offensive coordinator Dan Enos held the same position at Miami when current Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was head coach of the Hurricanes. 

“[He’s] really familiar with what they do on defense, so gives us at least a little more insight having spent time there,” Locksley said. “And they do a lot of the movement things, and they do offer some pretty exotic pressure.”

Specifically, tips on the movement Penn State does across the line of scrimmage can help Maryland’s offensive line, which will have freshman center Coltin Deery starting for the third-straight game, create better gaps.

“I think for us, to get the run game going, it’s about covering people up,” Locksley said,” making sure we’re doing a good job with being really tight with our footwork, anticipating the movement and just making sure we don’t end up on the edges.”

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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