Maryland coach Randy Edsall offered an apology, then declared the start of a rivalry Saturday.
The game started with the Terrapin captains refusing to shake hands with their Penn State counterparts during the coin toss, an act that Edsall said the program regretted. It ended with Maryland escaping with a 20-19 win over Penn State at Beaver Stadium, a victory the fourth-year coach called the biggest of his tenure.
History explained the significance of the win for a Maryland program in its first season in the Big Ten.
Edsall and his players knew about Maryland’s bleak history against the Nittany Lions —1-35-1 and 0-21 on the road. They viewed Saturday’s game as a chance to generate pride throughout the state.
“Let the rivalry begin now,” Edsall said. “Let it begin. There should be a trophy for this game. It’s a bordering state. Let’s have some fun. Let’s really make it competitive and let’s really go because that was a hard-fought game. Give Penn State credit. Penn State fought their tail off today. That game could have gone either way and that’s what it’s all about. You couldn’t ask for something better.”
It was an ugly, back-and-forth affair decided by Maryland kicker Brad Craddock’s 43-yard field goal in the final minute. Maryland (6-3, 3-2) is now bowl eligible.
Maryland finished with 196 total yards and lost two fumbles. The Terrapins managed just 35 yards rushing on 30 carries, and quarterback C.J. Brown completed just 18 of 38 passes (47.4 percent). But the Terrapins overcame the sloppy day offensively, thanks to a defense that’s been shredded time and again by opponents this season.
Maryland was gashed for more than 500 total yards in four of its first eight games. The Terrapins entered Saturday ranked second-to-last in the Big Ten in total defense.
But the unit shut down a listless Penn State offense with a game plan built around pressuring quarterback Christian Hackenberg. It made for a miserable day for Hackenberg, who finished 18 of 42 (42.9 percent) with a touchdown and an interception in addition to being sacked five times. The Nittany Lions lost three fumbles and rushed for 42 yards on 41 carries. Maryland allowed a season-low 219 total yards, fewer than James Madison and South Florida both managed against the Terrapins.
For Edsall, Saturday marked the start of a rivalry.
Brown, a Pennsylvania native, feels it still needs to develop over time.
“I think it could become a rivalry,” Brown said. “Obviously, it’s one win for us. I’m 1-0 against Penn State personally. This team’s 1-0 against Penn State. Obviously, the past is the past and you don’t really have an influence on that.”
Brown and his teammates could only influence what happened Saturday.
Edsall said he noticed a gradual buildup of excitement in the week leading up to the matchup Nittany Lions (4-4, 1-4). It reached a high point just before taking the field Saturday.
“You knew they were ready,” Edsall said. “You knew they were going to leave it all on the field and they basically said they were going to find a way to get it done. They didn’t care what they had to do. And that’s who we are and that’s who these kids are.”
Maryland found a way despite long scoring droughts.
The Terrapins benefited from a short field to get on the board, starting their drive at the Penn State 43-yard line after a 24-yard punt.
Brown rushed for 7 yards to move Maryland to the 17-yard line before Penn State’s Marcus Allen was whistled for a personal foul penalty on a pass intended for Stefon Diggs. That gave the Terrapins first-and-goal at the 8.
Brown rushed for six yards before hitting a wide-open P.J. Gallo for a 2-yard touchdown to give Maryland a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The Terrapins trailed 16-7, staying in the game with their defense, going into the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Edsall said. “But we played hard and that’s what put us over the hump a little bit.”
Maryland erased the nine-point deficit and took the lead in less than two minutes early in the fourth quarter.
Craddock made a 25-yard field goal to pull the Terrapins within 16-10 with 13:11 left. Maryland then recovered a fumble by Penn State’s Grant Haley on the ensuing kickoff and needed four plays and 92 seconds to find the end zone.
Wes Brown’s 1-yard touchdown gave Maryland the lead.
After Sam Ficken hit a 48-yard field goal to push Penn State ahead 19-17, Craddock said he started to think the game could rest on his shoulders.
And Maryland sent its kicker out to win the game in the final minute.
He drilled a 43-yard attempt that proved to be the game-winner with 51 seconds left.
“I’ve been ready,” said Craddock, who has made 20 straight field goals. “I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time.”
The kick sealed a victory that Maryland players said proved they can compete in the Big Ten.
The significance wasn’t lost on their coach, either.
“I know how tough it is to play here and tough to win,” Edsall said. “We’re going to enjoy this one, I’ll tell you that, we’re going to enjoy it quite a bit.
“And like I said, let the rivalry begin.”