December 7, 2019

Maryland Football: Competitive early, but poor quarterback play by Perry Hills late dooms Terps against Penn State

(Photo by: Rich Barnes-USA Today Sports)

(Photo by: Rich Barnes-USA Today Sports)

Today was probably one of the last games that the Maryland Terrapins would have a chance to actually pull out a victory this season. In the national spotlight, on ESPN, the Terps showed that they could play tough against arguably one of the best quarterback prospects for the NFL in Christian Hackenberg. Mike Locksley had his guys ready to go coming out of the bye week and Maryland was competitive throughout the first half. A shootout ensued in the second half as the lead changed hands four times on consecutive drives. In the end, Perry Hills choked in the spotlight when Penn State left the door open for a late comeback to the Terps where Maryland had converted last year. Maryland fell 31-30 in a border battle with Penn State and their hopes of bowl eligibility under Mike Locksley are now next to none at 2-5.

The theme for Maryland to start the game was their ability to move the ball with ease but inability to convert the yardage into points. On the opening drive, Maryland had three plays of 16 yards and nearing field goal range before Perry Hills under threw Malcolm Culmer in double coverage for an interception. After the defense forced a three and out, Maryland was set up at the Penn State 34 following a catch and run by Levern Jacobs after Hills broke contain. A poor screen and sack resulted in another stalled drive resulting in no points. The third try was not the charm for Maryland as Hills fumbled in the red zone after the defense worked hard to force another three and out.

Hackenberg was then done messing around as he completed his first two passes of the game for 38 and 40 yards to DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin, respectively. Will Likely and Anthony Nixon were both beat for the Terrapins and the defense game up the first scoring of the game on a Saquon Barkley six yard touchdown following the Godwin completion. Maryland would not go quietly, however as Perry Hills hit Malcolm Culmer deep for a 48 yard gain. Similarly to Penn State who scored on the play following a 40+ yard gain, Hills rumbled in from 12 yards out to tie the game for Maryland.

The Maryland defense rebounded from giving up two big plays by forcing a Nittany Lion punt after giving up just one first down. The offense looked poised to take the lead following a Likely 17 yard run in which he hit the juke button twice to put Penn State defenders on their backs, but another drive stalled after a delay of game penalty. Brad Craddock is far from his Lou Groza award winning form as he missed from 51-yards out after not attempting a field goal in six weeks. Luckily for Maryland, they would get that field goal right back as Saquon Barkley put the pigskin on the ground. The Terps technically went three and out on the drive following the turnover, but a 44-yard Craddock field goal gave them a 10-7 lead.

For the first time in  while, the Terrapin defense was getting an adequate amount of time for rest and they were showing it by winning at the line of scrimmage. After forcing their third three and out in Penn State’s first six possessions. Maryland would again have to settle for a field goal after they were set up with first and goal from the 10 yard line that nearly ended in disaster when Perry Hills delivered an inaccurate pitch to Wes Brown on a third and goal play from the two. We will never know if  Locksley would have gone for it on fourth down from the two, but a seven yard loss tilted his hand towards a Brad Craddock field goal that gave Maryland a surprising 13-7 lead, although it should have been much more.

Unfortunately for the Terps, Hackenberg got back to beating the Maryland secondary defense. On back to back plays of 38 and 37 yards, respectively, Maryland’s Sean Davis and Anthony Nixon were beat down the field and just like that Penn State had a touchdown within a minute of Craddock’s field goal. Instead of Maryland responding before the end of the half, they gave Penn State a chance at more points in the first half after going three and out on offense. The defense looked to have everything under control by forcing a 3rd and 15 play for Penn State, but defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski passively only sent a three man rush allowing Hackenberg the time to complete a 24 yard pass. Such gave Penn State another field goal before the half and Maryland found themselves trailing 17-13 at halftime.

With a chance of a route to begin with Penn State starting the half with the football, the defense put their foot down by forcing their fourth three and out of the game. Perry Hills decided to take over the drive with his legs as he went for 56 yards on Maryland’s next drive including two third down conversions with runs of 9 and 36 yards. When it looked like the drive would stall when faced with a 3rd and goal from the 10, Brandon Ross ran untouched to the house on a strong cut to the outside after good blocking giving Maryland a 20-17 lead.

The shootout was on as Hackenberg was bailed out by his receivers as they marched down the field. Penn State ran two deep crossers over the middle and Hackenberg was hit just after he delivered the throw down the field. Chris Godwin reacted to the underthrown pass better than William Likely and it went for a lucky 31 yards gain. The same would happen two plays later as Jarrett Ross over run the receiver DaeSean Hamilton and another underthrown pass went for a touchdown. Three minutes after the Terps took the lead, Penn State was again up 24-20.

The back and forth pace of play would not phase Maryland as they followed up their 75 yard touchdown drive with one of 88 yards. After a Brandon Ross run for 15 yards, Maryland was faced with a big 3rd and 11 that Hills converted with a strong throw to Amba-Etta Tawo. After more chunk yard plays to Levern Jacobs, Malcolm Culmer, and Perry Hills with his legs, DeAndre Lane made a great catch in the corner of the end zone for a Terrapin touchdown. Going into the fourth quarter, Maryland was clinging to a 27-24 lead.

As well as the Terps defense played well early, the secondary has been obliterated all game as the Penn State receivers just wanted it more. For the second time in the game, the Maryland defense gave up an inexcusable conversion on 3rd and 15 on a simply underneath route. The 27 yard gain to end the fourth quarter hurt the Terps chances of putting this game away as four plays later Hackenberg targeted the Maryland secondary deep again. On a simply go pattern up the right sidelines, Hackenberg unloaded towards the end zone where Geno Lewis jumped above Sean Davis to make a sensational catch and give Penn State a 31-27 lead.

After a kick off out of bounds that gave the Terps great field position at the 35, Hills had a great play action fake to Ross before firing deep Taivon Jacobs for a 43 yard gain. It would end as another drive to stall for Maryland as the offense could not convert on third down twice, including after Craddock extended the drive by drawing a roughing the kicker penalty. Luckily Craddock was able to remain in the game as the Terps would need him to kick another field goal after they took his original make off the board. Maryland would rely on their defense down 31-30.

When it looked like Maryland had regained momentum after special teams forced a fumble on the ensuing kicker, Perry Hills gave it right back. Penn State brought heavy pressure and Hills froze. The ball was knocked loose from Hills hand and returned all the way to the Maryland 28. Give Hills credit for recovering to make the tackle instead of just giving up the house call. Not only did the defense not give up a single yard on the Penn State drive, but the Nittany Lions kicker Joey Julius missed from 45 yards out.

A false start penalty to start the drive seemed to kill the drive right away. On third down, Culmer nearly broke away for a first down on a screen play but was tripped up two yards short of the marker. In a surprising gut check call from Mike Locksley, the Terps lined up to go for it on fourth down from their own 36 yard line. Hills rolled out of a boot leg play but neither of his quick reads were open and Maryland caught a break as when he unloaded down the field, Penn State’s Trevor Williams idiotically intercepted the ball losing 27 yards of field position.

It seemed as if the Nittany Lions were in a giving mood because after converting one first down, Maryland forced a 3rd and 10. At best you thought Terps would get the ball backed up deep in their own territory, but Hackenberg dropped the ball on a clean snap and Maryland recovered with great field position. When it came to pressure time, Perry Hills simply choked. On a third and 5 play from the Penn State 40, Hills inexcusably took a sack and the Terps would turn the ball over on downs on the next play.

Even after the defense forced a punt and Hills was set up at his own 25 yard line with 1:21 and a timeout, Maryland would not even give Brad Craddock a chance for a game-winning field goal for the second year in a row. Hills threw high on the very first play of the drive to Malcolm Culmer who was open over the middle of the field and Penn State had themselves another interception. Maryland would fall to 2-5 on the season with a brutal 31-30 loss in a game that featured FIVE turnovers on behalf of Perry Hills.

Hills will likely remain the quarterback of the near-future for Maryland because he did orchestrate 30 points against an elite defense, but the turnovers have to be addressed. Mike Locksley dropped his head coaching debut for Maryland and is now 2-27 on his career dating back to his days with the New Mexico Lobos. Things might get ugly next week as Maryland will have to travel to #12 and undefeated Iowa.

Four-star quarterback recruit Dwayne Haskins put it best, wait until next year.

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.


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