A stagnant offense found some life. Perry Hills found his groove. Wes Brown came out of the woodwork. Stefon Diggs got more touches, bobbing and weaving his way through a sea of burgundy at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Embarrassed by Temple a year ago, Maryland’s defense took it personally and responded with a stellar performance in the first half, after which the Terps led 26-3.
Really, little went wrong for a Maryland team that looked hopeless in last season’s 38-7 loss to the Owls at Byrd Stadium.
Owls Coach Steve Addazio earlier this week preached the need for Temple to populate its offensive play-calling with the occasional pass, something that was near absent in its season-opening win against Villanova.
The Terps’ front seven in coordinator Brian Stewart’s new 3-4 scheme never gave quarterback Chris Coyer the room. Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers broke through. Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis swarmed. And Coyer was rendered breathless, suffocated in the backfield throughout the first half and completing just 1 of 3 passes for six yards.
In a similar vein, Terps Coach Randy Edsall wanted Diggs, the highly touted Good Counsel recruit, to get 10 touches against William & Mary. He wound up with eight. But fans got a glimpse of the impact the true freshman can have, provided he actually get the ball and not have it sail over his head on booming kickoffs.
After a 27-yard punt return, Diggs picked up 12 yards on an option, then another 12 yards on short pass in the flat that put the Terps deep into Temple territory and ran out the first-quarter clock. Two plays later, Hills flashed the promise that got buried amid three interceptions against the Tribe, deftly touching an over-the-shoulder pass to Matt Furstenburg from 22 yards out, Hills’s first collegiate touchdown.
Yet all 23 points the Terps scored in the second quarter came without Diggs touching the ball once.
Midway through the period, following consecutive runs by Brown – who never appeared versus the Tribe but had 33 yards on five carries in the first half Saturday – Hills got the Owls secondary to bite hard on a play-fake and found Marcus Leak deep for a 32-yard score.
Penalties and fumbles ruled the early going in Philadelphia, before the ugliness subsided, at least on Maryland’s end. For Temple, it got worse.
Seconds after Hills’s second touchdown pass, a botched snap sailed into the Temple end zone for a safety that put the Terps up 19-3. On the play, running back Matt Brown, the star of Temple’s 41-10 demolishing of Villanova the week prior, went down for some time. He walked off the field on his own power.
After the safety, Maryland marched down to first and goal from the Temple 9-yard line. Hills dropped the snap in shotgun, gathered himself and trotted in untouched for the score.
Vellano stripped Matt Brown on the game’s first play from scrimmage, and Demetrius Hartsfield pounced on it at the bottom of the pile.
But Maryland’s offense went nowhere fast. After a 3three-yard rush from Justus Pickett, a block-in-the-back penalty on Kevin Dorsey pushed the Terps back. Freshman kicker Brad Craddock, who missed a 25-yarder last weekend, drilled a 45-yard field goal that put Maryland on the board.
On Temple’s ensuing possession, after a 45-yard punt return from Brown, quarterback Chris Coyer coughed up the ball near midfield. Three plays later, Perry Hills gave it right back, his fourth turnover in two weeks as the Terps’ starting quarterback. The Owls wound up with a 36-yard field goal off Hills’s fumble, advancing into field goal territory thanks to a second-down face mask penalty by L.A. Goree.
Temple had just two first downs, one of which came on that face mask penalty, and entered the break with just 34 yards of offense. Matt Brown had just 13 yards on seven carries.