Josh Jackson had just two seconds before a few Temple defenders surged into the backfield and brought him to the ground. On the next play, a quarterback draw, Jackson gained no yardage before he hit the turf again. Soon after, when Maryland opted to go for it on fourth down during this opening drive, Jackson misread the coverage and threw an interception.

Those first moments in Maryland’s Sept. 14 loss against Temple revealed a sobering proposition: Jackson wasn’t himself that day in Philadelphia. Neither was the rest of the Terrapins’ offense, which had started the season with such promise.

Jackson didn’t throw another pick in the game, a 20-17 loss, but more passes bounced into the turf than landed in his receivers’ hands. His play wasn’t glaringly poor, just persistently off. The drop-off wouldn’t have seemed so stark had Jackson not begun the year with two solid, reliable performances in which he totaled 541 passing yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.

But that’s also what provides reassurance heading into the Friday night matchup against No. 12 Penn State: Both Jackson and Coach Michael Locksley believe the off day against Temple was nothing more than that.

“I definitely like to chalk that up as an outlier,” Jackson said. “It was not a very good game on my side. Probably one of my worst games in college. So, yeah, we’ll leave that as an outlier, and hopefully it stays like that.”

Jackson played in 16 games at Virginia Tech, throwing for more than 3,500 yards before an injury cut short his redshirt sophomore season. He arrived at Maryland not as one of the most high-profile quarterback transfers of the offseason but as someone who had the potential to stabilize a position where the Terps have struggled.

Jackson had never completed fewer than 40 percent of his passes in a college game and only twice had finished a game completing less than half. The 15-for-38 mark against Temple stands as his worst. But by Monday, just four days before the start of the Big Ten slate, Jackson seemed unfazed.

He has watched the film one-on-one with offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery and met with Locksley a couple of times, too. Temple’s defense didn’t present more difficult looks compared to previous opponents, Locksley said. Jackson’s decision-making, which is critical given Maryland’s use of run-pass-option plays, simply wasn’t operating at the level it had.

“What we’ve tried to do with Josh is to go back and find out what created the issues he had,” Locksley said. “I take it back to having the right kind of eye discipline as a quarterback in the RPO game. … He’s a guy that really has made really good choices and been really disciplined.”

On Maryland’s second drive of the Temple game, with the Terps trailing, defenders managed to deflect both of Jackson’s first two passes. His third attempt of the drive resulted in his first completion of the day, but Darryl Jones’s catch was short of the first down and Maryland had to punt.

Jackson eventually worked out of the slump. During a drive in the third quarter, Jackson completed three straight passes — 17 yards to Dontay Demus, 22 yards to Brian Cobbs and then a 17-yard touchdown to Tyler Mabry. That gave the Terps their last lead of the game at 15-13.

Looking toward the Penn State matchup, the first night game of the season before a sellout crowd, Jackson isn’t concerned with finding that individual rhythm early — as long as the offense as a whole is functioning well.

“If we're just running the ball and [the running backs] are all in a rhythm, I don't think it matters too much for me if they're just taking care of it,” Jackson said. “For me, it's just being comfortable out there. I'm pretty laid-back, and highs and lows don't really affect me too much.”

Despite all that went wrong against Temple, this is what Locksley has reminded Jackson: Maryland still had a chance to win. The Terrapins had more than enough opportunities just yards from the goal line late in the game.

Facing a first and goal from the 4-yard line, the Maryland staff unsuccessfully sent standout running back Anthony McFarland up the middle four times. Then in the game’s waning moments, when Temple’s shanked punt gifted Maryland another drive with favorable field position, Jackson overthrew tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo in the end zone. On the team’s final try, Jackson led DJ Turner a bit too far, and the wide receiver caught what could have been the winning score out of bounds.

“I don’t think we need to hit the panic button or change who he is or I don’t need to change who I am as a coach,” Locksley said. “My expectation, based on how he’s practiced thus far, is that he’ll be able to go out and execute the offense in the manner that he’s done the first couple of opportunities we’ve had.”

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