Two stops in goal-to-go situations by the Temple Owls defense was the difference as Rod Carey and his squad upset the No. 21 Maryland Terrains, 20-17, at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Maryland forced a three-and-out on a fourth quarter drive and DJ Turner returned the punt 55 yards to the Temple 4-yard line. But the Owls defense stepped up as linebacker Shaun Bradley cruised right through the Maryland offensive line to stop Anthony McFarland on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Bradley had three tackles on the series, including the crucial fourth-down stop.
Temple was forced to punt from their own 3-yard line, and the punt only went seven yards, giving Maryland possession at the 10-yard line with just over three minutes to go. The Terps went backwards on their final possession as a pass to DJ Turner’s foot came down out of bounds on fourth down and Temple held on for the victory.
“It’s a testament to our defensive. Our D-line played excellent today. We pushed back and they just created a lane for me and I did my job,” Bradley told reporters after the game.
It was nowhere near the offensive onslaught that many were expecting as it was sloppy play all around. Special teams highlighted most of the afternoon, and not in the exciting fashion one would expect.
“They were bad is the best way to say it,” Rod Carey said when asked about the special teams.
After an offsides penalty negated the first kickoff of the game, Jacob LaFree pushed his second kickoff out of bounds to give Maryland the ball at the 40-yard line. The Terps first play of game was a 15-yard rush for Anthony McFarland, but Justin Jackson was sacked on the next play by Ifeanyi Maijeh. Terps went for it on fourth down, but the pass was intercepted by Harrison Hand. It was the first interception of Hand’s career at Temple.
It took the Owls just 1:27 on their first drive to pick up points. Russo found Isaiah Wright on the sidelines for a 29-yard touchdown reception that put Temple up, 7-0, early in the first quarter. Temple needed just four plays to go 59 yards for the opening points of the afternoon.
Temple made another stop on defense on Maryland’s second possession, but the Terrapins regained possession as a low punt hit off Freddie Johnson in punt coverage. The Terps quickly got the ball into goal-to-go territory, but the Temple defense was stiff once again as Maijeh made another terrific play on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
However, Maryland still managed to get points in the long run as the Owls went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and the attempt punt went out of bounds for a safety, and a rare 7-2 score midway through the first period.
Maryland had solid field position after a 20-yard return on the kickoff following the safety landed them at the 40-yard line. The Terps moved their way down the field with two rushing plays down the left sideline, but the drive stalled once again as Quincy Roche, a Maryland native, came up with a sack on third down to force a field goal attempt. Maryland kicker Joseph Petrino pushed the kick wide left and Temple took over possession.
The Terps took another drive deep into Temple territory, but the Owls defense stalled them once again on third down. The Terrapins tried a fake field goal, but Hand and Benny Walls did not bite on the fake, stopping the play in the backfield and taking over possession.
The first half ended with the score at 7-2, and it was an ugly game up to that point. The two teams were a combined 2-of-24 on third and fourth downs, with two missed field goals and a bad punt that led to a safety as the main talking points entering the half. Maryland quarterback Justin Jackson, who was off to a blistering start to the season, was just 9-of-25 for 96 yards and the interception in the first half.
The Maryland offense got it going on their first possession of the second half with big chunk plays. A 19-yard completion to DJ Turner got things going for the Terps, and then runs of nine and 33 yards by Anthony McFarland quickly moved them into enemy territory. A pass interference call on Sam Franklin on third down kept the drive alive for Maryland, and McFarland capped the drive off with a four-yard touchdown run to put Maryland up, 9-7. It was an 11-play, 86-yard drive for the Terrapins first touchdown of the game.
The Cherry and White needed just one play to get back in front as Russo found Jadan Blue down the right sideline for 79-yard touchdown reception in which two Maryland tacklers whiffed on the play. Blue, a Randallstown, Maryland native, has gone for over 100 yards and scored a touchdown in both games for the Owls this season. Temple would fail to convert the two-point conversion and held a 13-9 lead with 8:03 remaining in the third quarter.
Maryland regained the lead late in the third quarter as the passing game finally made some plays. Completions of 17 and 22 yards quickly moved the Terps into scoring range, and Jackson found Tyler Mabry for a 17-yard touchdown to make it a 15-13 game. Maijeh continued his spectacular afternoon by blocking the extra point.
Temple regained the lead on a scoring drive in which two penalties on the Maryland defense kept the series alive. A play-action pass had Kenny Yeboah wide open for a seven-yard touchdown grab and Temple took the lead, 20-15 with 7:27 remaining in the contest. The Owls needed 14 plays to go 76 yards for the go-ahead score.
The Owls would stop Maryland on their next two drives with their backs to the wall, forcing Maryland to turn the ball over on downs to preserve the win. Temple deliberately took a safety to end the game to run out the clock.
“It was probably No. 1,” Bradley said about when asked where he would rank this game in his college career. “There was a lot of hype around this game. I don’t talk too much on Twitter and stuff like that, but I see it. It was all this ‘Maryland is going to do this’ and ‘how is Temple going to stop this. There was a lot of hype around it, but it was a fun game too.”
“That’s the best I have seen us fly around and play all together as a unit,” Bradley continued.
Limiting Maryland to 344 total yards of offense makes it hard to argue against him.
Up next for the Owls is a trip to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bulls. The Bulls came into Philadelphia last season and pulled off a shocking 36-29 win over Temple. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 and the game can be seen on ESPNU.