Halftime Thoughts (Penn State vs. Maryland): What Was That?

By Nick Polak on November 7, 2020 at 5:11 pm
Nov 7, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (3) passes the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first quarter at Beaver Stadium.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It was a very rough first half for Penn State in basically every aspect. The offensive line once again struggled in protection, Clifford once again struggled with his accuracy, and the defense once again looked completely unprepared for what the opposing offense was trying to do. As a result, the Nittany Lions trail Maryland 28-7 at halftime. Let's talk about it.

  • Whether it's run-blocking or pass protecting, the Penn State offensive line just hasn't gotten it done all season long. They allowed a Maryland team without any pass-rush to speak of to make Clifford uncomfortable for the entire 30 minutes.
  • Sean Clifford was better than most fans thought over the first two weeks. He took a large step back in this first half. He simply doesn't look like he's improved at all from 2019. He overthrew his receivers consistently and didn't ever seem to throw to anyone who wasn't his first option. Simply put, he did not get the job done and is not good enough to win games right now.
  • A week ago against Ohio State, Brent Pry's defense looked totally unprepared for what the Buckeyes offense was doing early on. Somehow, it looked even worse to start this one. There's simply no reason for a team with the talent and speed that Penn State has to allow two slant passes to go for long touchdowns. Granted, Rakim Jarrett is a former five-star recruit and very talented. But that is simply unacceptable.
  • The Penn State secondary badly struggled, and it started with the safeties. Mistimed jumps, horrific angles, and missed tackles have once again been the story, with Jaquan Brisker, in particular, looking completely out of his depth as a full-time starter.
  • Jahan Dotson is great. He deserves better.
  • Taulia Tagovailoa is a solid player. He's going to be tough to deal with going forward.
  • Allowing the last touchdown out of the timeout was perhaps the low point of this game. And that's truly saying something.
  • I could continue, but honestly, I'm too angry to do so. I became a Penn State fan in 2010, so that caveat applies to this statement. But I have never seen a more lethargic, unenergetic, and broken Nittany Lion team. Not when they were destroyed by Michigan in 2016, not when they blew huge leads against Ohio State in 2017 and 2018, and not when they struggled to 7-win seasons in 2014 and 2015. This was a truly pathetic showing by what was supposed to be a top-10 team.

Hopefully, things get better in the second half! But even if they do, these 30 minutes were a CLEAR sign that this team is broken right now.