Baltimore — On a day he completed only 13 passes, Christian Hackenberg guided Penn State to a gritty win over Maryland and earned a place in the Penn State record book.
Hackenberg threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns, and the Nittany Lions squeezed out a 31-30 victory Saturday to spoil the debut of Terps’ interim coach Mike Locksley.
In addition to tossing TD passes of 37, 20 and 27 yards, Hackenberg had completions of 40, 38 and 31 yards. Chris Godwin had four catches for 135 yards and DaeSean Hamilton totaled 96 yards on his five receptions.
Hackenberg, a 6-foot-4 junior, became the school career leader in completions (608) and yards passing (7,453), displacing Zach Mills in both categories.
“Yeah, that’s awesome,” Hackenberg said. “For me, I don’t think that’s something that’s going to hit me until later on down the road. It was really cool to go out and get that done today and have my teammates around making plays.”
Godwin, in turn, gave all the credit to his quarterback.
“He works so hard to just master his craft,” Godwin said. “He’s a very talented player, and he’s the leader of our team.”
Penn State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) improved to 36-2-1 against Maryland, but the Terps’ determined effort before a spirted crowd of 68,948 could help turn this into a regional rivalry.
Locksley was promoted from offensive coordinator after head coach Randy Edsall was fired on Oct. 11. Although Maryland (2-5, 0-3) led in the fourth quarter and played its best game in a month, the result was all too familiar.
“Good teams find a way to win these games,” Locksley said.
Edsall was dismissed after a three-game stretch in which the Terrapins were outscored 122-34. Maryland played well in this one but was undone by five turnovers, including three interceptions by Perry Hills.
“Obviously the thing we’ve got to get corrected is the turnovers,” Locksley said. “The mark of a good team is one that doesn’t beat itself, and we did just that.”
Hills ran for 124 yards and completed 19 of 28 passes for 225 yards. His final interception came on a deflected pass with 1:15 remaining.
With Hills leading the way, Maryland amassed 241 yards on the ground. Penn State coach James Franklin knows that’s too much, but said, “We held them to one less point than we got. That’s the goal every single week.”
The victory was particularly special because it was the Nittany Lions’ sixth of the year.
“We are bowl eligible,” Franklin said. “Like I told the seniors, tonight allowed us to keep our family together for another month or so at the end of the season.”
Penn State went up 31-27 with 13:39 left when Hackenberg tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Geno Lewis.
Maryland cut the gap with a field goal, and then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. But Hills fumbled it back as he was hit while throwing.
The Terrapins got the ball following a missed field goal try. Locksley opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Maryland 36, and Hills was intercepted by Trevor Williams with 7:51 to go.
That wouldn’t be the last turnover for the Terrapins, who wore throwback uniforms patterned after the 1961 team. That was the year in which Maryland earned its lone win over the Nittany Lions at home.
For a while, it appeared as if that 44-year drought would end.
Maryland moved 68 yards on its first possession of the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead. After Hills ran 36 yards to the 10, Brandon Ross scored on third down.
Hackenberg responded by completing a pass to Godwin for 31 yards, then throwing a 20-yarder to Hamilton for a touchdown. Both passes were put up for grabs, and on both occasions the receiver made the play.
The back-and-forth duel extended into the next drive, when Hills directed an 88-yard march that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Lane, making it 27-24.
That laid the groundwork for an intense fourth quarter.
Penn State led 17-13 at halftime despite being limited to 15 yards rushing and converting only once on third down.
Hackenberg went 7-for-16 before intermission, but his completions went for 196 yards — including a 37-yarder to Godwin, who made an outstanding one-handed catch in the end zone while his defender was being called for pass interference.
Maryland led 13-7 in the second quarter despite committing two turnovers inside the Penn State 20.