Penn State, Terps Have Familiarity, If Not Rivalry
Maybe it’s fitting on a week like this, when so many weekend warriors took to local fields to huff and puff up and down the field in their annual turkey bowl games, that Marcus Allen gets to have a version of his own this afternoon.
Penn State’s senior safety grew up a 30-minute drive south of Maryland Stadium, where his No. 10 Nittany Lions will wrap up their regular season today at 3:30 p.m. He and 12 other teammates might not consider this the Nittany Lions’ most heated rivalry, but they can think of no better way to end a regular season than by lining up in a place they know well, against opponents they have considered good friends in the past.
“I expect it to be a big one,” Allen said. “Just for me to play my last game in the regular season in my hometown, that’s pretty awesome. That’s fun. It’s going to be like, a backyard football game, as far as me knowing a lot of guys that are on the team.”
The Nittany Lions (9-2) are heavy favorites to secure their second consecutive 10-win season for the first time since the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and they realize they need to win the game. A berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game most likely depends on it, and the players’ merely flickering hope that enough dominoes will fall their way to land them in a national championship semifinal certainly does. But the fact the Terrapins have played the Nittany Lions so competitively since joining the Big Ten despite lackluster records is a testament to what Allen says is driving him today.
Nobody wants to lose to anyone they know well.
For example, five different Nittany Lions played their high school ball with at least one player on the Terrapins.
Top Penn State defenders like Allen, linebacker Cam Brown and defensive end Shane Simmons, grew up in Mayland. They’ll be trying to stop Maryland’s top offensive player, Big Ten leading receiver D.J. Moore, who calls Philadelphia home. Allen, for one, counts Maryland running back Lorenzo Harrison III among his close friends.
Even Penn State’s head coach has a strong tie to the Terrapins: James Franklin once was the program’s head coach-in-waiting, a job that obviously didn’t wind up working out. Five members of Franklin’s staff either played at Maryland or coached there.
“Maryland stadium is 45 minutes from my house, so it’s right there,” said quarterback Trace McSorley, another Penn State player who grew up outside of Maryland Stadium’s shadow, in Virginia. “I’ve been to games there as a recruit, kind of as a young kid. 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.”
Allen said the familiarity is certainly going to breed some contempt on the field, as there is always plenty of talking back and forth between the Nittany Lions and Terrapins. In 2014, the Terrapins players refused to shake hands with Penn State captains before their win at Beaver Stadium, a thought that wasn’t lost on a Nittany Lions team that exacted a measure of revenge a year later in an emotional win at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
“They talk their stuff about Maryland, they talk their stuff about Penn State,” Allen laughed. “It’s funny, especially after the game.”
Contact the writer:
email@example.com; 570-348-9100, x5368
@psubst on Twitter