You see, I began this quest for answers and truth not long after our meeting in Happy Valley last October. As ugly as that 20-19 loss was to an overmatched squad of Turtles, the pregame festivities were even worse. I figured there had to be a logical explanation for the midfield handshake snub on behalf of their captains before the game. There HAD to be. In all of my years of participating in coaching and viewing sports on all levels, not once had I ever seen such a disgusting act of pregame UNsportmanship. Of course, the head coach (at the time) supposedly knew nothing and they issued a standard apology with the typical "try to move on" philosophy as they celebrated the win. Penn State, to its credit, took the high road as usual and claimed it was all water under the bridge. I suspect if the Nittany Lions had won that day, the narrative would have been a little different on their behalf. The day just reeked of stench all around. To watch the team you live and die for not only get punked, but get punked before the game even starts, is a special kind of slap in the face. One that as a fan and devotee to our Nittany Lions, has left an open and festering wound. The countless hours of research as to "why" are all gone for now. The only remedy that will close this wound is a healthy dose of Victory.
Nittany Nation takes over Baltimore on Saturday afternoon for a long-anticipated rematch with the No-Handshake Terps at 3:30pm. A year later and karma has already played its hand in this contest. Gone is the coach, Randy Edsall, who chose to turn a blind eye on that fall October day in 2014. A casualty of his own undoing, Edsall was fired not long after losing to Ohio State 49-28 two weeks ago. The victim of a 2-4 (0-2 in the Big Ten) start on the season, he lost control inside his own locker room in a heavily publicized series of events. If you ask me, the man lost control of that team long before 2015 ever began.
In his place, Offensive Coordinator Mike Locksley takes over on an interim basis. A member of Maryland's staff for well over a decade now, Locksley has plenty of experience including ties to James Franklin, as they were colleagues in the early 2000's. Led by new starting QB, Perry Hills, Maryland actually gave the Buckeyes a run for their money for the first three quarters on October 10th, before surrendering three straight touchdowns in the 4th to put the game away. Hills gashed the Buckeye defense that day for 170 yards rushing. Maryland has an All-American candidate in defensive back/return man Will Likely and word is they plan on using him on the offensive side of the ball as well. He gained 8 yards via the infamous Jet Sweep against OSU and has been mentioned as being the main beneficiary if they decide to use their own version of the Wildcat. Expect plenty of runs in their offense, as Maryland has yet to find any consistency in its passing game. The Terrapin defense has been scored upon in droves all season. Heading into this game, Maryland has lost three straight by 21 points or more. Despite that, they do possess a decent pass rush up front and are sitting just behind Penn State nationally with 3.86 sacks per game. Brad Craddock, the man who stuck the dagger in our heart last year with his game-winning field goal, returns for his senior swan song.
Whether you call it revenge or redemption, Penn State stands on the cusp of a new beginning. Winning five games in a row and coming up against opponents they lost to a season ago. With the exception of Michigan State, a valid argument can be made that all of those losses were self-induced. The Lions were victims of youth and of their own mistakes more than being beaten by the better team. Now is the opportunity to prove the doubters amongst us wrong and it all starts on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay.
Maryland has had two weeks to prepare. They have a quarterback that can run and pose problems for an otherwise stout defense that has had its fair share of problems bringing down a running QB. They have an athlete in Will Likely that can beat you several different ways. They have their backs against the wall, and nothing to lose. The one thing that Maryland does not possess is RESPECT. They wouldn't know the meaning of Success With Honor if it slapped them in the face. After all of the research and sleepless nights trying to come up with an excuse for their actions a year ago and that is the only conclusion I was able to come up with. Those of you traveling to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday morning must not forget to bring these two things along on your journey: Your road game Whites and your favorite spoon. Nittany Lions feast on Turtle Soup 27-13.