Big throws from Christian Hackenberg fuel Penn State to win over Maryland

Penn State fights off Maryland (0:52)

Christian Hackenberg throws for three touchdowns as Penn State holds off Maryland 31-30. (0:52)

The bad blood might still linger, but it wasn’t on public display this time.

Maryland and Penn State still put on a show worthy of a rivalry, though, delivering a thriller on Saturday afternoon in Baltimore that was nothing if not entertaining -- and featured much more sportsmanship than last season’s no-pregame-handshakes meeting.

The Nittany Lions held on down the stretch thanks to a prolific outing from Christian Hackenberg and another opportunistic showing from the defense, pulling out a 31-30 decision to clinch a bowl bid, evening the score in a budding divisional feud with the Terrapins.

What the win means for Penn State: The wins haven’t all been pretty, and the memory of the two losses isn't going to be erased after sneaking past struggling Maryland, but James Franklin has his program heading to another bowl game. With another conference win on the resume, the Nittany Lions are still alive in the East Division race, though they'll definitely need help. But that’s not such a bad place for Penn State to be after opening the season with a loss to Temple.

What the loss means for Maryland: The Terrapins showed more fight than they did under Randy Edsall, but the result wound up being the same with Mike Locksley. If Maryland can continue to play with the kind of energy it put on display Saturday, it could be a dangerous opponent even if a bowl bid remains a long shot.

Player of the game: The percentage might leave something to be desired, but Penn State isn’t likely to complain much considering the production Hackenberg packed into every completion. The junior quarterback needed just 13 completions to rack up 315 passing yards, as he showed off an NFL-ready ability to stretch the field and exploited a talented Maryland secondary. Hackenberg wasn't perfect on every throw and had more incomplete passes than completed ones, but he flashed his potential enough times to fuel the Nittany Lions to a victory.

How the game was won: A bye week and a coaching change couldn’t fix Maryland’s biggest season-long problem. The nation’s most generous offense gave away the football five more times. The Terrapins' fate was effectively sealed after Penn State scooped up a fourth-quarter fumble and then nabbed an interception, giving Maryland another dispiriting loss. Penn State wasn’t all that careful with the football either, but winning the turnover battle was good enough to emerge victorious in a back-and-forth battle.