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Fear the Turtle: Temple Faces Toughest Test of the Season at Maryland

Sep 23, 2011, 7:54 PM EDT

Though last week's matchup against Penn State was widely considered the benchmark in determining the progress of this Temple program, it's the Maryland Terrapins who present the biggest challenge the Owls are expected to face in 2011.

COLLEGE PARK — Though last week’s matchup against Penn State was widely considered the benchmark in determining the progress of this Temple program, it’s the Maryland Terrapins who present arguably the biggest challenge the Owls are expected to face in 2011. This is the second game of a tough three week stretch for Temple, having lost to Penn State last week and having to host Toledo—their next largest threat—next week.

Kickoff for the Owls (2-1) and Terps (1-1) is scheduled for exactly 12:29 p.m. and can be watched on NBC Philadelphia Non-Stop (channel 248 on Comcast, 460 on Fios and 10.2 on your digital converter boxes) or online at ESPN3.

The contest pits a fierce Temple defense against one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC.

For Temple, despite losing two high draft picks in Muhammad Wilkerson and Jaiquawn Jarrett, that defense has looked plenty impressive this year, drawing rave, yet frustrated reviews from opposing coaches—including Penn State’s own Joe Paterno. Through the first three games of the season, the Owls have yet to surrender more than fourteen points to any opponent; they’re averaging just eight points allowed per game.

But Maryland isn’t Villanova or Akron or even Penn State. They’re a team putting up more than 475 yards per game and exactly 31.5 points scored. The only reason you aren’t hearing more about their talents is because of the recent fixation on their jerseys. And, in fairness, we’re as guilty as anyone on that front.

Leading the Terps is quarterback Danny O’Brien. In two games, he’s already attempted 96 passes, completing 65. He’s also thrown for 637 yards. Fortunately, if there is a hole in the Terrapin attack, it can be found in O’Brien’s early season touchdown to interception ratio. The sophomore is currently a minus-2, throwing for two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Even if the Owls manage to slow down or intercept O’Brien, they’ll still have to contain Davin Meggett. The senior rusher is averaging over 5 yards a carry and over 100 yards per game in 2011.

The key to stopping Maryland will be strong coverage down the field on receiver Kevin Dorsey. Dorsey is Danny O’Brien’s No. 1 target; as such, containing the junior wideout will presumably limit O’Brien options and possibly force him into windows he wouldn’t otherwise test. If the Owls can disrupt the Maryland passing attack and take a ball or two away from O’Brien, they’ll gladly take their chances on the running back, who appears in this case to be the lesser of the two evils.

All of this, unfortunately for Temple, is far easier said than done. The defense has held its own so far in 2011, but this is a far different test than anything they’ve seen before, or are liable to see for the rest of the season.

Switching to the other side of the ball, Chester Stewart will be the starter at quarterback, though Mike Gerardi is expected to see some time under center. For more on the TU quarterback situation, we refer you to our piece outlining the situation in full from earlier this week.

Finally, for as much as its been the case for the last few seasons, the game once again rests on the shoulders of running back Bernard Pierce. Without Bernard breaking his way into the second level, chances are that it won’t matter exactly who is handing him the ball, be it Gerardi, Stewart, Coyer or even Granger.

The members of the defense are sure to have their hands full; now, its up to offense not to let them down, as it did against Penn State last week.

In closing, we leave you with this selection from the artist “Spady.” We’re not totally sure what, if any relationship Spady has to the U of M, but we did come across this track entitled “Blame the Cake” off his “Maryland Terrapin Mixtape.”

Give it up for Spady…