Opportunistic Maryland defense looking to score vs. Temple

In October 2006, Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown in a comeback win over Virginia.

After that came a pronounced drought. Forty-one games — more than three years — elapsed before Maryland scored another defensive touchdown, on a lumbering, 70-yard interception return by linebacker Alex Wujciak in 2009.

Since Wujciak's big play, Maryland's defense has demonstrated a penchant for scoring. The Terps have managed eight defensive touchdowns in the past 18 games — including two in this season's opening-week victory over Miami.

Maryland does not have a dominant defense, occasionally surrendering yardage in large chunks. But as the Terps (1-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) prepared for Saturday's game against Temple (2-1, 1-0 Mid-American Conference), they ranked among the ACC leaders in collecting turnovers and turning them into points.

Maryland has scored 126 points off turnovers since the beginning of the 2010 season, compared with 27 for its opponents, according to statistics compiled by the school.

"It's huge," quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "It's something that's not necessarily expected, but when it happens, it's just like a gift. It gets the sidelines riled up, and it's encouraging when the defense has your back."

The turnovers have been critical to Maryland's success.

Heading into the Temple game, Maryland ranked next to last in the ACC in total defense (423.5 yards per game) and last in scoring defense average (30.5 points).

But the Terps already have three interceptions and four fumble recoveries, ranking behind only North Carolina State in turnover margin.

Against West Virginia, a Maryland run of 21 unanswered points was aided by an interception by cornerback Dexter McDougle on a tipped ball. The Terps forced three turnovers but lost, 37-31.

Maryland has 28 interceptions during the past 19 games. Against Temple, the Terps will face a quarterback, senior Chester Stewart, who has thrown 15 career interceptions along with 11 touchdown passes. The Owls might also use junior Mike Gerardi, who started last week in a 14-10 loss to Penn State.

Temple relies on junior running back Bernard Pierce, who has 347 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in three games.

Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford "emphasizes turnovers every practice," said linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who scored on an interception return last season against Morgan State. "It only gives our offense more opportunity to score."



Saturday's game Temple (2-1, 1-0 MAC) @ Maryland (1-1, 1-0 ACC)

Time: 12:30 p.m.

Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park

TV: Chs. 13, 20

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

Series: Maryland leads 6-0

Last meeting: Maryland won, 38-7, at Temple in 2005

Line: Maryland by 9

Maryland offense vs. Temple defense: It's the third straight game in which Maryland is facing a team with a new head coach (Steve Addazio). The Terps are among a handful of Football Bowl Subdivision teams that haven't allowed a sack. Temple has allowed just 8.0 points per game, tied for fourth in the nation. Temple's defense is averaging four sacks. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead has six tackles for losses in three games along with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Maryland defense vs. Temple offense: Temple has used two quarterbacks. For the Maryland game, Chester Stewart — who had previously played in relief of Mike Gerardi, will start. Temple relies on running back Bernard Pierce, who is averaging 115.7 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry. "He's a downhill runner. He runs extremely hard," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.

Jeff Barker

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