A special teams unit that got burned by a fake punt that went for a 36-yard touchdown to force the Terps into playing catch-up the entire game.
A defense that couldn’t seem to get off the field and gave up several big third-down plays that led to the Owls sustaining scoring drives.
Yet in taking his first defeat in his third game as Maryland's interim head coach and offensive coordinator, Matt Canada placed the responsibility for the sobering performance on his sunburned, shaved head.
After giving credit to the Owls and second-year coach Geoff Collins, Canada spent much of the nearly 15-minute postgame news conference talking about his team’s ineffective offense.
Canada, whose team came into the game favored by more than two touchdowns, would mention his own subpar performance no fewer than 21 times.
“I didn’t do a good enough job. This falls on me, flat out,” Canada said. “We didn’t do anything on offense today. I take full responsibility today for this loss. We didn’t play well enough, so I would say I didn’t coach well enough on offense.
“Obviously the defense was on the field a lot. I thought they played really, really hard and did a lot of good things. We just continued to get nothing for them. … I’m not sure I’ve been around a game like this on offense, but it falls directly on me. It’s my job and we didn’t get it done."
Playing without three starting offensive linemen because of injury, including redshirt senior tackles Damian Prince and Derwin Gray, the Terps rushed for just 132 yards — including 107 by redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland — a week after getting 444 yards at Bowling Green.
“They were unable to play,” said Canada, who was also without junior running backs Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk. “That’s obviously a tough deal. … It affects you when your starting tackles are out, but it has no bearing on what happened.”
Asked if he thought he abandoned the running game too soon, Canada said, “We lost by 21 points and we threw the ball 21 times. If I had run the ball the whole time and we were down by that, you probably would have asked why we weren’t trying to win throwing it.
“I appreciate the question and obviously we ran it well [in the fourth quarter], but it was just a really bad offensive game. It wasn’t our offense and it wasn’t what we expected. I don’t blame the defense for what they did. We just couldn’t get the first down to get going. ... That’s my fault.”
The Terps converted just one of 12 third-down opportunities. The most glaring miss might’ve been in the second quarter when redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill threw an incomplete pass on third-and-2 from the Temple 48 despite having room to run.
When a reporter pointed out Maryland didn’t run any jet sweeps, a staple of the offense, Canada said, “Some of it was they took it away and some of it — we were one of 12 on third down, which I know you guys know and I’m sure you’ll talk about.
“But I’m not ashamed — I am ashamed — but I'm not afraid to talk about it. We were one of 12 on third and we just couldn’t get going. We had a lot of plays we didn’t get. … In the first half, every second down it seemed like we did something silly, right?”
Conversely, the Owls converted four of nine third-down opportunities in the first half, including Temple senior running back Ryquell Armstead rushing for 25 yards on third-and-9 from midfield. Armstead finished with 118 yards on 26 carries.
A pick-six by senior safety Darnell Savage Jr. for Maryland’s first score actually helped the Owls take a 21-7 lead with seven seconds remaining in the first half by keeping the defense on the field. The lead was stretched to 28-7 on the opening series of the second half.
“Even after the pick-six, once that happened, we were still down so we just wanted to make another play,” Savage said. I don’t think we thought about that too much or dwelled on it too long. … It’s tough when you go back out there and they sustain a drive.”
The Terps had trouble sustaining anything on offense.
For a second straight week, Hill never seemed in sync. After nearly having two passes intercepted on the opening series, Hill closed his 7-for-17, 56-yard performance by having his first career interception returned for a 78-yard touchdown.
Outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam, whose blocked punt for a touchdown cut Temple’s lead to 28-14 and gave those that remained from the announced crowd of 32,057 something to cheer about, didn’t want to use the fact that the defense was on the field for 36 minutes as an excuse.
“When you’ve got to be on the field for a long time, you know you’re just going to have to hunker down and pick up the reins and just hold it up for the offense,” Aniebonam said. “We were doing everything that we could and the offense was doing everything they could.”
Said Canada: “I did a bad job as offensive coordinator today. There’s no way that our defense should be on the field this much. That’s the bottom line. That’s the story.”
Trying to gauge Maryland’s mindset going into the Big Ten opener at home next Saturday against Minnesota, a reporter asked the two Terps players at the news conference whether the performance against Temple showed the team it had to play “hard and well” for 60 minutes.
Canada took the mic.
“I think they played hard. We didn’t play well enough. Our kids were playing hard,” he said. “We didn’t play good enough on offense. That’s on me. But our kids were playing hard.”
Later, after the players left, Canada added, “Ultimately I’ve got to do a better job and I will. I don’t have any doubt about our players. I’m so proud of our players, how hard they work, how much they stick together. Locker room was united.
“Nobody is pointing any fingers. It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job. The two tackles are out and this and that. There are no excuses. It’s big-boy football. We didn’t play well enough and we'll play better next week.”
It seems more than two weeks ago that the Terps upset then-No. 23 Texas at FedEx Field to start the season, with freshman receiver Jeshaun Jones scoring the first three times he touched the ball. On Saturday, Jonas had one catch for 12 yards.
“They did a nice job pressing up on us,” Canada said. “Defense can take away anybody or whatever they want to take away. … Everything we did was bad. I called every play, so I should’ve called a whole bunch of different ones. They didn’t work. Ultimately, that’s it. I did a bad job.”
NOTES: Maryland honored offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died in June after suffering heatstroke, with a moment of silence before the game, during which several players encircled the No. 79 emblem in the West end zone, kneeling and bowing their heads in prayer. The school also had a moment of silence in the press box for 1983 Maryland graduate John McNamara, a longtime Terps beat writer who was one of five people killed at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis in June.