At the start of the week, the figure was around 10 for Marcus Allen. By Saturday’s kickoff at Maryland, the number of friends and family he had tickets for could be much higher.
”I actually have 10 people that I have, off the top of my head, that’s coming to the game,” said Penn State’s senior free safety, who hails from Upper Marlboro, Md. “As the week has gone, multiple people have been hitting me up trying to get tickets, though.
“There’s a lot of people.”
And Allen is plenty proud of it. A standout defender who started for the Nittany Lions since midway through his true freshman season in 2014, Allen announces his hometown as “P.G. County, Maryland” during lineup introductions on the video boards before home games.
That his final regular season game in college will come at Maryland Stadium — about 20 miles away from where he grew up — is a happy coincidence for Allen.
“I expect it to be a big one,” he said. “Just for me to play my last game of 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’s on the team. We talk back and forth, talking our little stuff.”
” … They talk their stuff about Maryland, they talk their stuff about Penn State. It’s funny, especially after the game, too.”
Safe to say both sides will be doing a little talking.
Allen is one of 13 Maryland natives on the roster, though the only full-time starter out of the group. Fellow safety Ayron Monroe could conceivably start with Troy Apke sidelined for the first half because of a targeting ejection in the fourth quarter of last week’s win over Nebraska.
Two Lions players — defensive end Shane Simmons and running back Mark Allen — are from Maryland powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School. The Terrapins have eight DeMatha alums on their roster
Since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten, the two teams split one-point wins on the road, with Maryland winning on a last-second field goal in 2014 and Penn State holding on at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium in 2015. The Lions won going away in 2016.
This will be Penn State’s first game on Maryland’s campus, however, since 1993.
“Playing against Maryland, guys that I know, is always fun,” Marcus Allen said. “So I’m pretty sure the stadium’s going to be riled up. There’s a lot of family members, friends that are going to be coming and supporting me and Penn State.”
THREE AND OUT
Maryland is out of the bowl picture at 4-7, but second-year coach D.J. Durkin has the program on the upswing in general.
The Terps’ season could have been radically different had they not lost their top two quarterbacks — Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill — to season-ending injuries in the first two weeks of the season.
Maryland scored 114 points in those first two games, including a 51-41 victory over Texas in Austin. But third-stringer Max Bortenschlager doesn’t have the same kind of mobility, forcing the Terps to change their play-calling.
As it is, they’ve lost six of their last seven games, with Bortenschlager even missing a game — forcing fourth-teamer Ryan Brand into action.
”If you didn’t have to go through (adversity), sometimes there’s lessons you don’t learn,” Durkin said. “We’ve gone through a lot as a program, we’re going to be stronger because of it this year. I’m thankful for that.”
Despite the massive issues at quarterback, it hasn’t affected D.J. Moore.
Maryland’s best receiver has far and away been the most productive pass-catcher in the entire Big Ten, leading the conference in receptions (72), yards (933) and touchdowns (eight).
Lions coach James Franklin, a former Terps assistant who was at one point designated as the program’s head-coach-in-waiting, had some high praise for Moore this week, comparing him to Penn State’s best receiver of the Franklin era.
“D.J. Moore is a guy we’ve been impressed with, a kid out of Philadelphia,” Franklin said. “Really reminds you of Chris Godwin — strong, explosive, powerful guy, play-maker for them.”
The Lions will have to be especially wary of Moore on deep balls in the first half, when they will be down a starting safety.
Penn State’s hopes of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl improved on Friday when No. 2 Miami was upset by Pitt in the Hurricanes’ regular season finale.
Though it was just the Canes’ first loss, the selection committee hasn’t been enamored with their resume this season. And should Miami lose to Clemson in next week’s ACC Championship, it might knock the Canes out of the New Year’s Six picture altogether — or at least below the Lions in the pecking order.
Of course, Penn State must first beat Maryland to get to 10 wins, with the Cotton Bowl, Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl as some of the top possibilities.
The Lions will learn their destination on Dec. 3.