— Story by PSU Insiders Brian Tripp @psuTripp and Darian Somers @StuffSomersSays
Each week both members of our Penn State coverage team will provide three keys to a Penn State victory, a player to watch and a score prediction. Here are this week’s keys for Saturday’s game against Maryland.
Brian’s Three Keys:
- Get Points on the Opening Drive – Penn State has failed to score on each of its first possessions this season. In fact, last week again Minnesota, the Nittany Lions were set to punt after a three-and-out before a Gophers’ penalty on fourth down gave Penn State a second chance. The Nittany Lions failed to move the ball and continually battled to flip field position in the first half.
- Contain the QB – Brent Pry’s defense successfully contained Minnesota’s dual-threat quarterback Mitch Leidner last weekend, especially in the redzone. They’ll need to do the same thing against Maryland today. I heard a great nugget from Penn State radio voice Steve Jones this week. In double-OT against UCF, Maryland’s quarterback ran the ball on all five plays to score the game-winning points. Starter Perry Hills gained over 100 yards on the ground last year against the Nittany Lions.
- Establish a Long Drive – Yes, Penn State’s big play offense is entertaining. But, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. I’m not sure if the Nittany Lions can sustain a drive if a team eliminates the deep threats and forces Penn State to maneuver its way down the field. Last week, Penn State’s time of possession was just over 23 minutes and on the season it ranks as one of the worst ball control teams in college football. With all of the defensive injuries and a physical opponent, it could lead to a worn down defense if the offense doesn’t do its part.
Darian’s Three Keys:
- Contain Maryland’s Run – Penn State did a somewhat better job of stopping the run last week, but it wasn’t great. The Lions need to continue to build off of that success of last week into this week and put a stop to at least try to keep Maryland off the scoreboard as little as often. It sounds basic, but it’s pivotal for success!
- Throw the Ball Efficiently – I said this last week and I’ll say it again. Good things happen when Penn State throws the ball. Even if they can pick up five yards on first down, the Lions need to use the passing game more often on first down — instead of a draw play that everyone sees coming a mile away.
- Fast Start – Penn State still hasn’t found its rhythm when it comes to fast starts but it needs one on Saturday. Maryland is a solid team and Penn State needs at least three points on every possession. Saturday will be an offensive shootout.
Brian’s Player to Watch
Saquon Barkley – Teams can only contain one of the best running backs in college football for so long. Maryland’s defense will show a lot of different looks and load the box against Barkley. However, today’s the day. Barkley gashes Maryland in sloppy conditions behind a better offensive line performance and has a signature game.
Darian’s Player to Watch
DaeSean Hamilton – DaeSean is due for a breakout game and he played well last year when these two teams clashed. Look for that to continue on Saturday afternoon as long as Penn State opens up the offense.
Brian’s Prediction: Penn State 26 Maryland 20
Darian’s Prediction: Penn State 45 Maryland 42