Defensive linemen hope to carry Penn State past Maryland

Dvon Ellies will honor his father and others Saturday by carrying the American flag on Military Appreciation Day in Penn State.

Ellies’ father, Sean Thomas, served 25 years in the US Army and retired as a sergeant first class.

“Military families go through a lot every year,” said Ellies, a defensive tackle who sees regular playtime. “My father sacrificed so much for us. It’s going to be a really cool thing to carry the flag and show our appreciation for him.”

Ellies and 12 others from Maryland will be at Beaver Stadium at 3:30 a.m. (TV-FOX, WEEU-AM/830).

The 14th-ranked Nittany Lions have several former Maryland High School players in starring roles, particularly on the defensive line. Ellies, PJ Mustipher, Coziah Izzard and Chop Robinson will compete against their home university.

Robinson, an ending, played as a freshman for the Terps last year before joining Penn State earlier this year. He has two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two pass break-ups for the Lions. He was not available for interviews this week.

“I think it’s going to be a big game for him when he’s up against some of his old teammates,” Ellies said. “Just being with his new teammates, I think it’s going to be a special moment for him. He can go out and show his talents even more.”

The Penn State defensemen showed their talent in Indiana last week, where they had nine of the school records and connected 16 tackles for losses and five of the six sacks. The starters Nick Tarburton and Adisa Isaac each had two duels to lose.

The Lions limited Indiana to 196 total yards, 65 of them on the ground.

“I believe that performance was the culmination of all our efforts,” said Ellies. “Just the little frustrations we had the week before (in a loss to Ohio State) all came out.

“We played well and played well. It was really good for us. We build on many of our skills and hone them to the point where they show on the field.”

Penn State’s defensive line will be crucial against Maryland and veteran quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

In a 31-14 win in Maryland last year, the Tagovailoa Lions slumped three times, forced two turnovers and held terps for 48 rushing yards. He completed 31 of 57 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s a great player,” Isaac said. “He is very smooth in the pocket. He is very fast. I’ve definitely experienced the speed in the game, so I know he’s very fast. They definitely need to do a good job on defense to contain him. He’s a damn good player.”

Maryland could be without wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, who sustained a lower leg injury in a loss in Wisconsin last week. His status was uncertain.

Penn State will be without left guard Landon Tengwall, who underwent season-ending upper-body surgery, and left tackle Olu Fashanu, who sustained a leg injury against Ohio State two weeks ago.

Additionally, it was unclear whether linebackers Curtis Jacobs and Tyler Elsdon will be available after they left last week’s win against Indiana with undisclosed injuries. If Jacobs and Elsdon don’t play, defenders will carry a heavier burden.

“We’re a tight-knit group,” Isaac said, “so every time one of my brothers does a play, you know the rest of us just say go get it. It definitely helps if we have a person to trigger it up front. It helps everyone else feed off of it, especially with our plan.”

Ellies hopes to make a living carrying the flag honoring his father and leading his teammates onto the field.

“When I was in high school, he lived alone in Death Valley, California for two or three years,” Ellies said, “because he didn’t want us to move just because there were a lot of opportunities back home. When I say sacrifice, that’s one of the bigger things.

“I will always cherish my father because I don’t know if I would be here if I had to make that change. This is a testament to all the work he has done for us.”

Rich Scarcella’s choice

Penn State 38, Maryland 21

The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium hoping to beat Maryland for the 42nd time in 46 games. It will be important to put pressure on the Terps’ Taulia Tagovailoa and disrupt the rhythm of her passing game. Wisconsin had success with outside runs against Maryland last week, which could mean room for the explosive Nick Singleton.

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