STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State coach James Franklin said this week that the Nittany Lions needed to show opponents the ability to win games solely by the pass if the ground game goes awry; with 372 yards rushing against Maryland on Saturday, it’s a theory they didn’t need to prove.
Saquan Barkley ran for 202 yards, quarterback Trace McSorley added 81 more and threw a pair of touchdown passes to lead Penn State over Maryland 38-14 in front of a homecoming crowd of 100,778.
McSorley accounted for 233 total yards, throwing for 152, as the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) had a season-high 524 total yards and snapped Maryland’s five game win streak.
“It’s simple,” Franklin said. “It’s upfront. If you’re good up front across the offensive line and the defensive line, you have a chance to be successful.”
Penn State has gotten off to slow starts in each of its games this season. The Nittany Lions shook that off with a seven-play, 84-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession that featured four plays of 17 yards or more and capped by a 5-yard scoring pass from McSorley to tight end Mike Gesicki.
“It was huge for us to get that first touchdown,” said McSorley. “We were able to get Beaver Stadium rocking.”
Barkley averaged 6.5 yards on 31 carries.
“I didn’t do anything spectacular today,” Barkley said. “The offensive line took over and did a good job. We kind of felt we could run the ball; we hadn’t been getting our running game going. The offensive line did an outstanding job. I saw that we had 300 some yards and I told them (linemen), ‘it’s all you.’
“We got off to a fast start today,” Barkley added. “We’ve been able to put 30 points on the board but we haven’t started on fire.”
Penn State had four sacks and limited Maryland (4-1, 1-1) to 270 total yards, including 170 on the ground. The Terps came in averaging 300 yards rushing per game in victories over Howard, Florida International, Central Florida and Purdue. Lorenzo Harrison led the Terps with 76 yards rushing.
Maryland was forced to play without veteran quarterback Perry Hills during the second half; Hills injured his shoulder on a second-quarter keeper deep in Penn State territory and Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said it was not in Hills’ best interest to return in the second half.
“We have to play better, we have to coach better,” Durkin said. “We made dumb mistakes. We have to stay within the scheme of our offense.”
Maryland closed to within 17-14 late in the first half when Tyrrell Pigrome, subbing for the injured Hills, scored on his first snap with a 7-yard run. But Barkley peeled off a 25-yard run and one play later a 45-yard scoring jaunt to put the Lions up by 10 at the half.
“It’s really indescribable how we played that next series on defense,” Durkin said. We didn’t call it well, we didn’t execute it well; I can’t even begin to describe it.”
Penn State penalties and a Barkley fumble enabled the Terps to stay within striking distance until McSorley hooked up with DeAndre Thompkins on a 70-yard scoring pass late in the third quarter to make it 31-14.
“Offensively, we put up some good numbers and did some good things, “Penn State’s Franklin said. “I thought we matched up well against this team on the O-line and the D-line. The games that we’ve matched up well, we’ve had success.”
KEY INJURIES: Tackle Andrew Nelson, arguably Penn State’s top lineman, injured his right knee late in the first half and likely will be lost for the season, Franklin said. Penn State freshman punter Blake Gillikin was injured when Maryland blocked a first-half punt and did not return.
TARGETING A KICKER: Penn State kicker Joey Julius made jarring tackles against Kent State and Michigan this season and as a result has drawn blocking interest on kickoffs. He was the victim of a late hit against Minnesota and the Gophers’ Jaylen Waters was ejected. Saturday, Julius was knocked down late by Maryland’s Isaiah Davis after his second-half kickoff had sailed out of bounds and Davis was ejected. “If he (Davis) wasn’t thrown out of the game, he would have been removed by me,” Durkin said. “That is not us. We had momentum to start the half and that swung it the other way.” Julius, who weighs 260 pounds, revealed on Facebook last week that he underwent treatment over the summer in a St. Louis facility for an eating disorder.
MARYLAND: After playing three of its first five games on the road, Maryland returns home to face Minnesota on Oct. 15.
PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions have an open date Oct. 15 prior to playing their third straight home game on Oct. 22 against No. 2 Ohio State; the Buckeyes will be Penn State’s second top-five opponent this season.