(AP) – Drew Allar threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half, and No. 9 Penn State easily handled Maryland 51-15 on Saturday to set up a showdown with Michigan next week.
The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 11 CFP) never were in danger of their meeting with fading Maryland becoming a trap game. The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) have dropped four in a row, and a season that began with five straight wins is in danger of really unraveling.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Penn State’s leading receiver for the season, went down holding his left knee during the fourth quarter but was able to walk off.
The Penn State defensive front dominated. The Terrapins finished with minus-49 yards rushing. Six sacks played a role in that, but even running backs Roman Hemby, Antwain Littleton II, and Colby McDonald netted minus-6 yards on their seven carries.
Now the Nittany Lions take on a Michigan team that rushed for 418 yards in their meeting last season.
Taulia Tagovailoa completed his first 17 pass attempts for the Terrapins, but he couldn’t keep Penn State from taking a 21-7 halftime lead. One of those completions went for a loss of 1 on fourth-and-1 on Maryland’s first possession, and the Nittany Lions took the ball and scored first on Allar’s 6-yard pass to Dante Cephas.
The Terps answered with a drive into Penn State territory, but Tai Felton lost a fumble at the end of a 9-yard reception.
The Nittany Lions went up 14-0 on a trick play that didn’t seem to work exactly as intended. Facing third down at the Maryland 2, Allar lined up at wide receiver and then took a pitch from quarterback Beau Pribula. Allar was cut off by a Maryland defender and started to run up the middle before being tripped. As he was falling down, he managed to flip the ball forward to an open Theo Johnson for a TD.
A roughing the punter penalty helped the Terps get on the scoreboard. Tagovailoa threw a 7-yard scoring pass to Hemby, but Allar answered with an 8-yarder to Tyler Warren.
Tagovailoa finished with 286 yards passing but threw an interception and lost a fumble. Allar went 25 of 34 for 240 yards.
Allar’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Cephas early in the fourth made it 31-7. Tagovailoa threw a 1-yard TD pass to Jeshaun Jones.
Kaytron Allen’s 10-yard scoring run for Penn State made it 38-15.
Three of Maryland’s four turnovers came in the final quarter, enabling the Nittany Lions to pad their lead.
Penn State: The big test comes next week, but the Nittany Lions do look better equipped to deal with Michigan’s offense than last year. Allar, who has thrown only one interception all season, avoided any big mistakes Saturday as well.
Maryland: The Terps are now 0-33 against ranked Big Ten teams since joining the league in 2014. The season would still look a lot better for them if they hadn’t followed their loss to Ohio State with two against Illinois and Northwestern before Saturday’s game. Maryland still needs another win to become bowl-eligible.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions host Michigan next Saturday.