Penn State coach Joe Paterno summed up Maryland's plight in a single word: Speed.
Make that three words: Lack of speed.
"Maryland needs more speed," Paterno said after Penn State's 47-7 romp over the Terps yesterday before 57,416 at Memorial Stadium. "We have a bit more of it, enough to do it when we have to, in the clutch. Our receivers could outrun them."
Paterno was being charitable. The Nittany Lions seemed to be faster than Maryland from the top to the bottom of the depth chart.
Paterno also went out of his way to note that Maryland played decently early in the season until some key starters bowed out for the season with injuries. Last week three solid defensive players became academic casualties.
"We had some seasons when injuries and academics got us, and we couldn't handle it either," Paterno said. "Maryland beat a good Virginia team in its opener and look how well they played after that until these last few weeks."
With its mauling of West Virginia and Maryland in successive games, Penn State (8-2) indicated it is ready for its visit by No. 5 Notre Dame next Saturday. When Paterno and his players spoke, they were not aware the Irish lost to Tennessee yesterday.
"I'm never comfortable going against Notre Dame," Paterno said. "But we're getting close to being where we should be to go into a game like this. I hope we're improving. You're never as good as you think you are after a win like this. The big thing is how we come out of this physically."
If the light bandage on quarterback Tony Sacca's hand was an indication of the Nittany Lions' physical condition, they should be sound for Notre Dame. Sacca shrugged it off as a bruise to his throwing (right) hand incurred when he scored on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter. He remained in the game until Paterno took mercy on Maryland.
"We have the talent to beat anybody," Sacca said. "But to beat Notre Dame, we'll have to play our best game."
No fewer than seven bowl scouts -- from the Orange, Cotton, Sugar, Gator, Fiesta, Citrus and Blockbuster -- were on hand for yesterday's slaughter. Paterno, of course, shies from bowl talk.
"We want to go to a big bowl against a top-ranked team," Sacca said.
In his fourth year as a starter, Sacca is having his best season and has broken or is on the verge of breaking most of the school career passing records. With 13 of 18 for 198 yards and a touchdown against Maryland, Sacca breezed past Chuck Fusina and became the career leader in yards and completions.
"Tony's been as tough mentally as anyone I've had," Paterno said. "Under pressure for four years. So much expected of him. As he has matured, as a quarterback and a person, he has had a positive effect on the team."
Upon hearing that, Sacca smiled and said, "Any time you get a compliment out of him, you've got to feel good about it."