It took a bit for the Lions to take control, but Penn State was able to come away victorious in College Park and move to 6-3 on the season.
It was slow in the early going for the Nittany Lion offense as the run game struggles continued and the passing game couldn't find a rhythm. Still, once Mike Yurcich and Sean Clifford decided to roll with the "Get Jahan the Ball" gameplan, things opened up a bit.
The defense, while doing plenty of bending, never quite broke. A game-sealing pick-six by safety Ji'Ayir Brown was well-deserved after a better-than-it-looked performance from that side of the ball.
We'll have more on this game in the coming days here at Roar Lions Roar, but for now, here are our three big takeaways from this one.
Jahan Dotson is a Superstar
I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know, but there is no way to properly explain how good of a college football player he is. The broadcast did a nice job of detailing what makes him so effective, showing how he is able to lull defenses to sleep with his smoothness and calmness before breezing by them with ease on his way to the end zone.
Dotson finished the day with 11 receptions, 242 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns (and had Clifford made a better throw had an easy fourth one in his future). In case you missed it, that set a new single-game record for receiving yards in Penn State history.
We'll have much more on Dotson in the coming days here on the site, but what an absolute superstar. He is a pleasure to watch.
This One Was Closer Than It Looked
The final score reads 31-14, but this was really more like a 24-17 type game. The Penn State defense was once again its bend-but-don't-break self, allowing the Terps to put up yardage (419 total) but stood tall when it needed to and kept them out of the end zone with a couple of key takeaways.
The issues for Penn State were more on the offensive side of the football. The rushing game was a bit better, with Keyvone Lee, Noah Cain, and John Lovett combining to average 4.4 yards per carry. The offense as a whole, though, still struggled with consistency, punting four times on six non-end-of-half drives against a decent but beatable defense. Credit to the Lions for being the team to take advantage of mistakes rather than making them, but if the Terps are a bit more careful and don't suffer as many dropped passes, this game would have been closer in the end.
A Win is a Win
It wasn't always pretty and it wasn't as dominant as fans would have liked, but getting a win against a conference opponent, therefore breaking a three-game losing streak, was badly needed for this Penn State team. With showdowns with Michigan and Michigan State still remaining on the schedule, the Nittany Lions still very much have an opportunity to make some noise in the Big Ten and get themselves to a nice bowl game this holiday season.
However, wins over the big names next week only matter if you get the wins you're supposed to. Maryland, for all the improvement they have shown, is still a team that Penn State needs to beat. James Franklin's teams have often struggled against non-marquee opponents after big losses, so to see them come out and beat the Terps after falling to Ohio State was encouraging.
Now, they have to build on it.