Terps not intimidated by 'Temple Tough'
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The last time No. 21 Maryland took the field against Temple it was a game for the Terps to forget, and, by all accounts, they have.
With a new coaching staff, new culture, and several new playmakers on the roster in College Park, Maryland’s 35-14 loss to the Owls last season seems irrelevant as the Terps prepare to head to Philly for a rematch this Saturday.
A 2018 season of turmoil was epitomized by the embarrassing home loss for the Terps, but they’re not focusing on the past. Instead, they’re looking to keep the momentum they’ve built in their 2-0 start alive.
“We’re just looking forward to this week, we’re not worried about the past,” Terps sophomore tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo said Tuesday. “We’re trying to focus this week on the task at hand. We’re just going to practice as hard as we can and play to our standard. We know it was not a pretty game last year; it was a really ugly game. But we play to a standard and practice to a standard everyday, so we’re not even thinking about last year; we’re thinking about what we can do this year.”
Okonkwo added that he sees a different mentality in his teammates this year than what was present during Maryland’s debacle against Temple last season. This year, he has no worries about how prepared he and his teammates will be on Saturday.
“We already know as a team that we weren’t prepared as we needed to be going into that game; our mindset wasn’t there,” Okonkwo said. “We’re locked in every week for every game now. We practice to a standard and play to a standard.”
Okonkwo was there to experience the blowout loss to Temple last year; Maryland head coach Mike Locksley was not. However, Locksley is familiar with Temple’s approach as a team and its Philly-oriented mantra of ‘Temple Tough.’
“I think the big thing with them is just the mentality of where they're located,” Locksley said. “I mean, much like how I like to take pride in being from the DMV. We're kind of in one of those areas of the country that kind of keeps a chip on our shoulder at that. We're always fighting for anything we get. I think of those Philly born and bred, I think back to the boxers that are from the Philly era, and how tough and hard-nosed they are. I think that is the temperament of that city. And I think they've embraced that toughness.”
Locksley is also familiar with Owls head coach Rod Carey, who coached at Northern Illinois while Locksley was on the Illinois staff.
“I've seen [Carey’s] teams at Northern Illinois when I was at Illinois and having followed their program some,” Locksley said. “They're always really well coached, they really play hard.”
Under the direction of Carey for the first year, Temple’s toughness as a team stems from their defense, more specifically a stout front seven that gave the Terps’ offensive line all kinds of problems last year.
“I know their front seven is very good,” Terps quarterback Josh Jackson said. “Their best players are in their front seven and I’ve heard from guys on the team that their defensive line is going to be one of the best we face. So they have a great defense and they kind of just run what they run, nothing too exotic; they just play good defense.”
But in Temple’s 56-12 season-opening win over Bucknell two weeks ago, the Owls’ offense was just impressive as their defense thanks to a stellar performance by junior quarterback Anthony Russo, who completed 32-of-41 attempts for 409 yards and four touchdowns.
“[Russo] can make all the throws; big arm, not very mobile in the pocket,” Terps senior cornerback Marcus Lewis said. “I think we can put some pressure on him and make him move around a little bit, make him uncomfortable. But I think he’s a good quarterback.”
While Maryland has received solid play from its starting quarterback this season, the Terps have also gotten backup Tyrrell Pigrome involved at points in each of their first two games.
Pigrome is questionable heading into Saturday’s matchup with Temple after experiencing back spasms earlier in the week, but Locksley said his outlook has been improving and he expects him to be available against the Owls.
“Right now, I think he’ll play,” Locksley said. “[Pigrome] came out and we tried to get his back warmed up but he had back spasms and it just locked up on him [Tuesday], but he practiced [Wednesday] some; he’s still a little tight. But my expectation is that we’ll rehab him and treat it and hopefully we can get a little bit more out of him tomorrow, more than we did today. And hopefully the bus trip up doesn’t affect it, but we’re going to travel him and the expectations are that he’ll be available.”
Terps starting right tackle Marcus Minor also missed some practice time this week with an undisclosed injury, but Locksley also expects him to be ready by Saturday. Grad-transfer outside linebacker Shaq Smith missed last week’s contest against Syracuse because of a groin injury that made him a game-time decision, but he returned fully to practice this week and is a go for Saturday barring any setbacks.
Kickoff between No. 21 Maryland and Temple at Lincoln Financial Field is scheduled for 12 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on the Maryland Sports Radio Network and televised on the CBS Sports Network. Saturday’s Terps captains will be Tyler Mabry on offense, Keandre Jones on defense and then Jake Funk on special teams.