Let’s cut to the chase: Maryland will need to play well to beat Temple. The Terrapins can’t coast through a mistake-ridden game to win this one. The Owls are too sound, too physical, too capable in the running game. It is a tricky nonleague game. After a week of studying up on Temple and talking to people about the Owls, I came away even more impressed with the job Al Golden did during his tenure and the job Steve Addazio is doing now. When I attended Rutgers in the late 1990s, Rutgers was down and Temple was down and they’d play every year and every year we’d call it the Toilet Bowl. That’s what it was. As the kids would say now: Worst. Game. Ever. This Temple team resembles that Temple team in school name only.
Unless turnovers or weather changes the game’s tenor, this will be like a basketball game whose outcome hinges on which team best controls tempo. It will be about which team dictates the game’s pace. Maryland wants to run 92 offensive plays. Temple wants long, clock-eating offensive drives that fatigue Maryland’s defense and keep quarterback Danny O’Brien and Co. on the sideline. The player to watch is Bernard Pierce, a formidable power running back who will run behind four senior offensive linemen. From my limited introduction to Temple this week, I am not crazy about either Temple quarterback. Chester Stewart, who will start, says he is more of a dual-threat option. Mike Gerardi, who will also play, is said to have the stronger arm. Don’t expect Temple to excel in the passing game. West Virginia is on one end of the passing continuum. Temple is on the other.
It was interesting this week at Temple. Much of the interest centered on which plays cost Temple (2-1) in a 14-10 loss to Penn State. Aside from a strong opening drive against the Nittany Lions, Temple struggled offensively. When comparing Penn State’s and Maryland’s defenses, Addazio said Maryland is a “top 25 team. Penn State was exceptionally strong in the interior. Maryland has got great balance to them defensively. I can’t look at them and say they have a weakness here. Maryland is just talented, just talented, balanced. I see no weak spots in Maryland, to be honest.”
Addazio said he expects a different style of game than the one his team played against Penn State. “Probably,” he said. “You always want to keep it low scoring, but this may be a little different. Up-tempo. More offensive calls. Each week I always try to get set for what I think may happen and then how we will react to what does happen. You get surprised. It is a jigsaw puzzle at certain times.”
Temple’s defense is physical, sound and did I mention physical. If you hear the name Adrian Robinson a lot Saturday, that’s bad news for Maryland. He is a talented defensive end. Regarding Temple’s defense, O’Brien said, “It’s nothing you have not seen before, but it is played well.” You’ve heard a lot about how Temple is fourth nationally in scoring defense and eighth nationally in sacks. Just keep in mind that its two wins came against Villanova and Akron. Not the worst schedule, but not exactly Louisiana State’s murderer’s row schedule.
In the end, Maryland wins a game that remains fairly interesting and close throughout. If you are a Maryland fan, don’t fret about your team’s long-term hopes if this game remains competitive into the fourth quarter. And if the Terrapins somehow win in a romp, chalk it up as an impressive victory. A safe bet is that O’Brien redeems himself after a three-interception performance against West Virginia, D.J. Adams scores a touchdown and linebacker Kenny Tate makes a critical defensive play. Temple has a couple long drives, but all in all can’t keep a determined O’Brien off the field long enough.
Maryland 28, Temple 17
What does everyone else think? Are you a little worried about this one, or no? Scores, anyone?