The Maryland Terrapins football team didn’t wow anyone with last weekend’s 7-6 win over William & Mary. While just scraping by against a FCS team doesn’t generally bode well, the Terps just might pull the upset over Temple on Saturday.
Just a year ago, Temple was the team pulling the upset over Maryland, with a resounding 38-7 victory. The Terps had no answer for the Owls’ Bernard Pierce, who ran for a school-record five touchdowns.
“I’m not sure what was going on with respect to Maryland,” Temple’s defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Maryland and its fans weren’t sure either.
On Labor Day last year, the Terps looked promising, with a primetime conference win and flashy new uniforms. Their next game was a respectable one-touchdown loss to West Virginia – disappointing, but not unexpected.
And then Temple came to town, and things got ugly – and stayed that way for the remainder of the year.
The Owls, in their first season in the Big East, also opened the 2012 season with a win over an FCS team, but their 41-10 victory over Villanova packed a few more style points than Maryland’s borderline embarrassing “a win is a win” escape.
The Owls are favored by more than a touchdown this weekend, and no one seems to be giving the Terps much of chance in Philly on Saturday. That’s a mistake.
Last season, the Terps started well but their season fell apart even faster than the roster since Randy Edsall was hired.
This year, they got off to a shaky start but will only gain strength as the season continues and the 27 freshmen on the depth chart figure out the whole college football thing.
The most prominent freshman is quarterback, Perry Hills, who looked remarkably like a true freshman when he threw three interceptions in his college debut. He improved as the game continued, completing 66.7% of his passes and leading a 69-yard drive late in the game that led to the winning touchdown.
Mike Locksley, Maryland’s offensive coordinator, said he thought Hills was “a little rattled, early on.”
It would be a surprise if he wasn’t nervous, but now that Hills has gotten some big mistakes out of the way, there’s nothing to be nervous about.
“It’s a game that rewards guys who are tough mentally, so I suspect he’ll get better every week,” Temple’s Heater said.
Hills was obviously trying too hard in his first time out – but one could argue that he was being asked to do too much in his first career game.
The Terps ran the ball just six times in the first quarter against William & Mary. That might not have been the best game plan, since on two of its first quarter drives, Maryland passed on every play, and both those drives ended in interceptions.
Hills should improve even more if the running game does, too.
“For a young quarterback, the run game can be his best friend,” Locksley said. “For us to be the team we need to be this week, we’ve got to find a way to run the football a little bit.”
Calling a few more run plays early on, while the rookie QB is settling in, is probably a solid place to start.
The Terps will have a bit more clarity in the backfield this week with sophomore Justus Pickett, who scored the game-winning touchdown last Saturday, starting over true freshman Albert Reid.
“I just see a more confident runner, because of experience, because of strength, just having been through it before,” Edsall said of Pickett.
The offense needs to make major strides if the Terps are going to win, but the defense (minus Dexter McDougle) just needs to keep playing well. McDougle was called for three pass interference penalties last week, one of which led directly to a field goal.
Overall, the defense held the Tribe to just 2.5 yards per carry and kept Maryland in the game. Linemen Keith Bowers and Isaiah Ross, who missed Maryland’s opener, will be back from injury to help the Terps contain Temple running back Matt Brown, who rushed for 145 yards against Villanova.
Terps’ fans might want to cross their fingers the game doesn’t come down to a field goal. Kicker Nick Ferrara is still out with a hip injury, and true freshman Brad Craddock missed his only attempt last weekend, a 25-yarder. (He did, however, make the extra point to win it.)
Maryland and Temple kick off at noon ET this Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be televised on ESPNU.