Maryland running back Anthony McFarland showed flashes of his dynamic high school form at times his season, but it's safe to say that the Terrapins' last two Big Ten opponents weren't prepared for his offensive explosion.
The 5-foot-8, 193-pound McFarland, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 210 yards against Indiana on Nov. 10. He then ran over Ohio State on Saturday for 298 yards, including first-quarter touchdown runs of 81 and 75 yards, to become the first player in program history to record back-to-back 200-yard games.
The Terps wound up losing both games – 34-32 to the Hoosiers and 52-51 in overtime to the Buckeyes – but they will be ready to test Penn State's run defense on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, seeking a win to secure bowl eligibility.
McFarland has 1,022 rushing yards on the season, the first Maryland freshman to reach that mark. Almost half of that total came in the last two games. His 8.5-yard average leads the Big Ten and is third in FBS.
"We know Anthony really well," Penn State head coach James Franklin said. "He can run, he can flat-out run. You watch him on tape. He is fast, and he makes a bunch of big plays for them."
McFarland was sidelined his senior year at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., with a broken leg, then sat out his freshman year with the Terps. His first two 100-yard games this season came in consecutive weeks, against Temple and Minnesota, but he averaged just 45 yards in the next five games.
"He's extremely talented, extremely athletic," Penn State safety Nick Scott said. "The thing he does well that you want out of any running back is his ability to make precise cuts. He can break arm tackles, and when he gets in the open field, he has the speed to take it the distance."
The strength of the Terrapins (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) has been their ability to run the ball with a deep stable of backs. They are 17th in the nation and third in the conference with a 244-yard average on the ground. Maryland averages 6.1 yards per carry, one of just seven teams that have topped a 6-yard average on the season.
The Terps have had nine 100-yard performances this season by four backs. In addition to McFarland's four, Ty Johnson has three, and Tayon Fleet-Davis and Javon Leake have one each. Johnson, who is fourth on the team's all-time rushing list, has missed two of the last three games with a calf injury, and interim head coach Matt Canada said he is "hopeful" that Johnson will be able to play.
The Penn State rush defense has been inconsistent. The unit is 10th in the Big Ten, with 177 yards allowed per game, but the average is 203 in the last five contests. Five opponents have rushed for more than 200 yards against the Lions this season.
Franklin knows his defense will be tested.
"I think [McFarland] is a legitimate 4.3 guy" in the 40-yard dash, he said. "So the combination of what they do and a playmaker carrying the ball, it's problematic. They have done this against a number of opponents. It's going to be a challenge."
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