Maryland Coach Ron Vanderlinden said he wants this season to be a breakthrough one for his football program. In the third year of a five-year contract, Vanderlinden has coached the Terrapins to just five wins in that tenure.
Four of those wins have come against the same two Division I schools. Temple is one of those schools, and the Terrapins travel to Philadelphia to meet the Owls in tonight's 6 p.m. season opener at Franklin Field.
The Terrapins also have gone 2-0 against Duke the past two seasons. Maryland's victory at Temple in the fourth game of 1997 gave Vanderlinden his first win, but it wasn't easy.
In a sloppy game in which Temple turned the ball over seven times, Maryland couldn't wrap up the 24-21 victory until Troy Davidson made an interception with 32 seconds remaining. The Terrapins scored a 30-20 victory last year against Temple in College Park, but needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away.
Vanderlinden and the Maryland players said they won't look past the Owls, who were 2-9 last year, as they're on the rise under second-year coach Bobby Wallace. Temple upset Virginia Tech last year and have a number of talented young players.
Wallace came to Temple last year from North Alabama, where he was named the NCAA Division II coach of the quarter century. His last three North Alabama teams combined to go 41-1, and he posted an 82-36-1 record at the school.
"There's just a lot of things happening at Temple that have football headed in the right direction," Wallace said. "We're in a building phase right now."
Temple set a school record last year for the fewest passes thrown (178, completing 72), but Wallace said the Owls will use multiple formations and throw the ball more. Vanderlinden said he thinks Temple has installed the passing attack former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch used.
Sophomore quarterback Devin Scott returns for the Owls. He played in six games as a freshman last year, throwing for 459 yards and three touchdowns. Leading receiver Carlos Johnson (18 catches) returns, but he's not listed on the two-deep charts.
Vanderlinden also said he expects Temple to throw a number of different defensive looks at the Terrapins tonight.
"We've really had to prepare for everything that could conceivably happen," Vanderlinden said. "A big part of us adjusting offensively is to be able to see what they're doing in the first quarter. There could be some tough sledding in the early going."
The biggest question on offense is who will start at quarterback. Randall Jones entered camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but missing four days with a sore arm set him back and let Calvin McCall jump in. Vanderlinden calls the pair "co-starters", and won't say who will open the Temple game but did admit both are likely to play against the Owls.
"I have faith and believe in every quarterback we have," Maryland wide receiver Jermaine Arrington said. "It's not really a big [deal]."
Maryland has run the ball well against the Owls, gaining a total of 433 yards in the two games. LaMont Jordan gained 135 yards in the game two years ago and added 133 more last season. He also scored two touchdowns, including a 27-yard fourth-quarter run that broke the game open.
Jordan is back for his junior year after finishing with 906 yards rushing last fall, but arriving at camp 10 pounds overweight bothered Vanderlinden at first.
Everything appeared settled after the first few days, but Vanderlinden said earlier this week he wasn't sure if Jordan or Mukala Sikyala would start at tailback.
"I think our team is focused," Vanderlinden said. "I think our guys are on a mission to win."