After last week's disappointing loss to West Virginia, Maryland will try to get back on track with a home date against Temple. And if you were hoping for that to be an easy win, you'll probably be disappointed. The Terrapins should be able to grab the victory, but the Owls have proven that through the first three weeks of the season that they're anything but pushovers.
After beating down on Villanova and Akron by a combined score of 83-10, the Owls were within four points - and had the ball in enemy territory in the final minute - of an improbable home upset of Penn State, a game they ended up losing 14-10. Running back Bernard Pierce is 17th in the country in yards per game, while the defense is fourth in the country in points allowed and 22nd in total defense. Sure, they've played two cupcakes and Penn State's offense can be best described as inept, but 24 points in three games is 24 points in three games.
Unfortunately for new head coach Steve Addazio and the Owls, though, their biggest problem comes at the most important position on the field: quarterback. Namely, their lack of one. So far, they've been unable to decide between athletic senior Chester Stewart and steady junior Mike Gerardi. Gerardi has started all three games so far, but struggled against Penn State's defense. Stewart came in mid-way through the game and, to his credit, engineered a field goal drive. Gerardi re-replaced him in the fourth quarter.
So, who'll get the call against Maryland? Addazio is glad you asked:
First-year Temple coach Steve Addazio said he probably would use two quarterbacks for last Saturday's Penn State game. And he kept his word.
Now he's suggesting he might do the same this week at Maryland. The only difference is, relief man Chester Stewart will be starting instead of Mike Gerardi.
"It doesn't mean Mike won't play," Addazio said yesterday. "It's a decision made by our staff based on game performance. That's how we're going to go."
The indecision between the two highlights the problems in the passing game for Temple, which is among the worst in the country through the air. Neither Stewart nor Gerardi have been great at throwing the ball, with Stewart's biggest asset being his legs and Gerardi's his ability to stay relatively error-free and hand the ball off to Pierce.
But Addazio, Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Florida, appears to be casting his lot with Stewart for the moment, which will allow him to utilize some more aspects of the Tebow-esque spread you remember. Until now, he's been forced to go with a more pro-style set; when Stewart came in the game, the offense was almost singularly option reads, along the lines of what you saw from Auburn, Orgeon, or, yes, Tebow-era Florida. Stewart wasn't as effective as the Big Tebowski at it, but Addazio must feel comfortable enough with him to give it a try.
Stewart's presence also likely signals a more ground-oriented attack, which probably isn't a bad thing for the Owls. Via Buzz on Broad, Stewart took 20 snaps on Saturday: he ran it himself on 8 of them, he dropped back to throw on 7, and he handed the ball off on another 5. Stewart is an average passer at best, so I'd expect the offense to be even more heavily run than it was then.
There's still a fair amount of mystery as to what to expect out of Temple's offense, given that we've only seen 20 snaps of what it will likely look like next Saturday. For a Maryland defense that's already struggled so much, that's far from encouraging. The one thing that's fairly certain: the more Temple airs it out, the better it'll be for Maryland. An early lead might help on that front.
As always, we'll have the full preview on Friday.