Temple (1-0) hosts one of college football’s most noteworthy teams through two weeks on Saturday in the 2-0 Maryland Terrapins. After a dominant 79-0 shutout over Howard (0-2), the Terrapins followed up their blowout win with a 63-20 shellacking of previously ranked Syracuse (1-1). Their explosiveness has garnered them a No. 21 AP ranking heading into Week 3, and Temple head coach Rod Carey addressed how they hope to contain Maryland’s high-octane offense, which has rattled off 636.5 yards per game.
Slowing the Running Game
One of Carey’s chief priorities in Saturday’s nonconference bout is limiting Maryland’s running game. Carey noted how pivotal gaining yards on the ground is to amplifying areas such as play-action, RPOs (run-pass options), and passing. Temple allowed just 21 rushing yards, including a botched snap that resulted in a 20-yard loss, to Bucknell in their opener, but Maryland is a different beast. They’re averaging 335.5 yards on the ground.
While he’s part of a talented committee, sophomore running back Anthony McFarland Jr. (20 rushes for 93 yards and four touchdowns) is Terrapins head coach Mike Locksley’s most dangerous weapon out of the backfield. At the one-minute, six-second mark of his highlight video against Syracuse, McFarland puts the contain defender on skates with a cut upfield en route to 20-yard touchdown.
McFarland pairs elite agility with sneaky power in his 5’9″, 198-pound frame and is exceptional in space. Carey’s approach to limit Maryland’s dynamo is sound tackling.
“They’re really good backs. Getting them to the ground,” Carey said. “I don’t think their plays are exotic for what college football is right now. I think they have well thought-out schemes, [they’re] well coached with really good players executing them. The challenge in there is to meet the thought-out schemes, to meet the coaching, and then the last part… just get the good running backs on the ground.”
Maryland boasts three junior running backs in Jake Funk, Javon Leake, and Tayon Fleet-Davis who’ve eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark this season. Saturday will present a thrilling clash between Temple’s linebackers and Maryland’s running backs.
How seniors Sam Franklin and Shaun Bradley, graduate student Chapelle Russell, and redshirt junior Isaiah Graham-Mobley fare in space and in the box will impact Saturday’s matchup. They not only need to diagnose and create an angle to the ball carrier, but the Owls’ second line on defense has to wrap up at the point of attack.
Maryland primarily runs from the spread formation and it’ll be interesting to see how Temple mixes and matches up when the Terrapins opt for a 10-personnel (one running back, four wide receivers) attack. When do they feel comfortable playing Franklin or one of their outside linebackers on a slot receiver? Saturday will be an interesting chess match between those two areas.
Another duel that’ll commence is between a pair of redshirt juniors in Temple quarterback Anthony Russo and Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson. Russo’s timing and awareness shined against Bucknell, as he threw for 409 yards and four touchdowns, to just one interception, on 32-of-41 passing.
Jackson has rebounded from a season-ending injury he suffered early last season with an efficient seven-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. He shredded Syracuse’s defense via intermediate passes, finishing 28-for-39 with 330 yards, and can even cause damage passing out of read option keepers.
Carey lauded Jackson’s decision-making and hopes his defense can bring enough pressure to force Jackson to move around in the pocket. Temple EDGE Quincy Roche (redshirt junior) would be the primary catalyst in accomplishing Carey’s motive.
Temple also needs to limit Maryland outside linebacker Keandre Jones (senior). Jones registered eight tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble against Syracuse and is the Terrapins’ edge rushing 3-4 outside linebacker. His edge speed and ability to bend at his length (6’3″) and weight (220 pounds) are nightmarish traits for Temple’s tackles to try and mitigate.
Carey might have to send additional help in Jones’ direction.
“There’s only a few ways you can really stop a dominant edge rusher and that’s doubling him with some O-lineman, double him with a tight end and a tackle, or double him with a running back and a tackle,” Carey said. “Maybe move the launch point a little bit. Those are what you can do, along with run the ball because then you’re not throwing it, and he doesn’t have a chance of getting you in a sack. We’re going to have to do all of those things, and he’s a really good football player.”
Surviving the Spread
Although containing Jones will be a chore, Maryland’s money-maker is their spread offense. Despite completing just 58.1 percent of his passes, Jackson can gash your defense on intermediate routes, and he’ll have a copious amount of reads to turn to in Locksley’s spread attack. Temple’s ability to close and bring down men in space will be crucial while starting corners Linwood Crump (senior) and Ayron Monroe (graduate student) are facing a sizable test on Saturday.
McFarland’s track athlete speed allows him to outrun defenses when there’s no defender between him and the end zone. He can also bounce outside and zip past the contain defender for a solid gain. McFarland might be Maryland’s biggest threat on both sides of the ball. Franklin and Bradley’s closing speed and overall quickness provides optimism for Temple’s defense.
Temple can win their second game against a ranked team in a span of eight games. Limiting one of the country’s most lethal offenses thus far will be challenging but necessary to pull off an upset. Temple and Maryland clash at 12:00 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field.