PHILADELPHIA — All of the fumbles, the growing pains, the raft of preseason injuries — none of it seemed to matter as Maryland players celebrated in a joyous locker room after they held on to claim their first road victory in 22 months.
With its 36-27 victory over Temple on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, Maryland (2-0) matched its win total from 2011. The Terps ended a 10-game losing streak to Football Bowl Subdivision foes, winning on the road for the first time since November 2010.
The Terps lost four fumbles — all by freshmen — and nearly gave away a 23-point, third-quarter lead. As Maryland’s lead slipped from 23 points to 16 points and finally to 2 points, older Terps may have caught themselves thinking about how last year’s team surrendered a 27-point lead in losing at N.C. State.
This year’s team hopes to be more resilient. The postgame, locker-room shouts — loud enough to be heard in the stadium tunnel — were from a team that believes it is learning to finish games. They would go to 3-0 with a victory over Connecticut next week.
“I told the guys we’ve got to be a 60-minute team,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.
Maryland faced adversity in various forms in the win. There was freshman quarterback Perry Hills getting his helmet pulled off by a Temple player in the third quarter — a facemask penalty was assessed – and suffering a gash and lump on his forehead.
“I knew I cut it a little bit because there was blood on my helmet and stuff like that,” said Hills, a former state champion high-school wrestler. “I’m used to getting head-butted and stuff like that from wrestling and taking a lot of slams.”
Hills, who threw for 190 yards and his first two college touchdowns , remained in the game and led the decisive, 75-yard scoring drive at the end.
The Terps took the ball with 7:04 remaining and Temple trailing 29-27. By then, the Owls had rebounded from a first half in which they had 34 yards of offense, 6 passing yards and four fumbles (two lost). The announced crowd of 23,322 was getting louder.
Hills faced third-and-11 on Maryland’s 49-yard-line when he made one of the key plays of the game. The quarterback lofted a 38-yard pass to freshman receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught it near the sideline at Temple’s 13.
“It was a beautiful ball by Perry – outside shoulder,” Diggs said. “I said a prayer while it was in the air.”
At the time, Diggs was trying to atone for an error — a fumbled punt early in the fourth quarter. “I play with a lot of emotion, so that muff — it got to me. I felt like I had to make up for it somewhere,” he said.
Diggs’ former Good Counsel teammate — running back Wes Brown — fumbled twice. Edsall said he told Brown, who carried seven times for 50 yards: “This is college football. This isn’t Good Counsel football anymore. Wes knows he made a mistake.”
Three plays after Diggs’ catch, Justus Pickett ran it in from 7 yards, giving the Terps a decisive score with 2:51 left.
After not winning a game on the road last season, Maryland had been desperate for an early road victory. The Terps had extra incentive because many remembered Temple’s 38-7 victory in 2011 in which running back Bernard Pierce, now a member of the Ravens, had a school-record five touchdowns.
“We knew they were coming up here for a revenge game,” said Temple kicker Brandon McManus, who had two field goals.
The kicker’s only miss – from 23 yards – was blocked by Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis.
“I really felt bad at the end of last year’s (Temple) game and that feeling stuck with me for a long time,” Francis said.
Francis, who also had a fumble recovery, helped lead a defense that had not surrendered a touchdown in its first six quarters this season. The defense was playing again without injured linebacker Kenny Tate (knee) and safety Matt Robinson (shoulder).
Maryland, which switched to a 3-4 defense this season, pressured Temple into three turnovers. The Owls also twice snapped the ball over quarterback Chris Coyer’s head and had seven penalties for 72 yards.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun