Even the most pessimistic Maryland football fans didn’t see it happening like this.
After scoring 34 and 45 points in their first two games, the Terps were embarrassed on home turf by Temple on Saturday. Maryland entered as a 16.5-point favorite and lost 35-14, with neither Terps touchdown coming from the offense.
The team turned heads with 444 rushing yards against Bowling Green, but in the follow-up performance, Maryland had eight rushing yards at halftime. The Terps were outgained 240-61 in the first 30 minutes, then ran six plays for two yards (negated by a five-yard penalty) in the third quarter. Maryland’s 123 yards of offense in the fourth quarter were offset by two interceptions. The Terps were horrendous on third down, converting just 1 of 12.
“We just couldn’t get the first down to get going. Obviously we started going fast there late and we got some runs, but early on, we couldn’t,” offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada said after the game. “We ran side-to-side, we ran up inside, we tried to throw it and we just couldn’t get the first first down. 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.”
Maryland was without starting tackles Derwin Gray and Damian Prince, and right guard Terrance Davis was out of action yet again. While Canada insisted the injuries up front had no bearing on the outcome, it was clear Maryland struggled at the line of scrimmage. Temple recorded seven sacks and stuffed Terrapin rushers on seemingly countless other plays.
Kasim Hill turned in the worst performance of his young college career, completing just 7 of 17 passes for 56 yards. It took him until the fourth quarter to lead the Terps on a productive drive, but with Maryland threatening to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, Hill threw his first career interception and saw it returned 78 yards for a touchdown. The redshirt freshman was 8-of-16 for 121 yards in the rain at Bowling Green last weekend, but took another step backward Saturday in benign conditions.
“It’s a game of making plays, and we didn’t make enough plays. Kasim didn’t get in a rhythm and I definitely will look at everything,” Canada said. “Maybe we should’ve done something different. We tried short ones, long ones ... it just didn’t work.”
Maryland’s ground game carried the freight last week, but couldn’t do the same. Both Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk were held out with injuries (the former mostly as a precaution), and aside from Anthony McFarland—107 yards on 11 carries—the rest of the backfield couldn’t step up. Ty Johnson had 23 yards on six attempts; Tayon Fleet-Davis’ only touch went for no gain.
On drive after drive, the Terps either followed unproductive runs with unproductive passes or vice versa. This led to six three-and-outs and eight total punts. That’s how Temple ran 80 plays to Maryland’s 52 and held the ball for 36:33.
“I did a bad job as the offensive coordinator today,” Canada said. “There’s no way in the world our defense should be on the field this much. That’s the bottom line. That’s the story.”
Maryland finishes non-conference play 2-1, but this is the kind of embarrassment that can knock a team right back to square one. It’s not like last year, where the Terps essentially folded after Hill went down in the first quarter against UCF. The line and backfield injuries are worrisome, but most of the key pieces from the two wins were still in place. It’s one thing to close a few leaks here and there; it’s another when the boat breaks in half and capsizes.
“We just weren’t clicking, and I take the blame for that,” Canada said. “There has to be a reason. I don’t know what it was.”
Minnesota comes to town in one week for the Big Ten opener. The Terps know another dud is likely to prompt an even worse blowout. This team has battled through plenty of adversity and outside noise already, but how Maryland responds to this outing could set the tone for the rest of the season.
And Canada knows he needs to be the catalyst.
“Everything we did was bad. I called every play and I should’ve called a whole bunch of different ones because they didn’t work,” he said. “So ultimately, that’s it. I did a bad job.”