COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — It’s been 24 years since Penn State played a football game at the University of Maryland, yet quarterback Trace McSorley will feel right at home Saturday when the 12th-ranked Nittany Lions wrap up the regular season against the Terrapins.
McSorley starred for Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia, before heading north to Penn State.
“Maryland stadium is 45 minutes from my house, so it’s right there. I’ve been to games there as a recruit, kind of as a young kid,” McSorley said. “It’s awesome, kind of being able to go back and play in that venue that I’m kind of familiar with, playing in my neck of the woods.”
Penn State running back Mark Allen played for DeMatha High School, which is located just a few miles from the home of the Terrapins.
“For me to play my last game of the regular season in my hometown, that’s pretty awesome,” Allen said. “That’s fun. It’s going to be like a backyard football game, you know, as far as me knowing a lot of guys that’s on the team. We talk back and forth, talking our little stuff.”
When it comes to trash-talking between Penn State and Maryland players who knew each other in high school, it’s likely that the contingent in white jerseys will have much more to brag about. The Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) are looking to gain a berth in a New Year’s bowl game, while Maryland (4-7, 2-6) can only hope to pull off a huge upset on Senior Day.
A year ago, the Terps entered the regular season finale needing a victory to secure a bowl bid. This time, they’re playing only for bragging rights.
“The familiarity in the rosters and guys that know each other and all that always adds to any sort of game,” Maryland coach DJ Durkin said.
It’s also a homecoming of sorts for Penn State coach James Franklin, who served as Maryland’s offensive coordinator from 2008-10 before leaving to become the head coach at Vanderbilt. The last time he faced the Terrapins on the road, in 2015, the game was played in Baltimore.
If Franklin feels any nostalgia about returning to College Park, he’s keeping it to himself. Though it’s been a long time since he left, he will find a familiar face on the opposite sideline in Durkin.
“Seems like our paths continue to cross,” Franklin said. “He was at Florida as the defensive coordinator when we were at Vanderbilt, then at Michigan as the defensive coordinator, and now as the head coach at Maryland.”
Some other things to know about the 41st meeting between Penn State and Maryland, a series the Nittany Lions lead 37-2-1.
Penn State senior safety Troy Apke will miss the first half after being penalized for targeting last week in a 56-44 win over Nebraska. By rule, he was ejected from the game, and because the foul occurred in the second half, he must sit out the first half of this game. In addition, linebacker Manny Bowen will miss a third straight game for violating team rules. He started the first nine games and ranks third on the team with 51 tackles.
McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 26 straight games as an integral part of an offense that ranks second in the conference with 445.9 yards per game. “He’s done a tremendous job leading that offense,” Durkin said. “They’re all productive, probably with him being the focal point.”
Penn State can beat you through the air or on the ground. Saquon Barkley has rushed for 1,057 yards and has 590 yards in receptions. He’s also returned two kickoffs for scores. “He’s as good as there is,” Durkin said. “He plays the whole game, he returns kicks, he’s out there the whole time.”
Maryland has played five quarterbacks this season, including two last week in a 17-7 loss to Michigan State. Max Bortenschlager will likely start ahead of Ryan Brand.
Maryland will bid farewell to 19 seniors, including linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., who is poised to become only the fifth Terp since 1969 to lead the team in tackles for three straight years. “I may be emotional,” Carter said. “It’s been a nice five years. I had fun, built lifelong relationships with my teammates and classmates. Saturday is going to mean a lot to me.”