The University of Maryland's dreams of a perfect season were shattered yesterday by a familiar combination: Penn State's defense and Penn State's quarterback.
Before a record Beaver Stadium crowd of 78,019, a national television audience and numerous bowl representatives, Penn State quarterback Chuck Fusina picked Maryland apart with 234 yards passing while his defensive teammates overwhelmed the Terrapins in a 27-3 Nittany Lion victory.
It was Penn State's 23rd victory in this one sided series that has seen only one Maryland triumph, 17 years ago.
Fifth-ranked Maryland, unbeaten in its previous eight games and in the last 12 over two seasons, generated zero offense. The Terps were held to minus 32 yards rushing and their two quarterbacks - Tim O'Hare and Mike Tice - were sacked 10 times, a Penn State high this year. The Nittany Lion also intercepted five passes.
Penn State, second-ranked with a 9-0 record, was in command of the game from start to finish. It outgained Maryland, 444 yards to 153, further enhancing its appeal to the Orange Bowl.
Whenever anything went right for Penn State, which was all the time, fans pelted the field with plastic oranges. And in the fourth quarter, when Maryland was trailing hopelessly, 27-3, Terp linebacker Brian Matera threw some back into the stands.
It might have been the pass of the day by a Terrapin.
Maryland starting quarterback O'Hare was throttled by Penn State's pass rush, its alert secondary and by what he called conservative playcalling in the first half, which ended with Maryland trailing, 13-3.
At the start of the second half, after O'Hare's second interception (he threw three in all), he was lifted for Tice, who threw two interceptions while the two were shuttled in and out for the rest of the contest.
"It got ridiculous," said O'Hare of the sideline atmosphere. "It blows a guy's confidence."
Maryland figured to have difficulty running against a Penn State defense that gives up an average of 56 yards a game on the ground. The presumption was correct. Steve Atkins was held to 38 yards on 18 carries, his worst numbers of the year. Atkins agreed with O'Hare that too many sweeps were called when it became apparent the play wouldn't work.
Tice entered the game early in the third quarter, and after a 27-yard completion to the Penn State 30, was intercepted by halfback Karl McCoy, who had two thefts for the day to go with Plete Harris' three.
Penn State was leading, 13-3, when McCoy pickedioff Tice pass. Three plays later, Fusina unloaded a perfect pass down the middle to Tom Donovan, who lost Jimmy Shaffer and Steve Trimble on the way to the end zone for a 63-yard score and a 20-3, lead.
"After they went ahead 20-3, everyone knew we were going to throw," said Tice. "I think we should have thrown more early, in the first half.
"I hope I never see another pass rush like that again."
Tice was intercepted on the next series and then it was back to O'Hare, back to Tice. O'Hare finished with seven completions out of 16 passes for 91 yards. Tice was seven of 14 for 94. Neither could make significant dents in Penn State's defense.
"There was nowhere to run," Atkins said. "We just couldn't move. Yes, they surprised me - on every play, on every series, I tried my best but nothing would work. They embarrassed us.
"On a few sweeps, there were four or five guys waiting for me, like they knew I was coming. I don't think I've over been handled like that. I don't think this team has ever been handled like that.
"The sweeps just wouldn't go. I don't understand why we kept running it. To prepare so hard, to look forward to a game for a year and have this happen. It's disgusting."
Atkins was in no mood to accept congratulations on setting a new Maryland rushing record of 993 yards (Lewis Carter held the record with 991).
In the first half, O'Hare threw only 11 passes. The Terps crossed midfield only once, on the drive that ended with Ed Loncar's 39-yard field goal cutting from Penn State's lead to 10-3.
"We played it too conservative (in the first half)," said O'Hare. "We were trying to run to set up the pass, and I would have liked to have passed to set up the run. We're not too fancy, and Penn State just seemed to have our number. There is no secret to what we're going to do most of the time, and against a team like Penn State . . . well, we just didn't have the little extra to outfinesse them.
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne calmly disagreed with O'Hare's claim of conservative play in the first half.
"The only thing about throwing from deep in your territory is that if you make mistakes - and we made them today - then you get a long way behind in a hurry," said Claiborne. "You have to give Penn State credit.
"This is the best team Penn State has had while we have been at Maryland. We did not play as well as we are capable of, and I believe that may be a sign of a poor coaching job on my part.
"Not much to say. They just whipped us." He added that he went to Tice in the third period because he was just looking to get something started.
Penn State set the mood by scoring on its first possession, marching up the field easily until Mike Cuman fell down on his third-and-three run, bringing on Matt Bahr for a 33-yard field goal.
The 3-0 lead stood until early in the second quarter, when Fusina completed a 55-yard drive by shoving one yard over center for a touchdown. Guman ate up 34 yards of the drive on a slashing run up the middle. A pass-interference call on Matera (for bumping into Guman while a Fusina pass sailed way out of bounds) gave the Nittany Lions a first-and-goal at the one.
O'Hare passed the Terps 60 yards to get within striking distance, but couldn't find an open receiver on third and eight. Loncar's 39-yarder made it 10-3 with 11:21 left in the half.
Penn State, which enjoyed excellent field position all day, started its next scoring drive at the Maryland 37. After Bob Bassett's incredible, one-handed 22-yard catch, Bahr hit from 44 yards out for the 13-3 lead at the end of the first half.
Donovan's 63-yard touchdown reception fattened the lead to 20-3, and, in the fourth quarter, with Penn State subs all over the field. Brooker Moore tacked on an insurance touchdown with a four-yard run.
"I have to admit I'm surprised at the way they completely dominated us," said O'Hare. "I wasn't able to come up with the great game we needed to win. I don't want to knock my offensive line one bit. Penn State's secondary was awfully tough. There were no holes to throw to, and our running game was stopped cold. I just couldn't get out of trouble.
"Was our team embarrassed?
"Well, I feel embarrassed. I'm going to have to go have a good cry."