Maryland 45, Temple 22
Late in the second quarter last night, Joel Statham stood in the pocket, running out of time and space. Nearly out of options on first and 10 at the Temple 14, the Maryland quarterback freelanced, throwing to a particular spot in the end zone where only one player, wide receiver Derrick Fenner, was able to catch the ball.
They later said they read each other's minds on the touchdown reception. After failing to do so in the spring game and during last week's season opener, Statham finally looked comfortable in his own stadium.
As a result, No. 23 Maryland did exactly what it wanted to last night: The Terps eliminated suspense early against a team that only won one game a year ago. The Terps beat Temple, 45-22, before 51,292 at Byrd Stadium in a tune-up for next Saturday's road date against undefeated, 10th-ranked West Virginia. For the first time since 2001, Maryland started the season 2-0.
Statham, a week after fumbling three times in the first quarter against Northern Illinois, completed 18 of 25 passes for 268 yards, 201 of which came in the first half, and two touchdowns. Running back Sam Maldonado ran for a career-high 106 yards and scored two touchdowns in a game that never was in doubt.
"Joel played like what we see in practice," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I think he had a lot more confidence, and he benefited from last week's game."
Overall, Maryland's starters displayed the type of crisp efficiency that pleases Friedgen. The Terps converted their first nine third-down attempts, four of which came on passing plays.
Statham picked apart a defense that had surrendered 44 points to Virginia the previous week. The sophomore completed 15 of 20 passes in the first half and ran the option effectively.
"Everything was on time," Statham said. "We were really decisive in everything we were doing."
Even after last week's performance, Statham remained poised, as least publicly. He blamed his four fumbles on jitters and retained the unquestioned support of his coach. Then he turned in what statistically was his best week of practice this season.
Statham misfired on only one of four attempts on the Terps' opening drive, capping it with a 12-yard strike to Jo Jo Walker in the end zone for his first career touchdown pass. Temple Coach Bobby Wallace said the Owls (0-2) wanted to force Statham to throw early in the game.
Afterward, Wallace said Statham "threw some really excellent passes, especially in the long-yardage situations. He's growing as a quarterback."
To open the second quarter, Statham engineered a 14-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown by Josh Allen and made the score 21-0. Allen, who carried six times on the drive, ran left, burst through a hole and was barely touched as he reached the end zone from five yards out. Allen felt "sore," Friedgen said, and was limited to 12 carries for 39 yards.
Maryland freshman backup quarterback Jordan Steffy made his debut in the final minute of the third quarter with Maryland ahead 35-7, becoming the first Maryland freshman to play at quarterback since Latrez Harrison in 1999. Steffy did not complete a pass in three attempts.
Steffy was one of several young players who played after Maryland went to its second and third teams. Friedgen was disappointed with the performance of his second-team defense, which allowed 15 fourth-quarter points, so he summoned his starting defense back on the field in the final minutes.
Unlike last season, when players say they overlooked Northern Illinois the week before an anticipated matchup with Florida State, Maryland's focus was sharp last night, particularly as the Terps mounted a 28-0 halftime lead. Avoiding complacency was no small feat considering many felt a victory was virtually ensured. Earlier in the week, a reporter even bluntly asked Friedgen, "Why is Temple on the schedule?"
Next week, though, will be different.
"We're going to go up to Morgantown, and they really like us up there," Friedgen said. "After I dodge the first four whiskey bottles that come out of the stands."
Terrapins Note: Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (hyperextended left elbow) did not play in the second half, but teammates expect him to be fine next week.