The Temple Owls will travel down I-95 for their third of four out-of-conference games when they take on the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday. It will be the ninth meeting between the two programs, and first since 2012.
Dave Lomonico of Terrapin Times, the home of the Terps at Scout.com, answered a few questions about how Maryland has looked in their first two games, as well as an update on the weather that’s scheduled to impact most of the East Coast.
What is the vibe around the team right now? It was an offseason full of controversy, but they’ve jumped out to a 2-0 start with that win over Texas.
Currently, there seems to be a guarded optimism surrounding this Maryland team. For anyone that follows Terps’ football, clearly they had talent, but there was uncertainty how they’d respond in the wake of the allegations surrounding the program; the death of teammate Jordan McNair; and the like. So far, they’ve answered the bell, although it is only two games (and Texas doesn’t look to be as strong as national prognosticators surmised in the preseason). We’ll have a better sense how good this team is once they hit the Big Ten portion of the schedule.
That said, regardless of how Maryland performs from here on out, there’s going to be that white elephant in the room. The players say they’re blocking out the noise, but fact remains their head coach, DJ Durkin, remains on administrative leave. Plus, there are ongoing investigations into McNair’s death. The old adage goes that “winning cures all,” but I’m not sure it can cure everything in this case. Most are aware there will be a fallout of some sort, which is leaving them somewhat leery about the future.
Is Matt Canada helping his image to becoming a future head coach? Not only has the offense looked good in the first two games, but he’s had to take over the reins as the public speaker for this program.
There is no doubt about that. Canada has always put together solid offenses, but, for a variety of reasons (i.e. wanted to take a step up from Pitt, reportedly clashed with Ed Orgeron at LSU), hasn’t stuck around at one locale for more than a couple years. His constant shifting is somewhat of a concern, but fact is his system works, which is why he keeps getting offensive coordinator jobs.
This year, though, he’s been thrown into the position of an acting head coach -- and he’s handled it with aplomb. He’s comfortable in front of the camera, doesn’t dodge questions, and seems to answer genuinely and honestly. It helps that he’s self-effacing (“I’m just the offensive coordinator” is his mantra) and has said all the right things in regards to DJ Durkin and the team. We’ll see if it holds up – Durkin was lauded after two games last year too, and then proceeded to lose to UCF, Ohio State and Northwestern and folks began grumbling – but right now Canada’s certainly improved his stock.
And with that said, what’s the status of D.J. Durkin? The September 15 deadline is right around the corner.
Although several former players have come to Durkin’s defense, and although the ESPN report condemning him seems to have been overblown, there’s still a sense that he won’t be returning to the sidelines at Maryland Stadium. The die was cast back in August, when he was placed on administrative leave. There’s just too much controversy surrounding Durkin and the program for him to come back and be the face of UMD football. And ask yourself this: How’s he going to go into a family’s living room and tell a mother and father their son will be well taken care of? Even if he’s totally cleared of wrongdoing, it’s a tough sell to recruits knowing a player died with him at the helm.
Has there been any talk about moving this game up or canceling because of the hurricane?
We were told the game would go on as scheduled a couple days ago, even when it seemed Florence would douse the D.C. area on Saturday. But it might be a moot point, because now it actually looks like the hurricane will head out towards the Atlanta area. It could simply be overcast skies in College Park come game time.
Who has been the Terps unsung hero in each side of the ball so far?
The defense has been stellar thus far, and one of the main reasons for that is the arrival of defensive end transfer Byron Cowart and the return of BUCK (hybrid defensive end/rush linebacker) Jesse Aniebonam. Cowart was a former five-star All-American who struggled at Auburn but seems to have re-found his mojo in a new environment. Aniebonam, meanwhile, was UMD’s top edge rusher for two years, but fractured his ankle in the first game last season. His return, coupled with the arrival of the bookend Cowart, has been a boon to Maryland’s pass rush; run defense; and pass defense.
Offensively, it’s hard to pinpoint one “hero” since Matt Canada loves to spread the ball around and so many players have had an impact. The quarterback Kasim Hill has done a great job managing the offense, the five-headed rushing attack has been racking up yards like crazy (Tayon Fleet-Davis has been a huge surprise), and a multitude of receivers have stepped up and made plays (Jeshaun Jones scored three touchdowns on his first three collegiate touches against Texas). Not to mention the offensive line has been playing well; any one of the front five could be considered a “hero” as well.
What is your score prediction?
If it does indeed stay dry, Maryland should cover the 16-point spread, just based on how well the Terps have been playing and how Temple has fared so far. I’ll put it at 30-10 or somewhere around there.
Thanks again to Dave for taking the time to answer a few questions. You can see my Q&A about Temple by clicking here.