Rewind to September 2011 when the Owls went into College Park, Md., and absolutely blew up a sloppy Maryland team behind five touchdowns from Bernard Pierce, and a defense that gave up 240 yards. Most of the starters from both teams graduated after the season, and the rosters of both squads have shifted dramatically in just one year.
The Terrapins, led by true freshman quarterback Perry Hills, are a week removed from beating a Football Championship Series team in a 7–6 win, and came into last weekend’s game looking to prove it wasn’t a team that was rebuilding, but competing.
A week after dismantling another FCS team with an almost flawless performance, Temple was looking to show everyone that this team that is back in the Big East Conference is a legitimate competitor.
Neither team accomplished its goal on Saturday, but Temple just somehow managed to look worse doing so in the process.
While the 36–27 contest wasn’t decided until Maryland scored with 2:56 left in the game, the Terrapins touchdown run was more merciful than it was divine. It didn’t prove that Maryland was a better team than Temple, it just proved that their desire to lose the game was slightly less than their competitor. The game was ultimately decided by which team had a worse half. Temple’s first half was worse than Maryland’s second half.
“This was definitely a game where we thought that we came out really sluggish in the first half,” senior wide receiver C.J. Hammond said. “We made too many mistakes, had three turnovers and a lot of penalties. It was hard to come back from that even though we fought really hard in the second half we just made too many mistakes in the first half.”
With two fumbles in the team’s opening two possessions, a missed snap that resulted in a safety and 60 penalty yards, Temple was more self-destructive than overmatched in the first half. Describing the Owls’ start as sluggish would be sugarcoating a sloppy effort, something coach Steve Addazio refused to do.
“We created our own adversity today,” Addazio said. “You have got to learn how to handle it. As ugly as that first half was, we were right back in the game in the third period, that’s football. Every Saturday is going to be a dogfight and there is going to be adversity. This time we just happened to create our own in a huge fashion.”
After a first half that ended about as bad as possible for Temple, whatever Addazio said in the locker room turned the game around for the better part of the second half. The Owls forced a fumble on Maryland’s first play from scrimmage and followed with touchdowns on their next two drives.
However, in a game marred with gaffes, miscues, seven turnovers, 112 penalty yards, a safety, and a blocked kick, Temple was ultimately the worse team. Considering they are playing against a team that really has nowhere to go but up, the Owls showed that they could be going downhill, fast.
If any team needed a slap in the face heading into a bye week, Temple was it, and received a very hard one.
By getting pummeled by a very bad Maryland team, the Owls face perhaps the most important game of the season when they square-off with Penn State in two weeks. If Temple makes a statement in the game, it can prove that it had Villanova hangover against Maryland and will be a competitor in the Big East this season. If the Owls lose to the dismal team Penn State is fielding, they will show that they really haven’t changed much from the 2003 team that was removed from the conference, and it could only be a matter of time before it happens again.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at Ibrahim.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.