BALTIMORE — In the M&T Bank Stadium press box for a game vs. Maryland Saturday, the Penn State coaches were stationed right next to a handful of Nittany Lion beat writers. All that separated the two groups was a pane of glass that was partly frosted, which prevented the sneaky eyes of the scribes from peeking in.
But the reporters could hear a lot of what was being said. Boy, could they hear a lot of what was being said. And the volume and … uh, how should we put this? … salty nature of some of the comments suggested a few of the coaches were not entirely pleased with a lot of what was happening down on the field.
In the end, however, PSU held on to edge the Terrapins, 31-30. The Lions improved to 6-2 overall (and became bowl eligible) and 3-1 in the Big Ten (one more win than they had last year).
So even though there were many frustrating moments, to head coach James Franklin the “W” was all that bleeping mattered.
“We were resilient tonight,” he said. “There was adversity that we faced. There were highs and lows. There were big plays and plays that we have to clean up.”
The bottom line to him?
“Great win on the road in the Big Ten,” he said.
Here is how we saw things breaking down.
MAN OF THE HOUR: WR Chris Godwin was spectacular. He had four catches for 135 yards, each one more impressive than the next. He also scored another touchdown.
CLOSE SECOND: LB Brandon Bell had 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack that caused a fumble (DE Garrett Sickels returned it 36 yards). Everyone on defense struggled at times, but Bell sure came through in the clutch.
CLOSE THIRD: WR DaeSean Hamilton had five catches for 96 yards and a score.
TURNING POINT: Up 31-30 in the fourth quarter, the Lions had another special teams miscue when Nick Scott fumbled a kickoff return. Maryland recovered at the PSU 32. But then Bell crushed Terp QB Perry Hills, causing the fumble Sickels recovered and returned. Maryland never got past the PSU 40 from that point.
SOLID STRATEGY: QB Christian Hackenberg firing deep passes and letting his athletic wideouts go up and get them. While he was only 13 of 29 on the day, those completions went for 315 yards and three scores.
NUMBERS GAME: Penn State averaged 24.2 yards per completion and 10.5 yards per attempt.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: DE Carl Nassib received the extra attention befitting the nation’s leader in sacks, TFLs and fumbles caused. But he still came up with a key QB drop of Hills and a pair of tackles behind the line.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: P Danny Pasquariello did a nice job keeping the ball away from dangerous return man Will Likely. Likely only returned three of his six kicks for a total of 24 yards.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
• Penn State having Hackenberg run a fake option that was supposed to be an end around to Brandon Polk? Hackenberg was hammered on the play, which did not work, and forced to miss the next play after re-injuring the knee he hurt vs. Ohio State.
• Freshman RB Saquon Barkley fumbling twice (and losing one). That’s not good.
• More spotty tackling from the Penn State defense. This has become a consistent issue.
• Joey Julius booting another kickoff out of bounds and missing a 45-yard field goal.
• Akeel Lynch dropping an end-around pass from Geno Lewis. He was wide open and the ball was well thrown.
HIT SQUAD: Manny Bowen wiped out Likely on kick coverage in the third quarter. The play was nullified because the Lions were flagged for being offside. Still a great shot, though.
HIDDEN HERO: Lewis had the nice throw and also got back involved in the passing game with a 27-yard catch on which he went high over the DB for a score.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Nice job by nickel S Malik Golden of coming through with the game-clinching interception.
DID YOU NOTICE?
• Backup QB Trace McSorley finally got a meaningful snap when Hackenberg briefly left the game. McSorley was sacked for a loss of five yards.
• Penn State started its fifth different O-line combination of the season. This one featured C Angelo Mangiro moving to LG and Wendy Laurent taking over snapping duties. The rest of the line saw Paris Palmer at LT, Andrew Nelson at RT and Brian Gaia at RG. Nelson appeared to injure his knee in the game and was replaced by Brendan Mahon.
• TE Adam Breneman, who saw his first game action since 2013 vs. Ohio State last week, did not make the trip this week.
• Penn State lined up the 6-foot-8 Palmer as a receiver on one play (TE Mike Gesicki was at OT). It resulted in an incompletion to WR DeAndre Thompkins.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Where will Penn State land in the holiday season?