It was not easy for Maryland (1-2) to dig itself into a 31-0 halftime deficit without committing one first-half turnover. It took dropped passes, errant throws to open receivers, a roughing-the-kicker penalty and their first blocked punt since 1999. It took a defense that made DeMatha graduate Chester Stewart look like a flawless quarterback and an offense that lacked any semblance of rhythm or balance.
“What happened today was unacceptable and really embarrassing,” said Edsall, Maryland’s first-year coach.
After the game, Edsall struck a measured tone but said that he did not get his message across to players about the expected physicality of the game. He said his team played with “no life, no energy” and called his team’s tackling “awful,” adding, “Tackling is heart.”
“As a coach this is hard to say, but it came down to the will,” Edsall said. “Their will was a lot stronger than our will today.”
The Terrapins have not looked this feeble in all facets at least since a 31-0 loss at Virginia in 2008. On Saturday, their leading rusher was backup quarterback C.J. Brown. Their time of possession (18 minutes 59 seconds) was their lowest since 2002. They were bludgeoned by Temple running back Bernard Pierce, who scored a program-record five touchdowns, and surgically dissected by Stewart, who completed all nine of his pass attempts despite entering the game without a reputation as a particularly skilled passer.
Having suspended receivers Ronnie Tyler and Quintin McCree on the field would not have changed the decisive nature of this outcome. Temple, not so long ago a college football punch line, dumped 28 points on Maryland before the Terrapins even crossed midfield. Much of the announced crowd of 39,102 serenaded the home team with boos. Only a smattering of shell-shocked fans remained for all four ghastly quarters.
“It just happened so fast,” Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “It was like you blink your eyes and you’re in a bad dream.”
Andrew Gonnella, the starting left guard and co-captain, said his team has “lost credibility” and called it a “team failure,” the worst loss he has experienced in his life. Joe Vellano, a defensive lineman and co-captain, said that defensive players were often in the right spot but played “stupid” at times.
The issues are numerous and varied. Vellano said the early deficit caused players to “double-think stuff” and that players need to commit to more film study. Gonnella said the offense would like to play at a faster tempo and that more attention needs to be paid to details.
Kenny Tate, a linebacker and co-captain, said the defense did not fully anticipate the extent to which Temple would run play-action and bootleg plays. O’Brien said the offense has to get in rhythm to succeed, and without it the struggles are accentuated. And Edsall said he sensed a lackadaisical attitude from some players in practice Tuesday and Thursday.
And despite inheriting a team that returned several key players after a 9-4 finish last season, Edsall on Saturday at least suggested that he was in the midst of a rebuilding effort when he said: “This is a process we are in. It was not going to get changed overnight no matter how much I want it to.”
Without being asked about O’Brien’s job security, Edsall said that the sophomore would remain the starter. O’Brien completed 17 of 33 passes for 153 yards and one interception before being replaced by Brown late in the fourth quarter. Brown completed an 18-yard touchdown reception to tight end Devonte Campbell to keep the Terrapins from being shut out at Byrd Stadium for the first time since 1997.
The Owls, who nearly beat Penn State last week, were billed as a Mid-American Conference team with a sound defense, quality running back and senior-laden offensive line. But the program Al Golden constructed in five seasons as head coach — he left after last season to take the Miami job — had no trouble overwhelming the Terrapins on Saturday.
It was the first time Temple defeated an ACC team — a team in the ACC at the time the game was played — since the conference formed in 1953. And this was the first time Temple beat any team from a Bowl Championship Series conference on the road since winning at Rutgers in 2002.
Edsall suggested that some Maryland players may have been too high on themselves after a season-opening win over a Miami team that played without eight key players.
“You can’t accept the slaps on the back,” Edsall said. “You can’t drink the poison. I think some of our guys, even though we were 1-1, felt like they were a little bit better than what they thought and didn’t give the respect” to Temple.
Consider Maryland humbled.
“We have to practice like we are freshmen,” Gonnella said. “At this point, we are starting from scratch and have to practice like we have not earned anything. We are nobody.”