Protect this house? In a gut punch of a game that couldn't end soon enough for Maryland, the Terps couldn't protect their home field, their dignity, their punter or quarterback Danny O'Brien.
Junior running back Bernard Pierce rushed 32 times for 149 yards and tied a school record with five touchdowns Saturday as Temple held the ball for 41 minutes in dominating the Terps, 38-7. It was Temple's first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference team in its football history and Maryland's worst loss at Byrd Stadium since being clobbered, 37-3, by Florida State in 2008.
Coach Randy Edsall said the hope for the Terps (1-2) -- who looked oddly lifeless and heard scattered boos from among the announced crowd of 39,102 -- is that the loss will jolt his team. "I think some our guys felt that even though we were 1-1 we were better than we were," said Edsall, who is in his first season at Maryland.
Maryland faces Towson on Saturday before embarking on a difficult stretch against Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State -- all three were in the top 25 heading into Saturday's play -- that could make or break its season.
"We have to decide if [the loss] is going to break us or be a new beginning for us," said offensive lineman Andrew Gonnella, a team captain. "At this point, we're starting from scratch. There might be a lot of people who will turn their heads from us."
Said Edsall: "There is no need to sugarcoat things. We got our butts kicked today."
Maryland entered the game surrendering more points on average than any ACC team and has given up 98 in three games. The defense had thrived on forcing turnovers -- seven before Saturday -- but managed only one against a Temple team whose quarterback, Chester Stewart, went 9-for-9 for 140 yards in his first start of the season.
Maryland's offense also struggled. Seven of its first 10 drives ended in punts. Two ended in failed fourth-down conversion attempts and the other in an interception of O'Brien, who has been picked off five times in three games.
After the fourth-quarter interception, O'Brien -- wearing the black pants and gold jersey that the Terps debuted -- walked ever so slowly to the bench.
"I don't think I've ever been shut out in my entire life," said O'Brien, whose first-team offense did not score. "This game was embarrassing to play. I'm a competitor, and the whole team is, and no one is taking this well. It was a tough one. It happened quick. Your blink your eyes [and] it's like a bad dream. You're down 28-0."
Said first-year Temple coach Steve Addazio: "We could not be more proud of the way we played today."
The Terps' offense lacked balance. They rushed for only 45 yards, allowing the Owls to come hard after O'Brien, who was sacked three times.
Backup quarterback C.J. Brown entered on Maryland's 11th and final series and capped an 80-yard drive by throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Devonte Campbell to make it 38-7 with 4:31 left. Edsall quickly snuffed out any notion of a quarterback change, saying O'Brien remains his starter.
"We can put that controversy to bed," Edsall said.
The hurry-up offense the Terps use can wear down teams. But when it's ineffective, the ball is returned to opponents so swiftly that Maryland's defense gets little rest. That's what happened against Temple (3-1), which had drives of 6:52, 5:51, 4:21 and 4:20.
Maryland had only one possession lasting longer than three minutes, and it ended in a first-quarter punt.
"We're such a tempo offense," O'Brien said. "Three-and-outs kill us, especially because we go so fast. It's like a one-minute drive."
The tone was set immediately. Temple's first play from scrimmage was a swing pass to tight end Evan Rodriguez that went 54 yards to the 3-yard line. Pierce scored three plays later from the 1 to make it 7-0. Temple drove 76 yards on its second possession to make it 14-0 on Pierce's 9-yard run.
It only got worse for the Terps. Before Saturday, Maryland had not had a punt blocked in 139 games. That streak ended when Temple's Rod Streater burst through a gap and nailed Nick Ferrara's punt, setting up the Owls on the Maryland 7. Pierce ran it from 4 yards, making it 21-0 with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
Another special teams gaffe quickly followed. Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield's third-down sack forced Temple's first punt of the game in the second quarter. But Maryland's Ryan Schlothauer (Eastern Tech) roughed the punter and the Owls kept possession on what was to become their fourth straight touchdown drive.
Edsall said he had noticed that Maryland players had appeared lackadaisical during a few days of practice last week. It seemed to carry over to the game.
"With that performance today, there won't be anyone patting them on the back, only people taking jabs at them," Edsall said. "The players need to understand that the only friends they have now are the guys in the locker room with them."
twitter.com/sunjeffbarkerCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun