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After an embarrassment against Temple, Maryland football pivots to Big Ten play

Our outlook on the Terps with non-conference play in the rearview.

maryland football-iowa-game-preview-stats-game-time Art Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland football is off to a 2-1 start, which isn’t surprising in a vacuum. Normal human logic had the Terps winning two of three against Texas, Bowling Green and Temple. They were double-digit underdogs in the first game and double-digit favorites in the next two.

Except the Terps beat Texas, then ran past Bowling Green, and in the process convinced a lot of people they had turned the corner. Saturday’s performance threw all of that into question.

Maryland had two strong performances before a dud against Temple.

The Terps came out firing against Texas, taking a 24-7 lead in the second quarter. After the Longhorns battled back to take the lead, Maryland showed serious resilience in the final period of a 34-29 win. One bad half against Bowling Green was followed by a great half; Maryland turned a 14-10 halftime deficit into a 45-14 win, running for 444 yards in the process.

And as for Saturday’s game, well......let’s just let these depressing stats tell the story.

  • Maryland had 63 yards of offense through three quarters and 186 total
  • The Terps had eight rushing yards in the first half
  • Temple had seven sacks and Maryland had zero
  • Maryland’s offense went 1-of-12 on third down, mostly because it basically never left itself a manageable distance
  • The Terps never entered the red zone

Kasim Hill going 7-for-17 for just 56 passing yards is perhaps the most alarming subplot. After a strong outing in the opener and a quiet performance in the rain at Bowling Green, the redshirt freshman never found a rhythm. He threw his first career interception—a pick-six—and almost turned it over several other times. Whether Maryland drifts from the current setup, with Hill getting most of the snaps and Tyrrell Pigrome rotating in, remains to be seen, but another game like this could force offensive coordinator and interim head coach Matt Canada to reevaluate the status quo.

The Terps are banged up, but not permanently so.

Maryland’s offensive line has been quietly fighting the injury bug for months, but it didn’t become an issue until Saturday. Terrance Davis, who entered the season with 21 straight starts at right guard, hasn’t played a down on offense (he’s appeared on a couple field goals). Left tackle Derwin Gray missed the first game, played the second and missed the third. Right tackle Damian Prince, who started the first two contests, was also sidelined Saturday. With all three out, Temple torched Maryland for seven sacks and nine tackles for loss.

The Terps were also without two junior running backs in Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk. The former was nursing a hamstring injury and held out for precautionary reasons, while the latter broke his hand in practice the week of the Bowling Green game and is likely to miss more time. Maryland still has a plethora of options in the backfield, but only Anthony McFarland could get anything going against the Owls.

While these injuries are certainly worrisome, there’s a chance most of the players mentioned above are healthy in a few weeks, and some could reasonably play this weekend. This is a key difference from this time last year, when Maryland had just lost its second quarterback to a torn ACL in three weeks.

Maryland’s next test is an unbeaten Minnesota team.

The Golden Gophers have coasted through a soft non-conference schedule. They’ve handled New Mexico State and Miami (OH) with ease, and held off Fresno State in Week 2 thanks to one of the best interceptions I’ve ever seen. It’s tough to say where Minnesota stands in Year 2 under P.J. Fleck, especially after losing senior running back Rodney Smith for the season.

Maryland and Minnesota have split matchups in the last two seasons; last year, the Terps opened conference play with a dramatic 31-24 win on the road. Max Bortenschlager was steady and Ty Johnson broke free for the winning touchdown late. With this year’s game in College Park, most Terps fans expected a win this weekend. But with so much still unknown about both teams, it’s hard to make a prediction with any semblance of confidence.

Adding an extra wrinkle to this, Maryland’s Board of Regents will be briefed on the findings from Walters, Inc.’s investigation into Jordan McNair’s death Friday, then release the information that afternoon. It’s unclear how much we’ll learn on that day and if there will be any immediate consequences, but the proximity of this announcement to Saturday’s kickoff should provide an interesting backdrop regardless.

This is the kind of game that could set the tone for the rest of the season, and it’s anyone’s guess how Maryland responds to the challenge.