COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Slow starts were the major theme this week for Temple, which struggled in the beginning of games in its first two losses.
The message was heard in a resounding manner.
Despite being a 14.5 point underdog, and playing without injured starting quarterback Frank Nutile, Temple had the type of performance in Saturday's 35-14 win over Maryland at Capital One Field that could turn around a season that had been spiraling downward .
"That was pretty cool, that was pretty cool, man," head coach Geoff Collins said.
This Temple team didn't resemble in the slightest the one that was outplayed in losses to Villanova and Buffalo. And Maryland (2-1) certainly didn't perform like the squad that had beaten Texas and Bowling Green.
Temple had been outscored, 19-3, in the first quarter of the two games. This time, the Owls scored the game's first 14 points and led, 21-7, at halftime.
Paced by defensive tackle Michael Dogbe, the defense was aggressive from the beginning. The Owls, who totaled just two sacks in the first two games, finished with seven, including 2.5 by Dogbe. Maryland was held to 195 total yards.
"We saw that the first two games weren't Temple football," said Dogbe, who had seven total tackles and two forced fumbles.
Nutile suffered an undisclosed injury during the week and was replaced in the starting lineup by Anthony Russo, the strong-armed redshirt sophomore from Archbishop Wood, who saw his first action as a college quarterback while playing two series last week against Buffalo.
The Owls weren't ready to announce who would start at quarterback in Thursday's home game with Tulsa.
"We're not going to get into that," offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. "Frank should be ready to go Thursday night."
Russo completed 15-of-25 passes for 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Ryquell Armstead rushed for 118 yards on 26 carries.
The Owls also used Todd Centeio, their major running threat at quarterback, on occasion to spell Russo. It was Centeio's passing skills that opened the scoring for the Owls.
On a fake punt, Centeio hit Freddie Johnson for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2:33 left in the first quarter.
Johnson said defensive back Rock Ya-Sin was originally supposed to be the receiver on that play, but before the game, the plan changed and Johnson was told to be prepared.
Even though Centeio is a quarterback, he is also one of the up-men on Temple's punt team.
Centeio hit an open Johnson inside the 10-yard line and the redshirt sophomore scooted into the end zone. It was his first touchdown reception and Centeio's first touchdown pass on the fourth-and-8 play.
"I released on them and got wide open and raised my hand, touchdown," said Johnson, who is among Temple's top special teams performers.
Temple went up 14-0 with 6:38 left in the second quarter when 6-foot-1, 330-pound defensive tackle Freddie Booth-Lloyd, who was inserted at fullback scored on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Maryland got back in the game when safety Darnell Savage returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown with 3:32 left in the half.
Russo was looking for Isaiah Wright on an out pattern and Savage jumped the route. It was the third career defensive touchdown for Savage, a 5-11, 200-pound senior from Newark, Del.,who attended Caravel Academy.
After that miscue, Temple came back to take a 21-7 lead on Rob "Nitro" Ritrovato's 2-yard run with seven seconds left in the half. It completed an 11-play 65-yard drive.
The fact that Russo bounced right back after the pick-six was a major turning point.
"That is a hard play as a quarterback always but it is always the next play," said Russo, who learned an hour before the game he would be starting. "You can't harp on anything as a quarterback and move on to the next play."
Maryland, which rushed for 444 yards in last week's 45-14 win at Bowling Green, was held to eight rushing yards in the first half.
The second half didn't begin any better for the Terrapins.
Russo hit a wide-open redshirt sophomore tight end Kenny Yeboah for a 47-yard scoring pass with 12:10 left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 28-7. That was his first-career touchdown pass and Yeboah's first touchdown.
Maryland made it 28-14 when Jesse Aniebonam blocked a punt and returned it 27 yards for a score with 8:21 left.