Fake punt TD propels Temple football to win against Maryland

Temple opened the scoring during Saturday’s 35-14 win against the University of Maryland at Maryland Stadium with a fake punt for a 36-yard touchdown.

Fans react as redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Freddie Johnson (left) scores on a fake punt play during Temple's 35-14 win against the University of Maryland on Saturday at Maryland Stadium. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND — For the third straight game, Temple University’s football team recorded a touchdown on special teams.

The first two came off blocked kicks, but Saturday’s fake punt score against the University of Maryland was the most creative yet. It was the first time Temple (1-2) scored first in a game this season and helped the team to a 35-14 win against the Terrapins (2-1) at Maryland Stadium.

With two minutes, 39 seconds left in the first quarter and the score tied at zero, Temple faced fourth-and-8 at the Maryland 36-yard line and came onto the field after a timeout in punt formation.

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Todd Centeio lined up in the backfield just to the left of the long snapper. He took the direct snap, rolled to his right and hit redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Freddie Johnson for a 36-yard touchdown.

“I dont think [Maryland] expected it,” Johnson said. “So I released on them and I got wide open and raised my hand.”

The Owls originally lined up in an offensive formation before coach Geoff Collins called a timeout.

During the timeout, Temple had its the offensive and punt units on the field to cause “indecision” on Maryland’s end, Collins said.

“As a defensive, if you see two huddles, you’re not really sure what to do,” Collins said. “Then when we brought on the punt team so they relaxed because they thought we were going just punt it or pooch it.”

Collins said it was the “perfect timing” to call the fake punt play because of the Owls’ field position, the way they were driving down the field and the score of the game.

Centeio’s first read on the play was senior safety Delvon Randall, who was running a crossing route about 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. But Maryland’s coverage sunk down to close off Randall’s route, which left Johnson wide open for his first career touchdown.

Centeio also recorded his first career touchdown pass. He and redshirt sophomore Anthony Russo, who started in place of injured graduate student Frank Nutile, handled quarterback duties.

“I think [Centeio] expected me to get open and just looked for me right away,” Johnson said. “When he saw me raise my hand, he just threw it and I made a play.”

When Temple practices the fake punt play, senior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin runs the route Johnson ran on Saturday, Johnson said. During the timeout huddle, Johnson learned he’d run it instead.

“I was like, ‘I am about to score,’” Johnson said. “That’s exactly what I said. ‘I got to get a touchdown, I got to.’”

Johnson’s touchdown gave Temple its first first-quarter lead since Adonis Jennings’ touchdown catch with less than two minutes left in the Owls’ win against Tulsa on Nov. 25, 2017.

Graduate student defensive tackle Michael Dogbe, who had 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, said the fake punt gave the Owls’ defense motivation to play their best game of the season. Temple held Maryland to 1-for-12 on third-down opportunities and didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in the game, marking the first time since Nov. 19, 2016 against Tulane the team accomplished that feat.

“It really got the defense fired up,” Dogbe said. “We knew if we got points on the board and continued to play the way we were playing then this is going to be our game. So that was really huge for us.”

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