Temple Football vs. Maryland is a ‘must win’

After an 0-2 start, the football team needs to right the ship before conference play.

Senior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin lays on the ground while University at Buffalo sophomore wide receiver Antonio Nunn celebrates a fourth-quarter touchdown in Buffalo’s 36-29 win against Temple on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Not many teams face a must-win situation heading into their third game.

But after a rough 0-2 start with losses to Villanova and the University at Buffalo, Temple University’s upcoming game against a Big Ten Conference opponent is as close to as a must win as it can get.

If the Owls lose to the University of Maryland on Saturday, they won’t lose any ground in the conference standings. In fact, they will theoretically still have a chance to win the American Athletic Conference championship. But an 0-3 start would make the rest of the season an uphill climb for Temple to play in a bowl game.

“Being 0-2 never happened to me since I’ve been here, but we just got to overcome that adversity,” senior safety Delvon Randall said. “There’s ups and downs in football throughout the season. …We can always come back and try to win one every week.”

In 2017, Temple finished the regular season with a 6-6 record, but it needed a win in the final week against Tulsa to become bowl eligible. If the Owls have an 0-3 start, they will need to go 6-3 in the final nine games of the season to reach that mark.

A 6-6 record, however, doesn’t guarantee Temple a bowl game. In 2014 under former coach Matt Rhule, the Owls finished 6-6 and earned bowl eligibility, but they didn’t receive an invitation to a postseason game.  The 2014 team lost five of its final seven games, which won’t be the case if this year’s team is to qualify for a bowl.

In 2010, under former coach Al Golden, Temple went 8-4 and missed out on a bowl game. That season, the Owls lost their only matchup against a Power Five school, a 22-13 loss to Penn State. Plus, they lost their final two games.

After Saturday’s game against Maryland, the Owls will play eight conference games and Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, Boston College. If the Owls lose to Maryland, that means they cannot lose more than three games to become bowl eligible. Temple lost to conference opponents Houston, Central Florida and South Florida last season, and those three teams still await the Owls later in the season.

The American is much stronger than years past. Houston, South Florida, Cincinnati and East Carolina have beaten Power Five programs this year. Central Florida is No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, while South Florida and Houston received votes. Also, Tulsa and Tulane have one-possession losses to the University of Texas and Wake Forest University, respectively.

Last season, the American was 7-13 against Power Five schools and the University of Notre Dame, but it is 4-3 this year.

Maryland is a Power Five opponent, and a win against the Terrapins won’t only give the Owls their first win, but confidence heading into their conference opener against Tulsa on Sept. 20.  

If it loses to Maryland, Temple will be required to have a winning record in during its conference schedule, which has four teams that it lost to in 2017.

The ESPN broadcast crews for the Buffalo and Villanova games said the Owls were losing the line-of-scrimmage battle. Those two teams have rushed for a combined 303 yards on Temple, while the Owls were only able to gain 161. Maryland rushed for 587 yards in its first two games.

In the offseason, defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said Maryland is “one of the more physical teams” on the Owls’ schedule.

The Terrapins’ defense has seven sacks, three interceptions and one forced fumble to start the season.

The Owls’ offense has struggled to find its identity, and a good performance against a Big Ten defense could help them find it.

A win against Maryland would mean Temple stopped the run, protected its quarterback and minimized mistakes, which the Owls have struggled to do.

If Temple leaves College Park, Maryland, with a win, it will be 1-2 with a win against a good Power Five opponent. If they lose, the Owls may face the possibility of missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2014.

It is still a long season, as Temple has 10 games left to play. But the Owls need a strong performance, preferably a win, against Maryland to get their 2018 season back on track.

To turn things around from an 0-2 start, graduate student quarterback Frank Nutile believes it starts in the film room.

“Just come in [Sunday], watch some tape, evaluate it, and make our corrections,” he said. “Stick together and cap the week we have with a great week of practice. Maryland is a really good team, and we can’t mope about it, we have to go in and ready to attack it.”

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