Five things to watch for: Temple
TSR takes a look at five storylines to pay close attention to as the Terps travel to Philly to take on Temple for their meeting with the Owls Sept. 14.
Riding a hot start to the season, No. 21 Maryland (2-0) hits the road for the first time Saturday as the Terps look to get revenge on a Temple team that handed them a blowout loss in College Park last year.
Maryland’s offense is currently averaging 71 points per game while its defense is holding opponents to an average of 10. There’s sure to be some regression there, but this is a Terps team that is clearly more equipped to win games that many outside the program thought before the season. Most of that has to do with the play of quarterback Josh Jackson, a prolific backfield, and aggressive defense.
Temple has only played one game so far this year — against Bucknell — and the Owls will be entering Saturday’s contest well-rested and ready to defend their home turf. Quarterback Anthony Russo will look to build upon his 409-yard, four-touchdown performance in the season opener. But, as always, Temple’s calling card is its defense, which features two playmaking transfers in the secondary.
Here are five things to watch when Maryland and Temple take the field on Saturday afternoon.
1. Pressuring Russo
Carrying momentum over from a breakout season last year, Russo’s performance in his team’s season opener was quite impressive. He threw for over 400 yards for the second time in his career — the first coming last year in a loss to UCF — and matched his career-high of four touchdowns against the Bison of Bucknell. Maryland’s defense will be a significant uptick in competition this weekend. Russo has been prone to turnovers throughout his career, especially when pressured. The Terps will look to use its aggressive defensive scheme to its advantage in Philly by bringing pass rushers from all over the field. Getting pressure on Russo will be the key to tempering Temple’s offense. Through two games, Maryland has 12 sacks. The Terps had 18 sacks all last year, so the Owls will be seeing a totally different type of defense on Saturday than what they faced last year.
2. Protecting Jackson
Jackson was not in College Park for the blowout loss to Temple last year, but he said earlier in the week that he has had teammates of his that were coming up to him and saying that the Owls’ defensive line is no joke, one of the best the Terps will see this season. Temple only registered two sacks in its season opener, but the pressure was there throughout the game, forcing Bucknell’s quarterback to dump the ball off while averaging just 4.5 yards per pass attempt. Maryland’s offensive line has only allowed one sack so far this year and it will look to keep up that success Saturday. If Jackson is given a clean pocket to operate out of, he’ll be much more effective in carving up a talented Temple secondary. Getting its backfield going early and often is another way Maryland can protect its quarterback and keep the Owl’s defense honest.
3. Getting Wright
Owls senior wide receiver Isaiah Wright is a jack-of-all-trade for Temple. Against Bucknell, Wright did it all. He had eight receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown while also returning five punts for a total of 40 yards and four kickoffs for another 80 yards. Swarming to the football and gang tackling has been a theme of Maryland’s defense so far this year, and the Terps will have to keep that up Saturday, especially any time Wright has the ball in his hands. He’s also a trick play threat — as was evident when he attempted a pass against Maryland last year. So the Terps are going to have to be aware of where Wright is at all times.
4. Will Pigrome Play?
Not every team gives this much attention to its backup quarterback, but with the injury history Maryland has experienced in recent years at the position, it’s not so abnormal in College Park. It’s particularly relevant seeing as how Terps backup signal caller Tyrrell Pigrome has seen snaps in each of Maryland’s first two games this year. Jackson is clearly the guy and gives the Terps the most dynamic threat and best chance to win, but Pigrome has looked very good in his limited action so far. In fact, head coach Mike Locksley has praised Pigrome for his offseason progress for the last few months. The junior quarterback practiced on a limited basis this week because of back spasms and he is questionable to play on Saturday. However, Locksley said Wednesday that Pigrome has been showing improvement throughout the week and should be available against Temple. If Pigrome plays, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff elects to use him unless they absolutely have to in order to give him a little extra rest.
5. Improvement from Terps' Secondary
There’s not too much negative to take out of Maryland’s 63-20 blowout win over Syracuse last week. But the one glaring concern the Terps have after the game is with the amount of passing yards and big plays down field they allowed against the Orange. Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito set a new career-high for himself with 330 passing yards against the Terps last week, and Russo is arguably a more dangerous passer. Locksley said this week that he hasn’t seen Maryland’s defensive backs getting beat much in practice this week, which is good to hear, but they’ll have to show their improvement on Saturday in order to fully regain trust. The talent is there for Maryland’s secondary; it’s communication issues between two soft-spoken safeties — Antoine Brooks Jr. and Jordan Mosley — where Locksley said he needs to see the most growth.