The final score on Saturday night was identical to Penn State’s victory at the Pinstripe Bowl last year.
The Nittany Lions beat Boston College 31-30 in overtime at Yankee Stadium, and they’ll be playing in a bowl again this winter after earning their sixth win of the season.
“We’ll talk about it for about 30 seconds and then move on and go back to being 1-0 again,” Franklin said. “But like I told the seniors in there, tonight allowed us to keep our family together for another month or so at the end of the season and after that, we won’t talk about it again.”
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg said, after the game, that it was an expectation for this team to return to the postseason this year.
Trevor Williams, a senior, is looking forward to the opportunity.
“For my last year to actually get that opportunity to play in a bowl game is definitely special,” Williams said. “I’m fortunate that it’s on this team.”
Penn State’s defense is not comfortable with the prospect of facing a dual-threat quarterback.
“I thought early on the mobile quarterback was a pain. All the run-pass options kind of get you on your heels,” said head coach James Franklin after a narrow 31-30 win over Maryland on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions defense allowed dual-threat Perry Hills to rack up 124 rushing yards, including some busted for double-digit gains right up the middle, and a rushing touchdown, to complement Maryland’s 241 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The performance followed a loss to Ohio State last week that saw the Buckeyes, and dual-threat J.T. Barrett, accumulate 315 rushing yards on a Penn State defense that was ranked No. 10 in the nation in rush defense prior to visiting Columbus.
“It’s not easy,” said linebacker Jason Cabinda, of containing a speedy player like Hills. “There’s always that fine line, especially in the quarterback scramble, where you’re dropping your coverage and you kind of have a trigger to go and get the quarterback, and then he pulls up and hits where you left.”
Franklin had little to say about the massive chunks of yardage Hills was able to eat up — after all, excluding in a potential bowl game, Penn State will not have to face another dual-threat this season.
“The most important thing is that we held them to one less point than the offense scored,” he said.
Maryland’s game plan, while wild on offense, was fairly clear on defense: Load the box, stuff the run, stop freshman phenom Saquon Barkley.
Barkley was reduced to a minimal threat just a week removed from a 194-yard rushing performance against Ohio State. In the first half, he fumbled the ball twice, one of which resulted in a turnover.
He was also held to just 67 yards on 20 carries, though he did score a touchdown in the first quarter.
So, has the young star finally showed his age?
“You say he showed his age, but I would disagree,” said senior center Angelo Mangiro. “He didn’t handle (the mistakes) as a freshman. He handled them maturely. He kept the course, it was a long game, and leaned on his teammates. And we had his back, you know, and he had some big runs for us in the second half.”
Hackenberg’s performance against Maryland on Saturday night helped him squeeze past former Penn State signal-callers.
He went 13 for 29 with 315 yards and three touchdowns, and in doing so, became Penn State’s career passing yards leader, edging out Zack Mills with 7,453 career yards.
Hackenberg also became the career completions leader at Penn State, also passing Mills, with 608 completions, is tied for second with Daryll Clark in touchdowns thrown at Penn State with 43, threw his 18th career 200-plus-yards passing game (tied with Matt McGloin for first place at the university) and his ninth 300-plus-yards passing game, which extends his own record.
“That’s awesome,” Hackenberg said after the game. “For me, that’s something that’s not going to hit me until later on down the road. But it was really cool to be able to go out and get that done today, and have my teammates around and those guys making plays.
“I think it’s a product of a lot of things, a lot of great players coming through there helping me out.”
Williams first played at M&T Bank Stadium in a Pop Warner championship game. He got to play at the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium again during his time at Calvert Hall College High School.
And the Penn State cornerback returned to his hometown to play at the NFL stadium against Maryland on Saturday. Williams grabbed an interception and made two tackles in the Nittany Lions’ victory.
“It’s a great feeling,” Williams said. “I haven’t played here in five years, ever since high school, and just to make a play here at my hometown in front of my family. It was a great feeling and a moment I will remember forever.”
Williams’ interception came on a fourth-and-2 from the Maryland 36-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Terrapins quarterback Perry Hills threw a pass toward the right sideline, and Williams picked it off to give the offense the ball at the Penn State 37-yard line with 7:51 left.
He said he was just thinking about making a play and didn’t consider dropping the ball for better field position.
“It never popped up in my mind,” Williams said.
Offensive lineman Andrew Nelson went down with an in-game injury for the second time this season, and was helped to the locker room.
Nelson has battled what Franklin has referred to as “a flare-up” since last year.
It is unknown whether he will return to the field this week.