Sep 24, 2011, 5:59 PM EDT
COLLEGE PARK — The Temple Owls weren’t going to take last week’s loss to the Nittany Lions laying down. They went out and absolutely rolled the Maryland Terrapins by a final score of 38-7. It is Temple’s first win over an ACC opponent in program history and the first against a BCS opponent on the road since 2002.
A nine-point favorite before the game on their own home field, the Terps looked overmatched on both sides of the football in the first half. The vaunted Maryland offense—averaging just under 500 yards in its first two games—scored only seven points, while the defense failed to in any way contain Temple running back Bernard Pierce.
Oppositely, the Owl D forced quick three-and-outs on Maryland’s first two possessions, allowing the offense to find the end zone twice in the opening minutes of the first quarter. The scoreboard read 14-0 Temple less than seven minutes into the game.
Thanks to a Brandon McManus field goal as time expired at the end of the first half, the Owls would send the Terrapins into the locker room down 31-0 at the middle mark.
All four of Temple’s first half scores came courtesy of Pierce. After sitting out a few plays at the end of the third quarter, BP would score his fifth touchdown of the day to put Temple ahead 38-0 with exactly ten minutes left to play.
The five TDs is a personal best for Pierce and eclipses Matt Brown’s previous Temple record of four touchdowns in one game. The junior rusher currently leads the nation in points scored with 72. He sits now just two scores away from breaking Paul Palmer’s all-time Temple record of 39 rushing touchdowns.
Referencing Palmer’s record, Pierce asked with a smile, “When was that, 1986?”
“[Palmer's] probably going to give me a call once I do it,” Pierce continued. “We still stay in touch. But as far as breaking records, it’s the last thing on my mind. We’re trying to get to the MAC championship game. We’re trying to be a better team than we were last year.”
Under center for the Owls, quarterback Chester Stewart performed as well as he could—literally. Stewart completed all nine of his attempts throwing for a total of 140 yards. The only blemishes on his record came in the form of two Maryland sacks.
Considering Stewart’s inability to move the ball against Penn State last week, and the fact that he lost his job as the starter to Mike Gerardi midway through last season, the decision to play Stewart against Maryland was met with some fair criticism throughout the week. Saturday, the senior quarterback brushed all the skepticism aside and validated his coach’s faith.
“To me, without watching the tape, Chester played a fairly flawless game today,” said Addazio. “And I mean, [he] had a great preseason camp. It wasn’t like he just showed up all of a sudden and started playing.”
Addazio then went on to assess Chester’s improvement over the spring and summer of 2011. “His confidence was not great when I got here, and, quite frankly, his attitude wasn’t great.”
“But, one thing about him is that he loves football. And he’s responded to pretty tough love. And we’ve challenged him. And it hasn’t been perfect. But he keeps responding because I think he has a love of the game and because he’s a good guy. We had to build back his confidence. And he has to take responsibility for that. He created some of his problems, and he knows that and he’s accepted that. I really like the growth that I see in him,” added the coach.
When asked about the “flawless” description, the quarterback downplayed his performance, attributing his success to the play calling.
“I’m content with my performance,” said Stewart. “It may look flawless, but I know I still made some mistakes. Some plays could have hit for big yardage, that I messed up on. I’m just anxious to see the film and correct those mistakes.
It was Chester who, along with tight end Evan Rodriguez, set the tone for the Owls early. Multiple completions on the same play-action roll out to Rodriguez moved Temple down the field, allowing Pierce to finish off drives in the red zone.
Stewart said he was motivated by what he perceived as a lack of respect from the Maryland crowd and team during the pre-game warm ups.
“We all kind of came out with a chip on our shoulders…They didn’t really respect us. They didn’t allow us our half of the field to warm up on. And we really took that to heart.”
Bernard Pierce confirmed the pre-game trash talking. “They were disrespectful to us. There were a couple rude things said. But…if you’re a football player, that’s what you live for. You got to love that and you got to try to prove people wrong. And that’s what we did as a team today.”
The Owls found themselves in a hostile environment versus a high-major conference opponent, and showed that they could do more than just hang with their competition. Given the realignment that’s already begun across the college landscape, and the rumors that have begun swirling about Temple’s future in a BCS conference, the win is obviously an important one for the program.
And, in somewhat poetic fashion, the Owls have once more taken that step forward at the expense of coach Randy Edsall. Before taking his job at Maryland this past off-season, Edsall served as the head coach of the Connecticut Huskies.
Temple’s hard-fought series with UCONN over the past few years has been pointed to as one of the key drivers of renewed local excitement and interest in the program. After losing two close games to Edsall in 2008 and 2009, the Owls broke through in 2010, defeating the bowl-bound Huskies by a final score of 30-16.
Before even taking questions from the media on Saturday, Edsall just laid it on the line, “There is no need to sugarcoat things. We got our butts kicked today.”
Indeed, the only bit of bad news for Temple against Maryland was that wide receiver Rod Streater left the game with an apparent arm injury in the second half. Streater jumped to catch a ball along the sideline and was shoved violently to the ground. The senior wideout was seen walking with his arm in a sling after the game. There is no word on the exact nature or severity of the injury.
The injury aside, the Owls will no doubt celebrate the win. Senior defensive lineman Adrian Robinson called it the biggest in his Temple career. But, in what is becoming his usual fashion, Steve Addazio had already moved on to next week’s home matchup versus Toledo by the time he reached the podium.
“This was a great game, and it’s a great moment for Temple and our players. And I want them to enjoy it,” said Addazio. “But, you know what? We’re home next week against Toledo. It’s a conference game. And they’re a hell of a football team. And they’re not going to care much what happened here today. So we’ve got to be able to enjoy this, separate ourselves from it, and move forward.”
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