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Penn State postgame updates: Defense hits new gear vs. Maryland ... revving to 10-2?

Frank Bodani
York Daily Record

Penn State finds energy, purpose in November rain

The Nittany Lions played full-strength football Saturday in Beaver Stadium for about three quarters, if that.

That's all that was needed in dominating the Maryland Terrapins in a chilly rain. Why keep throwing passes and running your regulars when an overwhelmed opponent can't come close to scoring at all?

No need, then, to risk the health and welfare of building stars, like rookie tailbacks Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Certainly not in the name of padding statistics against a Maryland team that appears to be folding in November, once more.

Same, too, even for backup QB Drew Allar.

Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions dominated on both sides of scrimmage, built their commanding lead and then pulled off the gas for most of the second half in winning 30-0. The only scoring after halftime was a short Jake Pinegar field goal.

The Lions outgained Maryland in total yards, 413 to 134. An impressive kind of disparity on the Power Five level − and it certainly could have been worse, if needed.

The most important takeaway is how these young Lions found the proper energy, purpose and motivation to win the day from beginning to end. Even after losing their two biggest games of the year.

Yes, they have responded as well as can be expected the past two weeks against lesser sides in Indiana and Maryland. Up next is try-hard Rutgers on the road.

While the Scarlet Knight work diligently with the talent provided, especially on defense, Penn State should be able to pound out a victory, one sledgehammer blow at a time on the ground, if nothing else.

Dreary Michigan State on Senior Day follows.

A 10-2 regular season record with a possible New Year's Six bowl game is coming into focus even more clearly now.

Defense clamps down on sleepy second half

Most of the fans left by the end of the third quarter. They had seen enough in a chilly rain.

Penn State's defense all but won this game in this first quarter and simply never loosened its grip, no matter what backups filed in and out of the action.

Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Nicholas Singleton (10) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The entire second half of Penn State vs. Maryland featured three points. Just one short Jake Pinegar field goal.

The impressive starting running backs found a safe place on the sideline. Even prized backup quarterback Drew Allar exited after just a few series and throwing six passes.

There was little to see and learn other than how Penn State's growing defense kept stifling the once high-revving Maryland attack.

The Terps managed only 111 total yards midway through the fourth quarter. That pretty much says it all. That's what seven sacks and nine tackles for loss will do for a team.

When it mattered those rookie tailbacks were impressive, once more. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 195 rushing yards and certainly could have piled up more.

That will have to wait for next Saturday at Rutgers.

Have yourself a day, Abdul Carter

He may be the best freshman on these youth-driven Nittany Lions. Just maybe ...

Rookie linebacker Abdul Carter continues to become more of a force by the week ... just as running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen.

Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) looks to get rid of the ball before being tackled by  Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Hakeem Beamon (51) during the first quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Carter is leading a defensive performance for the ages in Beaver Stadium. The Lions have sacked Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa seven times and have held the Terps to an astoundingly inept 113 yards of total offense through three quarters.

Carter has been the star. He has seven tackles, a sack, a pass breakup, two quarterback hurries and has forced a fumble. He's been the most disruptive player on a unit that has pressured, tackled well in space and contained the dangerous Tagovailoa from beginning to end.

Penn State has six or more sacks in back-to-back games for the first time since 2007 (7, Florida International, 9/1; 6, Notre Dame, 9/8).

Penn State leads, 30-0 with the third quarter ending.

Nittany Lions dominating except in pass game. Drew Allar time?

You don't see these halftime numbers often: Penn State leads in total yards, 296-27.

Most all of that has been build on a suffocating defense and a ever-growing run game − even while replacing three starters on the offense line.

Once again, the Maryland Terrapins are acting like they just don't want to play football very hard in November.

The one problem? The Penn State pass game. Senior Sean Clifford is just 11-of-21 passing for 106 yards with several overthrown receivers. It may be his most inaccurate game yet this fall.

He did, at least, break Trace McSorley's school record for all-time passing yards (He needed 16 today). Otherwise, the countdown is on to get another look at freshman Drew Allar.

The outcome, of course, is all but over barring a Maryland resurrection unlike one witnessed in recent memory. Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa has been sacked five times already.

The Lions lead 27-0 early in the third quarter.

Nick Singleton to the rescue, once more

Sean Clifford and the pass game just aren't clicking today against the Terps.

It's not been a smooth season, of course, for the senior, records or not.

Nov 12, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) walks on the field during a warm up prior to the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

But the run game has turned it up, revving higher each week. Last week, Kaytron Allen starring in Indiana.

This week, Nick Singleton.

He's running with more power and determination with each drive today against Maryland. Eight carries, 113 yards, two touchdowns. On his second TD in this first half he dragged a Maryland defender several yards into the end zone.

Clifford is just 4-of-9 passing for 35 yards so far.

Singleton and Allen have combined for 157 rushing yards, though.

It's 21-0 Lions with less than six minutes before halftime.

Nick Singleton, new and improved

It was fourth down and a yard.

Nick Singleton had already broken bodies on a couple of powerful first-quarter runs against the Terps. Running stronger and more direct through the middle of the line than in any previous games of his freshman season.

But on this play?

Singleton took the handoff, found a crevice of space to his right and then hit the gas as he ran through scrimmage.

He was gone, just like that.

His 45-yard touchdown run not only gave the Lions a 14-0 lead but showed how much progress the nation's top high school running back has made through nine games and more. He didn't just bounce an open running lane to the outside and outrun everyone.

His vision and physicality is beginning to take over now, too.

He entered the day as the nation's No. 4 leading freshman running back with 679 yards. He's added 86 more yards today on his first 7 carries.

Defense inflicting pain early

Maryland has had nowhere to run or throw on its first three possessions.

The Terrapins have run eight plays so far in Beaver Stadium. And they've lost 10 yards. That's it.

The Lions' impressive pressure up front has produced three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks, by rookie Zane Durant and Adisa Isaace.

Ever-dangerous quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has had no room or time to operate. He's completed one of his three passes for 5 yards.

Penn State leads 7-0 after missing on a wonderful field position opportunity on its second drive.

Penn State missing star Joey Porter, Jr.

The Nittany Lions will be without one of the top cornerbacks in the nation today against Maryland and its prolific pass game.

Potential first-round NFL Draft pick Joey Porter, Jr. did not participate in pregame warm-ups and was not announced with the starting lineup. Fortunately for the Lions, cornerback is one of their deepest spots on the roster. Kalen King and Johnny Dixon will be the starters today with Daequan Hardy substituting as always.

Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. motions to the Nittany Lion faithful after Minnesota is penalized for a second false start in the first quarter at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in State College.

The Lions also will be without three starting offensive linemen for the second straight week. True freshman Drew Shelton will start at left tackle in place of rising star Olu Fashanu. Senior backups Hunter Nourzad and Bryce Effner will hold down one of the guard and the other tackle spot.

Military Appreciation Day, Maryland 'homecoming'

Defense tackle Dvon Ellies and a slew of his Penn State teammates will go against a lot of familiar faces this afternoon.

Maryland is the Nittany Lions' top out-of-state recruiting area. Four Lions, for example, are even from same school (McDonogh High in Owings Mills). Certainly, Ellies, defensive end Dani Dennnis-Sutton, tackle PJ Mustipher and linebacker Curtis Jacobs could be on the field at the same time − as long as Jacobs is healthy enough to play.

Penn State defensive tackle Dvon Ellies (91) reacts after sacking Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Bloomington, Ind. Tuttle was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

But today's game against the Terrapins is even more special for those with military ties like Ellies. He will carry the American flag out of the stadium tunnel when the team is introduced and hand it off to his father, Sean Thomas, who served nearly 25 years in the U.S. Army. Thomas retired as a sergeant first class.

The honor is part of Penn State's Military Appreciation Day ceremonies.

Ellies and fellow Maryland linemen Cozziah Izzard enjoyed perhaps their best games last weekend at Indiana and seem to be make more of an impact as the season goes. Dennis-Sutton also recorded his first college interception against the Hoosiers.

Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen loom large vs. Terps

Penn State owns the best freshman running back combination in the nation.

How will Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen keep their rookie success going, even growing? Today's opportunity seems perfectly placed, going against a tenderized Maryland Terrapin defense in Beaver Stadium.

Consider that the Terrapins were gouged by running games ranging from lowly Northwestern to rebounding Wisconsin to road-grading king, Michigan.

The Terps have been particularly susceptible to tailback getting the edge and make big plays (Singleton's specialty). Singleton is the nation's No. 4 freshman runner with 679 yards and eight scores. And he's not even the best all-around option.

IPenn State's Kaytron Allen (13) avoids Indiana's Tiawan Mullen (3) during the first half of the Indiana versus Penn State football game at Memorial Stadium on Satruday, Nov. 5, 2022.

Iu Psu Fb Allen 1

Allen, the new starter, is gaining more traction each week with his patience, vision and ability to somehow turn every running attempt into a positive-yardage experience. He's run for 558 yards so far and another eight touchdowns.

“I think Nick is getting better every single week,” Franklin said.

“I think both of those guys are running really physical, and Nick had some really good runs where maybe there was three or four yards and he turned them into six or seven-yard runs. ... They’re both getting better in areas that they need to improve, and as you can imagine, there’s still a ton of growth for both of them ...”

Finally, PSU progress:The hardest thing in college football? James Franklin may finally own it. Here's how ...

The only trepidation for today are the blockers in front of them. The Lions could be down three offensive line starters again, if right tackle Caedan Wallace can't return. They worked surprisingly well last week with rookie Drew Shelton and junior college transer JB Nelson holding their own and more.

Not sure this team, however, can withstand another significant injury on the offensive line. They are beginning to work little-used backups onto the depth chart.

Franklin did add this: He's not concerned about Singleton or Allen hitting a "freshman wall," in terms of wilting under the physical stress of an initial college season and the intense training that came before.

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