Hop on VA-267 for a dozen miles, switch over to I-495 and ride the Capital Beltway over the Potomac River — the 45-minute from Trace McSorley’s hometown of Ashburn, Va., to College Park, Md., is a straight-forward one.
Traffic may be a pain sometimes; that’s how it can get down in the DMV.
But McSorley’s family and plenty others are hoping it’s not too bad Saturday. The Nittany Lion quarterback will have a few more supporters on-hand at Maryland Stadium for Penn State’s regular-season finale.
“It’s awesome kind of being able to go back and play in that venue that I’m kind of familiar with,” McSorley said, “playing in my neck of the woods. For a lot of guys, same sort of feeling.”
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With emotional and personal connections, Penn State’s players from the DMV — Washington D.C.’s suburbs in Maryland and Virginia — will take pleasure in returning home on Saturday.
The No. 10 Nittany Lions are seeking back-to-back 10-win seasons when they travel to face the Terrapins. Maryland (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) hasn’t won since Sept. 30. Hopes were high after a 3-1 start, but DJ Durkin’s crew has floundered in recent months, even losing to Rutgers a few weeks ago. Now, the Terrapins are 22-point underdogs at home to close out the season.
But to think that will prevent this matchup from being chippy — or at very least contentious — would be unwise.
Familiarity, good and bad, is widespread in this matchup. There are 13 Maryland natives on Penn State’s roster. Some were recruited hard by those in College Park; some were ignored.
Penn State sophomore linebacker Cam Brown falls into the latter category.
Brown — a four-star member of Penn State’s 2016 class — went to The Bullis School, a 30-minute drive to the doorstep of Terrapin football. His hometown of Burtonsville is even closer, only a 10-mile trek.
Brown had offers from Notre Dame, Southern California, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and more. But Maryland took too long. The linebacker said when Durkin was hired two months before his signing day, the coach offered him. The interest wasn’t even logged on 247 Sports’ recruiting profile. It was too late.
“I knew I was already set, and I knew where I wanted to be,” Brown said. “So it didn’t really matter to me.”
Brown called Saturday a chance “to get back at a school that didn’t really recruit me.”
It’s also an opportunity to catch up with old friends.
Penn State safety Marcus Allen — who played ball at Dr. Henry A. Wise High School, 20 miles from the Terrapins’ home field — called the upcoming affair a “backyard football game.”
He and running back Mark Allen, a DeMatha Catholic alum, know Maryland running back Lorenzo Harrison “personally” and others by playing against them in high school.
In that regard and a couple other ways, Saturday is going to have a familiar feel for Allen and a healthy contingent of Nittany Lions.
“I expect it to be a big one,” the safety said. “Just for me to play my last game of the regular season in my hometown, that’s pretty awesome. That’s fun.”
Added McSorley: “Excited to see the fans that travel with us this week with it being not too far away, not too bad of a drive. ... We’re expecting them to show out as hard as they do every game.”