It's not hyperbole to say that Temple saved its season with Saturday's 35-14 win at Maryland. The Owls appeared both elated and relieved that they came up with the kind of performance that they expected from themselves in losing the first two games. Here are five observations from the win.
Temple coaches and players say they approach each game the same, but Saturday's win was an example that refutes that theory. The Owls played with much more urgency, realizing that if they started 0-3, their season would be down the tubes. The defense set the tone during a 7-0 first quarter, recording four sacks and allowing just 21 yards of total offense. The sense of urgency was reflected in the play- calling, where chances were taken, especially on the fake punt that resulted in a 36-yard scoring pass from Todd Centeio to Freddie Johnson.
After the game, Temple graduate student defensive tackle Michael Dogbe acknowledged that this was his best game with the Owls. Dogbe had seven tackles, including three for loss and 2.5 sacks, while also forcing two fumbles. He is not as much of a vocal leader, but somebody who leads by more by example.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Dogbe, who is the strongest player on the team, simply couldn't be moved. It's not that Dogbe didn't perform in the first two games, with nine tackles, including two tackles for loss. But like his team, there was even more urgency in Dogbe's performance, which should have him up for American Athletic Conference defensive player of the week.
The most impressive part of Anthony Russo's first start at quarterback was the way he bounced back from throwing a pick-six. Maryland got back into the game, 14-7 on Darnell Savage's 23-yard interception return in the second quarter for a touchdown. On the next series, Russo drove the team 65 yards in 11 plays, capped by Rob Ritrovato's 2-yard touchdown run with just seven seconds left in the first half. In the series, Russo completed passes of 12 yards to Ventell Bryant and 10 yards to Branden Mack that gave the Owls first downs.
Savage, among the more accomplished safeties in college football, jumped the route and it was a good learning experience for Russo. That mistake aside, he showed that he can lead this offense, having completed 15 of 25 for 228 yards one touchdown and one interception.
While all indications are that injured quarterback Frank Nutile could return by Thursday's home AAC opener with Tulsa, Russo showed the Owls and himself that he can capably lead this team.
The Owls are banged up at defensive end, with Dana Levine injured and Quincy Roche playing hurt but still being able to contribute. On Saturday, junior linebacker Sam Franklin (6-2, 210) started at defensive end. While Franklin can't line up at defensive end the entire game, he gives the Owls an element of speed on the rush. He also played outside linebacker and he is the nickel linebacker, with the ability to cover even receivers. Few players can take on much bigger offensive tackles, while running evenly with receivers or running backs in pass coverage.
Franklin finished with a team-high eight tackles, including one tackle for loss and his ability to give the Owls snaps at defensive end was huge.
Executing a game plan
Maryland had rushed for 444 yards in the previous week's 45-14 win at Bowling Green. The Terrapins finished with 132, with a 4.3 average against Temple, but that is deceptive. Of that total, 44 yards came at the end of the game, with the Terps trailing 35-14.