This was a win Edsall and Maryland badly wanted. Penn State entered Saturday 35-1-1 all-time against the Terps, including 22-0 at home, and Edsall talked throughout the week about how important a win over the Nittany Lions would be for Maryland’s program.
That’s why Edsall was so happy after the Terps’ 20-19 win before an announced crowd of 103,969.
Edsall called this the biggest win in his four seasons as the coach at Maryland. When asked what he said to his team after the game, Edsall smiled and said: “I can’t repeat it.”
“This is a win that can make a big difference in a lot of different things,” he said.
The victory also made the Terps (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) bowl eligible for a second straight season.
But afterward, Edsall and his players were more focused on what quarterback C.J. Brown called a “statement game.”
“Going to Big Ten Media Day, [the questions were], ‘How do you guys think you’re going to fit in the Big Ten and do you think you guys can play against the big guys and the physical football?,” Brown said, “and I think we’ve held our own.”
Was Saturday pretty? Absolutely not.
There was light rain, winds around 20 miles per hour, and the offensive play for most of the game was probably uglier than the weather.
Penn State (4-4, 1-4) led 9-7 at halftime, and the teams finished with a combined 413 yards of offense.
However, the Terps fought back after falling behind, 16-7, with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
After completing just 8 of 18 passes for 34 yards during the first half, Brown was 10 of 20 for 127 yards in the second half.
Following Penn State’s score to go up 16-7, Brown led a seven-play, 48-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal by kicker Brad Craddock.
Maryland then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and running back Wes Brown scored on a 1-yard touchdown run four plays later to give the Terps a 17-16 lead with 11:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Penn State re-took the lead on a 48-yard field goal by Sam Ficken with 6:52 remaining.
After Maryland failed to produce points on its next drive, the Terps defense forced a three-and-out. Will Likely then returned a punt 15 yards to the Nittany Lions’ 42-yard line, and Maryland took possession with 2:16 left in the quarter needing just 5-to-10 yards to get in range for a go-ahead field goal.
The Terps got a 13-yard catch-and-run from Wes Brown on the first play of the drive. Four plays later, with less than a minute remaining and the 103,969 at Beaver Stadium making all kinds of noise, Craddock stepped onto the field and drilled a 43-yard field goal that was the difference in the game.
Maryland’s defense followed by forcing a turnover on downs and, with 23 seconds left, C.J. Brown took a knee and triumphantly raised his right hand.
“We think that we set the tone for the rivalry going forward,” said tight end P.J. Gallo, who caught a 2-yard touchdown during the second quarter.
While there were some regrettable moments for the Terps — such as Gallo, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and safety Sean Davis declining to shake hands with Penn State’s captains following the pregame coin toss — Maryland got some big plays from its offense during the second half and benefited from what Edsall called an “outstanding” defensive performance.
One of the Terps’ primary goals on defense entering Saturday was to generate pressure on Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
They accomplished that, finishing with four sacks and numerous other pressures.
That contributed to Hackenberg finished just 18 of 42 for 177 yards with two lost fumbles, an interception and only one touchdown pass.
Maryland also limited Penn State’s running backs to 65 yards on 29 carries.
“When we got down nine points, they could have laid down,” Edsall said. “I guarantee you there are a lot of people that thought it was over … that that is the same thing that happened to Maryland in a lot of these other games against Penn State. But our kids wanted to make a statement. They expected to win when they came up here. They did the things necessary to get a win.”