PHILADELPHIA -- Maryland football took the field in Philadelphia Sept. 14 with a 2-0 record, a No. 21 ranking and the nation's top scoring offense. The Terps left Lincoln Financial Field with a gut-punch 20-17 loss to Temple, crashing back down to earth after a sensational start to the 2019 season.
The No. 21 Terps, who had scored 79 and 63 points in their first two contests, never found a rhythm Sept. 14. They scored two points in the first half, and after hanging around and taking the lead in the third period, they couldn't close out a win. Maryland tallied just 13 yards of offense in the fourth quarter, coming up empty with goal-to-go twice in the final minutes.
Quarterback Josh Jackson struggled, completing just 15 of his 38 attempts for 183 yards, tossing a touchdown and an interception. Running back Anthony McFarland rushed for 132 yards on 26 carries, but the Terps could only muster 161 rushing yards as a team and averaged 4.0 yards per play in the game.
This game featured 16 punts, four turnovers, two missed field goals, eight unsuccessful fourth downs, two Maryland safeties and five scattered touchdowns. Here's what stood out.
1. Maryland's red-zone offense couldn't get the job done.
The Terps had fourth down near the goal line three times. They handed it to Anthony McFarland each time. He converted once, but on a pair of fourth-and-goals from the 1-yard line, the offensive line couldn't get enough push for the redshirt sophomore. One more conversion and this entire story is different.
"It's frustrating," McFarland said after the game. "We was moving the ball all day inside the red zone, we had a chance to punch it in a whole bunch of times and just didn't execute."
After Temple forced a stop with 3:27 remaining in regulation, Maryland's defense answered with a three-and-out, and a shanked punt gave the Terps the ball right back at the 10-yard line. But three incomplete passes, a short run and a false start later, Maryland came up empty when it mattered most.
Senior right guard Terrance Davis came off the field with an injury in the second quarter and didn't return -- head coach Michael Locksley doesn't know the severity, but fears it's "something knee-related." Converted defensive tackle Austin Fontaine replaced him. It's hard to know whether Davis' absence played a direct role in the short-yardage failures, and Maryland won't make excuses, but it's worrisome for the future.
2. The defense had a couple of gaffes too many.
Temple scored twice without entering the red zone. On the Owls' opening drive, quarterback Anthony Russo found a wide-open Isaiah Wright for a 29-yard score. Russo then connected with Jadan Blue in the third quarter, and with Antoine Brooks Jr. falling down and Jordan Mosley in poor position, Blue scampered in for a 79-yard touchdown.
The Maryland defense kept bouncing back, but a pair of flags on Tino Ellis made the difference on Temple's go-ahead drive. The senior cornerback was called for pass interference to bring the Owls into the red zone, then for holding on a third down that set up first-and-goal. That drive culminated in Russo's 7-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Yeboah, which proved to be the winner.
"I thought the defense was its own worst enemy in the second half," Locksley said. "You've got to get off the field on third down."
3. Special teams were a roller coaster.
Terps kicker Joseph Petrino missed a 42-yard field goal in the middle of the first quarter, his first attempt of the season. To make matters worse, though, the sophomore injured his groin on the play and couldn't kick for the rest of the game. That played a role in the decision to fake a kick in the second quarter (
it didn't go well
), and Paul Inzerillo went 1-for-2 on extra points in the second half.
The true freshman punting duo, meanwhile, had a solid but confusing day. Right-footed Anthony Pecorella and lefty Colton Spangler both wore No. 99 (Pecorella is usually No. 98), and both averaged 42.8 yards per punt. It's unclear whether this rotation will continue out of the bye week, but punting suddenly isn't the most pressing area of special teams concern.
Punt returns were a bright spot. Senior DJ Turner's 55-yard runback in the fourth quarter gave Maryland first-and-goal at the Owls' 4-yard line, and after the Terps came up short, Temple's next punt was shanked from its 3-yard line to its 10. The first safety also came on an Owls punt, as a poor snap dribbled out of the end zone.
4. This game was ugly for a long time.
After Temple scored on its opening drive, the only points for the rest of the first half came via a Maryland safety when the Owls botched a snap on an end-zone punt. The score was 7-2 at halftime, with Maryland's first offensive points coming at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter.
In that first half, the Terps averaged a paltry 3.72 yards per play (Temple averaged 4.83). Josh Jackson started 2-of-8 and was 9-of-25 through the air for 96 yards entering intermission. Several ingredients played into that -- from lackluster pass protection to drops to general inaccuracy -- but after a strong pair of outings to start the season, this was a severe regression for the Virginia Tech transfer.
"It all comes back to me," Jackson said. "There was good play calls. It was just me not executing very well."
Maryland started the football game 0-for-9 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down. Temple, meanwhile, entered the half 0-for-7 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth. That's a combined 0-for-21. And these numbers don't even include missed field goals by both sides or the punt-attempt-turned-safety. Both teams picked up a couple of conversions in the second half, but missed opportunities still stole the spotlight.
5. The season outlook has hit the reset button.
Maryland finished nonconference play 2-1, a predictable record coming in preposterous fashion. The Terps are idle next week, giving them 13 days to figure out what went wrong against Temple and prepare for No. 13 Penn State on Friday, Sept. 27.
That game was shaping up to be perhaps the most electric football atmosphere in College Park, Md., this decade. Maryland announced it would need temporary bleachers due to the surplus of student ticket requests. Maybe that environment still comes to fruition. But it's suddenly in question.
Locksley stayed level-headed in his press conference.
"Our season isn't defined by one win or one loss," he said.
The bye week will allow Maryland to regroup and correct the issues that arose Sept. 14 after being absent in the first two games. But when the Terps take the field again, they'll have a long road ahead of them.
Follow Thomas on Twitter @TKendziora37
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox