Imagine being without one of your top three defensive players for essentially an entire game. Now imagine being able to pitch a shutout without him. Those two things typically don’t tend to work hand-in-hand, but they did for Penn State on Friday night.

Micah Parsons was eliminated from Penn State’s B1G opener against Maryland early on Friday night. The sophomore linebacker cracked Terrapins quarterback Josh Jackson in the head not even midway through the first quarter. Parsons was ejected for targeting, making his exit with 9:36 to play in the opening period.

A huge blow to the defense, right? Wrong. Well, at least that was the case on Friday.

The Nittany Lions didn’t need the assistance of their top linebacker and arguably best defensive player against Maryland. Penn State cruised to a 59-0 win over the Terps, the largest B1G shutout win in program history.

Maryland totaled just 128 yards of offense, turned the ball over three times, had nine penalties for 85 yards and picked up just 10 first downs in the game. Penn State’s defense did all of that while Parsons — the team’s leader with 4 tackles for loss and second-best tackler with 20 total stops heading into the game — was sitting in an air conditioned room tweeting out his thoughts during the game.

He liked what he saw, by the way.

https://twitter.com/Micah_Parsons11/status/1177757833061961728?s=20

If you hadn’t been buying stock in Penn State’s defense before Friday night, perhaps now is a good time to dial up your broker. Four games into the season, we have a large enough sample size to confirm that the Nittany Lions have been worth the offseason hype.

By the time of Parsons’ departure, Penn State had already set the tone. It was easy to see the Nittany Lions owned the superior talent after scoring two touchdowns on two offensive plays within the first five minutes of the contest, building an early 14-0 lead. Even early in the first quarter, it felt like Penn State was going to cruise to a 4-0 start.

That shouldn’t detract from the show Penn State’s defense put on in College Park. And, really, what it’s done through the first four games of the season.

Counting Friday night’s shutout performance, Penn State is allowing just 7.5 points per game on the year. For the third time in four games, the Nittany Lions held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing and under a 2.0 yards per carry limit. Maryland finished the night with 60 yards on the ground on 34 carries, a 1.8 yards per carry average.

The one concern, at least so far, for Penn State’s defense was the limited number of turnovers it created through the first three games. That wasn’t a problem either. The Nittany Lions got three takeaways against the Terps, tying their season total in just one game.

By the way, Maryland’s offense was averaging 537.7 yards per game and dropped more than 60 points on their first two opponents Howard and Syracuse. Penn State held Mike Locksley’s bunch to 128 total yards, their worst outing of the year — and the best for the Nittany Lion defense.

Maybe the Terps aren’t Ohio State or Wisconsin, but they’ve found a way to move the football.

Not on Friday night. Not even with Parsons in the locker room. The defensive line still got pressure on Jackson, the secondary swallowed receivers and the linebackers shut down the run game. This was, to this point, the most complete performance from Penn State’s defense this season.

Now imagine what it can do with Parsons back on the field.