Following a game that featured five fumbles, seven penalties, an interception, a blocked field goal and a plethora of missed opportunities, a week off before taking on its biggest rival may be exactly what the football team needs.
Temple (1–1) lost to Maryland (2–0) 36–27 last weekend in a game that was as puzzling as it was memorable for the wrong reasons.
The Owls were outscored 26–3 in the first half before answering with a 24–3 run in the second half that ultimately fell short because of too many mistakes on offense and big plays allowed on defense.
The Owls will have a bye week before they travel to State College, Pa., on Sept. 22 to take on Penn State in an always highly anticipated matchup.
For redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer, the bye week is an opportunity to have more time to review and correct his team’s mistakes.
“It can be very helpful if you treat it the right way,” Coyer said. “If you don’t treat it right, it can definitely hurt you.”
Coach Steve Addazio said his concern with any bye week after a loss is a tendency to focus too much on the previous game and not enough on the next one.
“You don’t want to knee jerk to this loss, and grind your team so they don’t have the ability to come back and fight two weeks from now,” Addazio said. “I won’t do that. I will take advantage of the extra time to get some fundamentals and to specifically work with some younger players that we’re trying to get into the game.”
“In a bye week, you want to get the jump on your opponent,” Addazio added. “You want to work on fundamentals.”
Fundamentally, the Owls have a lot to improve on from the Maryland game.
Temple was called for a block in the back on the game’s opening kickoff. Senior running back Matt Brown lost a fumble on the following play, and Coyer lost another on the Owls’ next possession. Two possessions, two turnovers.
It was the beginning of what ended up being the ugliest half of football that Temple has played under Addazio since he arrived in December 2010.
There were four fumbles and five penalties for 60 yards. There was a botched snap that led to a Temple safety. Overall, the Owls gained 28 yards on offense in the first half. They attempted three passes and completed one for six yards. At the break, Temple was down 26-3.
“We just came out and played lazy,” senior placekicker Brandon McManus said. “I don’t know why that is the case, but we knew they were coming up here for a revenge game. They are a young team and an athletic team. They just played harder than us.”
“We were very sloppy and we didn’t come out as fired up as we should have been,” Coyer said. “We came out very slow.”
Addazio said the message at halftime was to pick up the passing game and eliminate the lackadaisicalness that crippled the team in the first half hour.
“I said we have to move the ball downfield,” Addazio said. “We are down too many points. Throw it down the field, that was the one thing for offense. For defense, we had to get off the field on third down.”
“Also, we needed energy and passion,” Addazio added. “We are the ones that created the adversity.”
The adversity that Temple created for itself seemed to transfer directly to the other sideline in the second half. Maryland lost a fumble on its first play from scrimmage, leading to a series of the Terrapins’ own mistakes that led to them being outscored 24-10 in the second half.
Ultimately, the Owls gave themselves a chance to win with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter when they pulled within two points on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Coyer to sophomore wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick.
But on the ensuing drive, Temple made its last costly mistake of the game by giving up a 38-yard play downfield on third and long to a pair of Maryland freshmen. The touchdown that capped off that drive sealed it for the Terrapins.
Redshirt-freshman linebacker Nate D. Smith said that not getting Maryland off the field on third downs was something that cost the team all game.
“That played a big part today,” Smith said. “That was the key right there. That was [the defense’s] prerogative, so we could get the ball back.”
Smith said that giving up big plays, a problem in the team’s season opener to Villanova, too, is something the defense will be working on in the extra time off before Penn State.
“I think we all need this bye week,” Smith said. “We’ll get to the drawing board and get back to work. Everybody has to do their job.”
McManus said his focus is on putting this game behind him and getting back on the practice field.
“I’m sure we want to get back out there,” McManus said. “We’re disappointed in this loss, but we’ll get back out there and get ready for Penn State in two weeks.”
Temple (1-1) will travel to Penn State (0-2) to face the Nittany Lions on Sept. 22. In the 81-year history of the rivalry, Temple has never defeated Penn State on the road.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @joey_cranney.