What seemed to be a perfect setup for an unbeaten record going into next week’s Big Ten opener against Minnesota came crashing down Saturday for Maryland in a deflating 35-14 home-opening loss to previously winless Temple.
With three starters out on the offensive line and their backfield depth compromised by injury, the Terps (2-1) were unable to get their running game going one week after it produced 444 yards at Bowling Green.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill finished 7-for-17 for only 56 yards. Redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland led the Terps with 107 yards on 11 carries. Maryland mustered just 195 yards, to 429 for the Owls.
Senior running back Ryquell Armstead led Temple (1-2) with 118 yards on 26 carries. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo completed 15 of 25 passes for 228 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Terps played without both starting tackles, redshirt seniors Damian Prince and Derwin Gray, and junior guard Terrance Davis missed the game as well. Junior running backs Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk also didn’t play because of injury.
Coming in as 15½-point favorites, Maryland watched the Owls go ahead 14-0, with the first touchdown coming on a 36-yard pass after a fake punt from a third-string quarterback (Todd Centeio) lined up as a receiver, and a 1-yard fourth down plunge by 330-pound defensive tackle Freddie Booth-Lloyd.
The Terps briefly woke up the small crowd when senior safety Darnell Savage Jr. intercepted a pass from Russo and raced 23 yards for a touchdown late in the first half. The elation didn’t last for the small crowd.
On Temple’s next possession, the Owls started from their own 35 when freshman Joseph Petrino’s kickoff sailed out of bounds. After Temple got to midfield, Armstead ran for 25 yards on third-and-9. Senior fullback Rob Ritrovato scored on 2-yard run with seven seconds left in the half.
Temple increased its lead to 28-7 on the first series of the second half, with Russo finding Kenny Yeboah wide open for a 47-yard touchdown.
While Maryland’s offense might have had some excuses because of the injuries, its defense didn’t have any discernible reason why it was thoroughly shredded by an offense that had struggled, particularly on the ground, in losses to Villanova and Buffalo.
Coming into the game ranked in the top 15 in the country at stopping opponents on third down, the defense struggled to keep the Owls off the field — and out of the end zone. On two of Temple’s first-half scoring drives, the Terps gave up a 40-yard pass on third-and-16 and Armstead’s long run on third-and-9.
The tone of the game for Temple was set when the Owls faked a first-quarter punt and Centeio lined up as a wide receiver, took a direct snap and found redshirt sophomore Freddie Johnson for a 36-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.
The Owls went ahead 14-0 with the help of Armstead’s run when Booth-Lloyd, a senior backup, plowed into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The second pick-six of Savage’s career briefly brought the Terps back in the game.
The pounding by Temple was reminiscent of the 38-7 victory for the Owls in 2011.
It also took place in the third game of what was Randy Edsall’s first season at Maryland. After beating Miami in the opener and then losing a close game to then-No. 18 West Virginia in Morgantown, the Terps got crushed.
But that Temple team had come to Maryland with a 2-1 record, having narrowly lost to Penn State in Philadelphia, and the Owls would go on to post a 9-4 record. That Maryland team would beat Towson the following week, its last victory of a 2-10 season that ended with eight straight defeats.
Saturday’s defeat deflated a team ready to celebrate its home opener, where Jordan McNair was honored before the game with a moment of silence with several players encircling a large decal with his No. 79 jersey number, taking a knee and bowing their heads in prayer.
Except for Savage’s pick-six, the only other play to elicit much of a response from the crowd came midway through the fourth quarter. With Maryland trailing, 28-7, redshirt senior outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam blocked a punt and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
With Maryland threatening to turn it into a one-possession game, Hill was intercepted at the Temple 22 by junior linebacker Shaun Bradley, who ran it back 78 yards for a touchdown. It was the first interception of Hill’s brief career.
It was the first loss under interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who took over when third-year coach DJ Durkin was placed on administrative leave in August and guided the Terps to an upset of then-No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field in the season opener.
This week could start to bring some clarity to Durkin’s future in College Park, with the findings of an external review into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death in June because of heatstroke expected to be announced after a meeting of the Board of Regents on Friday in Towson.