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5 takeaways from Maryland football’s loss to Temple

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This one wasn’t fun.

NCAA Football: Temple at Maryland Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football was simply outclassed Saturday in its home opener.

The offense did not score for the first time since 2015 against Michigan. The defense, constantly back on the field because of the suddenly inept offense, was ultimately unable to continue to contain Temple.

With the first loss of the season out of the way, there’s a lot to talk about. Here’s what stood out:

The offense was flat.

After a 444-yard outburst on the ground at Bowling Green, it was unreasonable to think that kind of success would continue. It was not unreasonable, however, to think that the Terps’ offense would continue to function at a passable level. It didn’t.

“I didn’t do a good enough job,” interim head coach Matt Canada said after the game. “This falls on me, flat out. We didn’t do anything on offense today. I take full responsibility for this loss. We didn’t play well enough, so I would say I didn’t coach well enough.”

The offense, of which he is still chiefly in charge, gained a mere 195 yards on the day and was 1-for-12 on third downs. It never entered the red zone.

The defense was better, but inevitably wore down.

In the early going, Maryland’s defense looked just as solid as it has for most of the early part of this season. Even with the offense not moving the ball, the Terps were able to limit Temple to one score for the larger part of the first half and even pull within a score on a Darnell Savage pick-six. Two Temple touchdowns in the last 3:23 of the first half were the result of a tiring defense.

“You look at the defense, we played well,” Canada said. “They were on the field for 36 minutes. ... I did a bad job as the offensive coordinator today. There’s no way our defense should be on the field this much. That’s the bottom line.”

A handful of players stood out.

Anthony McFarland was Maryland’s offense Saturday, so we’ll talk about him first.

Of the Terps’ 195 yards, he picked up 107 of them on his 11 carries. Running McFarland off an Ellis McKennie block at right tackle—be it inside or outside his block— seemed to net at least 15 yards a pop. He averaged 9.7 yards per carry with a long of 34. It was the first 100-yard rushing performance of McFarland’s college career. It doesn’t look like it’ll be his last.

On defense and special teams, Jesse Aniebonam, Savage, Antoine Brooks and Tre Watson were on top of their games Saturday.

As a safety, Savage lived around the line of scrimmage, notching seven tackles—two for a loss—and a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown. That brought the struggling Terps within a score, but that was the closest they’d be for the rest of the day.

Aniebonam looked more like his old self Saturday, making seven tackles of his own. The highlight of the day came when he rushed straight up the middle, blocked a Temple punt, scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown. That brought Maryland within 14, and could have been the spark that was ultimately doused after a pick-six on the Terps’ next offensive drive.

Watson had 15 tackles on the afternoon—nine solo. His performance as Jermaine Carter Jr.’s replacement has been everything it needed to be. Per usual, Brooks was all over the place. He made a tackle in the backfield and broke up a pass as well.

Canada took full responsibility.

In his first post-game press conference as a head coach on the losing end of a battle, Canada made no bones about how the day unfolded. When Aniebonam and Savage were asked if Saturday’s game showed them they needed to play hard for a whole 60 minutes to beat good competition, Canada interrupted.

“I think they played hard and well,” Canada said. “We didn’t play well enough, [but] our kids were playing hard. I’ll answer that for them. They played hard. We didn’t play [well] enough on offense, and that’s on me, but our kids are playing hard.”

It’s a veteran move from a rookie head coach. It’s one that, coming from somebody who is still mainly working with the offense, shows Canada has embraced the team-first mentality that a head coach must have. There’s no telling exactly what happens with Maryland’s coaching situation beyond this season, but Canada is saying the right things.

There was no halftime adjustment that worked like last week.

With the Terps trailing 14-10 at the half at Bowling Green, they made a commitment to the run in the second half. They outscored the Falcons 35-0 in the final 30 minutes.

Down 21-7 to Temple, there was no such fix Saturday.

“We just couldn’t get the first down to get going,” Canada said. “Obviously we started going fast there late ... we just couldn’t get the first first down. That’s our goal. You’ve got to get the first first down to get your offense going. And that’s what we’ve always done and always talked about and we didn’t do it today.”