University of Maryland historically beat Penn State 35-19 on Nov. 7, after losing 40 of their 43 meetings since 1917. (AP Photo)
By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Mike Locksley grew up as a Maryland football fan and endured the streak of endless defeats that lasted for decades. Locksley, the university’s first Black head coach, watched as most fans, alumni and supporters endured humiliating losses in 40 of their first 43 meetings.
However, Locksley was able to exorcise the demons of “Happy Valley” as his young Terps team won in a landslide with a 35-19 win over Penn State in State College, PA. Maryland has responded from a 48-3 season opening loss to Northwestern with consecutive wins over Minnesota and Penn State to position themselves as a contender in the B1G (Big Ten) east division. They are now one game behind Indiana and Ohio State, who visits College Park next Saturday.
“I’m just so happy for those players in that locker room,” Locksley said in the postgame aftermatch. “I’m happy for the former Terp football players that have endured us not playing competitively with .”
Traditionally Maryland had been Penn State’s doormat when making a mark towards a national – or in current years – a conference championship run. The Lions average margin of victory in this border war is 23 points and the dominance has been epic since they began meeting in 1917. The Terps were a three touchdown underdog at kickoff, with most experts believing they would be run from Beaver Stadium.
Locksley has changed the trajectory of the program in three weeks during this truncated season. The victory on Saturday was more than just a win in the standings, it was for territorial supremacy. Penn State recruits the Free State for many of it’s players and routinely invades the DMV to sign difference makers who’ve helped the Lions continue adding to Maryland’s misery. The Terps won just once in their first 35 meetings, but have now won twice in the last seven years.
However, it was one of the most talented freshmen classes in Maryland history who made the difference in this game. Rakim Jarrett finished with 144 receiving yards, making him the first true freshman to record 100 receiving yards and two scores in a game since current Buffalo Bill Stefon Diggs in 2012. Locksley’s imported quarterback that he recruited while at Alabama – Taulia Tagovailoa – completed 18 of 26 passes for 282 yards and three TDs. Tagovailoa started the game completing 14 of his first 19 throws, including a pair of long touchdowns to Jarrett on two first-quarter drives that gave the Terps a lead they kept all evening.
“I feel like we’re all finding our rhythm,” Tagovailoa said.
Penn State Coach James Franklin was expected to be the coach in waiting once his former boss Ralph Friedgen retired from the position in College Park. He was supposed to wear the historic crown that Locksley sports as Maryland’s first Black head coach. That never came to pass and Franklin has been openly candid about his disdain for that process, while previously enacting a certain amount of professional vengeance on his old program. Following a loss that dropped them to 0-3, Franklin and Penn State fans had to swallow a large slice of humble pie.
“When you haven’t been successful the first couple of games, I don’t think you underestimate anyone,” said Franklin. “Obviously there are things we’ve got to get fixed, and there are things we’ve got to improve.”