Maryland-Temple Preview: Terps Try to Rebound Against Upstart Owls

What: Maryland (1-1), after their loss to West Virginia last week, tries to get back on track against Temple (2-1) at home

When and Where: 12:30 (boooo) on Saturday at Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD

Where to Watch: Raycom/ACC Network (full list of channels based on locale here); ESPN3/WatchESPN.com for out-of-towners

Gameday Weather: 72 and scattered thunderstorms

Spread: Maryland-10

Notes/Storylines:

  • Not your father's Owls. In truth, they haven't been your father's Owls in several years, with Al Golden doing a pretty crazy rebuilding job their the past few years before moving onto Miami. Temple struggled with FCS team Villanova as few as two or three years ago, but they threw down on them this season, winning 42-7. All in all, Temple has outscored opponents 97-20 this year, and came within four points and 34 yards of upsetting in-state rival Penn State. Don't sleep on them.
  • Meet yet another new boss. Steve Addazio, former Florida offensive coordinator, is taking things over from Golden. That means Maryland is starting its season with three games against three teams breaking in new coaches, all while breaking in one of their own. That's gotta be some type of record, right?
  • Danny O'Brien's rebound attempt. After three interceptions last week and probably his worst game in a Maryland uniform, the Terrapins will be looking for Danny O to bounce back in a big way. Temple is a mid-major, but one with a lot of defensive quality.
  • As for Temple's QB: who plays when? As we've already discussed, there's a bit of controversy out in Philly in regards to the QB spot. The starter has been named, but both candidates will be used at some point, says Steve Addazio.
  • Can Maryland's OL keep up the streak? Here's a crazy stat: Maryland has passed the ball 96 times, which is 52nd in the nation ... and they've played one fewer game than almost everyone else. In fact, in attempts per game, they're second in the country. Here's a crazier stat: despite that, Danny O'Brien still hasn't been sacked. Temple has 10 sacks in their three games, good for 11th in the country.
  • Black-gold-black. It was one of my least favorite combos (checking in at #10 out of 16) so I guess I should be grateful that they're getting it out of the way early. Either way, that's what the Terps will be wearing tomorrow.

In a Turtleshell

Maryland Offense vs. Temple Defense: At this point, I think we know what to expect out of Maryland's offensive scheme: lots of short passes, a quick tempo, a mid-game stall, a lot of Davin Meggett, and a few deeper balls. The questions still remain, however, in Maryland's execution; as we saw last week, it can either be really good or really bad.

One of the big problems from the WVU loss appeared to be a lack of chemistry between O'Brien and his receivers in the wake of the suspensions of Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler. (Either that, or Danny lost his usually impressive arm for a few hours.) With an extra week of practice and entire game under their belts, I'd expect that to sort itself out a little this week with Tony Logan and Kerry Boykins accepting much larger roles than usual.

But with the emergence of Maryland's running back duo in Meggett and Adams, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Gary Crowton move away from his crazy dropback numbers and give the ball to the two of them more. 31 carries between the both of them isn't enough in a single game.

As far as what's on the other side of the ball ... in truth, it's a little tough to tell. Temple held in-state Villanova to 7, MAC foe Akron to 3, and powerhouse Penn State to 14. In total, that's good for fourth in the country in scoring defense. But, heck, Villanova was held to 10 by Towson, while Akron has the 3rd-to-last scoring offense in the country. And Penn State, while full of high-level recruits, has been really poor offensively, with a scoring offense checking in at 90th in the country and a total offense of 103rd. In other words: the numbers are impressive, but it's really tough to tell the real quality of this defense given that they're yet to face a potent offense. Maryland, a top 20 outfit in total offense, certainly qualifies as "potent."

The defensive quality is a little surprising, given that they only return five starters from last year's team. Chief among them are Tahir Whitehead, senior linebacker and leader of the defense, and Adrian Robinson, senior defensive end and 2010-11 1st Team All-MAC selection. They both have two sacks apiece, the only players on the team with more than one takedown. Whitehead also leads the team in TFL.

In the secondary, the name to watch out for is probably senior safety Kevin Kroboth, who leads the Owls with two interceptions on the year. With O'Brien being plagued by interception problems, a ballhawk like Kroboth will certainly be trying to lurk and make a play.

The Owls don't seem to be particularly stronger defending the pass or the run; while they're 50th in pass defense against 25th in rush defense, much of that has to do with getting big leads against Villanova and Akron and forcing the opponent into constant passing situations. There's only about ten spots difference nationally in the actual yards per attempt between the two, and that doesn't take sacks into account.

Either way, with the current issues in Maryland's passing game, I'd personally try to limit Maryland's rushing game and force Danny O'Brien to make the throws. Which is a pretty crazy statement, but I'll stick by it.

Temple Offense vs. Maryland Defense: There's a lot of experience on Temple's offense. There are four seniors and a junior on the offensive line, and up to this point they've had success opening holes for star senior running back Bernard Pierce. Pierce is one of the more productive running backs in the country, a top 20 rusher in the nation; and his backup is firebrand junior Matt Brown, who'll see a lot of time in reserve. Senior tight end Evan Rodriguez, a West Virginia transfer, is the leading receiver. All in all, the Owls have a lot of certainties.

But they do have an uncertainty at the most important position on the field, as we've already touched on. Mike Gerardi started the first three games at quarterback, but Chester Stewart saw some playing time against Penn State. Now, Addazio has named Stewart the starter, though still says Gerardi will see playing time.

Neither Stewart nor Gerardi will be winning any awards for stellar QB play this season. Stewart is an athlete who adds another dimension to the offense with his legs but has been inconsistent in his four years in the program; Gerardi is a game manager who's big asset is being able to hand the ball off to Pierce and Brown without making mistakes in the passing game. When Gerardi started to make those mistakes - he was 9-22 with two interceptions against Penn State - his value drops, and Stewart became the preferred option.

Making it even more confusing, Temple's offense varies greatly depending on which of the two is on the field. It's a run-based attack either way, but with Gerardi it's a traditional, pro-style, one-back look. When Stewart comes on the field, you see shades of Addazio's scheme from his Tim Tebow days at Florida - a lot of zone reads, with Stewart reading the defensive end and either handing the ball off to Pierce or keeping it himself. It wasn't particularly effective last week in the 20 or so snaps we saw of it, but it did have its moments.

All in all, as you might expect, Temple is a team much better on the ground than through the air, and they rely on the rush more than the pass. They're 34th in the country in rushing, compared to 107th in the country in passing. For Maryland, that's really good news: the secondary has been beat pretty badly over the past two weeks against talented QBs, while the front seven - and the defensive line in particular - has been above-average. Shifting the spotlight up there will likely result in good things for the Terrapins.

Keys in Cliches

Stay mistake-free offensively. We've seen what Maryland's offense is capable of when it's clicking. The potential is definitely there for a great attack - there's no lack of talent. But we've also seen what happens when they beat themselves, either with silly interceptions or poor execution in the red zone. If they can put together an entire game, it's scary to think about what the scoreboard would say at the end of the day.

Control Pierce and Brown. Temple's offense is far from high-powered, but Pierce and Brown are both great running backs. Maryland's front seven has been decent against the rush this year, but they'll be tested here.

Fluster Stewart (or Gerardi). Neither Stewart or Gerardi are particularly good passers and are prone to making mistakes, but given time like WVU's Geno Smith had in the first half last week, it's not hard to be impressive under center. They'll need to get in the QB's face, whoever it is, and try to force him into mistakes.

Players to Watch

Tony Logan, WR, Maryland: We know about DOB, DJA, Meggett, and Kevin Dorsey. Logan, though, is going to be a serious x-factor this year in offensive sets; you get a feeling you're either going to see spectacular things out of him (like his 20-yard catch and run against WVU) or some ... less-than-spectacular things (like some of his lazier routes against WVU).

Darin Drakeford, OLB, Maryland: Drakeford is likely to play this Saturday after missing last weekend's game with an injury. He does miss some tackles, but he'll be better in run support than his true freshman replacement Alex Twine, and in this game that's very important.

Evan Rodriguez, TE, Temple: If the Owls have any success in the passing game, it'll likely come at the hands of Rodriguez, who was 1st Team All-MAC last year and is this year's leading receiver.

Adrian Robinson, DE, Temple: Another All-MAC first-teamer, Robinson has two sacks on the year and will be looking to register the first against the Terrapins this season.

Prediction

Maryland may struggle with this game at times - Temple's really good for a MAC team, after all - but they should win. Even if Danny O'Brien struggles, the offense should be able to rely upon a ground game finding its rhythm, and the defense gets the bonus of going up an offense breaking in a new QB, even if he is a senior. I'd feel a lot less confident if I had faith in Temple's QB situation, but I don't, and that may be their undoing. Terps by 9. Drop your own predictions in the comments.

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