With the first real test for the Nittany Lions coming on Friday, September 27th against the daunting offense of Maryland, there has to be a total team effort for four quarters. There is some happy news for “Happy Valley” Penn State is 15-9-1 on Fridays with a 7-4 record on the road. Another benefit for the Lions is their overall dominance against Maryland with a 39-2-1 all-time record.
Let’s start with the Lions’ offense, more specifically Sean Clifford. He has impressive numbers to start the season with 781 yards passing on a 58.7% completion percentage (44-75) and 6 touchdowns and no INT’S. One thing no one talks about or can place a stat on is his astuteness to lead this squad on and off the field. The story everyone knows is when he officially took the reigns when they lost Tommy Stevens to the transfer portal; Sean just stood up and said “guys I got this” truly inspiring stuff from your leader.
Continuing our topic of offense, let’s discuss the land of Nittany’s version of the “four horsemen.” With Journey Brown, Noah Cain, Devyn Ford, and Ricky Slade it’s safe to say running back by committee is in full throttle with the Lions. With a team-leading 175 yards on 21 attempts 2 touchdowns and 8.3 yards per carry is Journey Brown. Next is Devyn Ford with 117 yards 12 attempts 2 touchdowns with 9.8 yards per attempt. Now we turn to the touchdown machine Noah Cain with 4 of them on 86 yards rushing with 12 attempts. It seems I’m missing someone (pause for effect); oh yes Ricky Slade! It’s no secret he has been in a slump with only 21 yards on 12 attempts for only 1.8 yards per rush. It will be a tough task to get going against a Maryland defense which allows only 73.7 yards per game, but for his sake, I hope he gets it going sooner rather than later and who better than a team you have a great history against.
Now we turn to Brent Pry’s defense which to date has only given up 30 points over the past three games. Known as “Linebacker U” the Lions have a unique player in Michah Parsons. He will have to bear the load of leading this defense against a high powered offense. Averaging 53 points per game, the Lions will need to get to Josh Jackson and Anthony McFarland early and often with the help of young stud Yetor Gross-Matos. With Maryland averaging a bloated 537.3 yards per game and the Lions allowing only 323.3 yards per game, it’s a classic showdown of offense vs. defense.
When it’s all said and done the Nittany Lions will have to do three things to win this game. First is pretty obvious and that is, win the turnover battle. More times than not if you win that aspect of the game, you win the game. Second, win the special teams battle. When you have two active kickers on your team; it’s usually not good, but with Jordan Stout’s huge leg landing 50+ yard FG’s and Jake Pinegar’s accuracy it makes for a perfect marriage. Last but not least, Penn State can showcase their 9th ranked scoring offense in all the lands with 47.0 points per game. Tune in to FS1 on Friday and you might see a barn burner at Capital One Stadium.
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