Any buzz the Maryland football team generated with a pair of victories to begin the season fizzled Saturday afternoon when the Terrapins failed to produce an offensive touchdown, committed two fourth-quarter turnovers and missed defensive assignments throughout in a 35-14 loss to visiting Temple.
Maryland (2-1) managed just 195 yards of offense in front of an announced crowd of 32,057 at Maryland Stadium, the team’s lowest figure for a home opener since 2012.
The shorthanded Terrapins were 1 for 12 on third down overall and had just 50 rushing yards and five first downs through three quarters, leaving interim coach Matt Canada blaming himself for the woeful showing.
“We didn’t do anything on offense today, so I take full responsibility for this loss,” said Canada, who calls the plays. “We didn’t play well enough. Obviously I didn’t coach well enough on offense.”
Previously winless Temple (1-2) sealed the outcome when linebacker Shaun Bradley intercepted Kasim Hill’s pass and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter to set the final margin.
Hill completed 7 of 17 passes for 56 yards and was sacked four times behind an offensive line missing both starting tackles. Backup Tyrrell Pigrome went 1 of 4 for seven yards with an interception and was sacked three times.
The Owls had all but put the game out of reach on the first series of the second half with quarterback Anthony Russo’s 47-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah to take a 28-7 lead. The scoring play with 12:10 to go in the third quarter capped a 75-yard drive on six plays and featured Russo using a shoulder pump fake to freeze Terrapins defenders.
The only points for Maryland, which got 107 rushing yards from redshirt freshman tailback Anthony McFarland, came via an interception and a blocked punt that were returned for touchdowns. The heavily favored Terrapins also permitted 429 yards of offense to an opponent that opened the season with home losses to FCS squad Villanova and Buffalo.
Last week, the Terrapins amassed 444 rushing yards, their most since 1999, during a 45-14 win at Bowling Green, fueling speculation that they could be undefeated entering their Big Ten opener next Saturday vs. Minnesota. Maryland previously beat then-No. 23 Texas, 34-29, in the season opener Sept. 1 at FedEx Field in Landover, but Saturday’s loss halted all of that momentum.
“It’s a team effort all the way around,” said Maryland linebacker Jesse Aniebonam, part of a unit that was on the field for 36:33 of game time. “We just have to focus in on our keys, focus in on our responsibilities. It’s a learning experience. I look at it as a positive. Just another opportunity to get better.”
Saturday’s loss proved all the more deflating for the Terrapins given that it came in the first game at Maryland Stadium since the June death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair. The Terrapins paid tribute with a moment of silence before kickoff, and the grounds crew painted McNair’s No. 79 behind the west end zone. The players, as they will all season, wore helmet stickers with the No. 79. Temple players also wore helmet stickers with No. 79.
McNair died 15 days after suffering heatstroke May 29 during a workout in College Park, leading to Coach DJ Durkin being placed on administrative leave Aug. 11 while the university system’s board of regents assumed control of investigations of the incident and the program that remain ongoing.
There also was a pregame moment of silence in the press box in honor of John McNamara, the Capital Gazette sportswriter killed during a mass shooting June 28 at the newspaper’s offices in Annapolis. McNamara, a Maryland graduate and one of five Capital Gazette employees fatally shot, will have a permanent seat in the front of press row.
When play began, a sparse crowd endured an uneventful first quarter until Temple opted for a fake punt on fourth and eight from the Maryland 36. With the Owls lined up in routine punt formation, short man Todd Centeio took a direct snap, rolled to his right and threw to wide receiver Freddie Johnson, who ran down the right sideline and into the end zone. The touchdown with 2:33 to play produced the only points of the quarter.
In the second, the Owls made it 14-0 on a one-yard run by 330-pound defensive tackle Freddie Booth-Lloyd to cap a 12-play drive that covered 76 yards in 5:00.
Maryland cut the deficit in half when Darnell Savage Jr. stepped in front of Russo’s pass for an interception. The senior safety ran 23 yards untouched to the end zone with 3:23 left in the half, but the Terrapins trailed 21-7 at halftime after Temple fullback Rob Ritrovato’s two-yard touchdown run with seven seconds to play.
“We ran 52 plays, and a bunch of them were at the end of the game when we were going fast,” Canada said. “We didn’t run our offense. We didn’t run any of the plays, but that’s because we didn’t execute — and that falls on me, completely on me. A really bad job by me.”