It’s hard to imagine Temple playing a more confident team than Maryland today (noon start, Big 10 network).
It’s also hard to imagine Maryland playing a team whose confidence is more shaken than the Owls.
Between the ears sometimes means as much as between the lines and this could be one of those games.
If this game was played on Aug. 15 (the night of the season ticket-holder party at Temple), the roles might have been reversed. Maryland was dealing with a death in the program and a subsequent scandal that cost them a head coach (D.J. Durkin) who might be gone forever. Temple was coming off a convincing bowl win and five wins in its last seven games.
One program looked in disarray and another looked like it had its act together.
Fast forward a month to the day and the roles are completely reversed.
The Temple kids—essentially the same players who won the bowl game—had to watch as their coaching staff had them ill-prepared to play two inferior opponents. In the opener against Villanova, this same coaching staff completely disregarded the film of the year prior because it knew what Villanova was going to do and had no discernable plan to stop the Wildcats. In another, Buffalo—a team that proved it could not stop the run in their prior 13 games—took a deep sigh of relief when Temple did not commit to the run.
Somewhere, these same kids have to be thinking: “WTF?” (“Where’s The Fullback?”)
Conversely, Maryland had a plan and executed it well in wins over Texas and Bowling Green. Redshirt freshman Kasim Hill—the No. 6-ranked quarterback in the nation coming out of St. John’s (Md.) two years ago—is playing with a high level of confidence and should be able to make plays against a Temple defense that can’t get off the field on third downs or even on a crucial 4th and 9.
Not the kids’ fault as much as the coaches who put their starting tailback in as a situational pass-rusher when they refuse to play a real pass rusher, Karamo Dioubate, as a DE in those same situations. Dioubate was ranked about as high a DE coming out of high school as Hill was a quarterback. Now he’s lucky to get in the game as a DT behind Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd.
The difference is that the Maryland coaches play Hill at his position and the Temple coaches refuse to play Dioubate at his. It’s just one example of many where Maryland has a solid handle on its personnel and Temple does not. The Owls have a great fullback, Rob Ritrovato, but refuse to use him there more than one or two times on any given Saturday. Wasted talent leads to questions of what might have been.
To blame the kids is really misguided. It’s a little like blaming the soldiers in the Confederate Army under Generals Lee and Pickett for charging a heavily-fortified Union position at Gettysburg. Dave Patenaude’s refusal to develop a ground game against Villanova or Buffalo is very Lee/Pickett-like in strategic blunder. For Lee, a master tactician, it was an abnormality. For Patenaude, it’s an every-game occurrence. The kids should be 2-0. The coaches deserve to be 0-2.
It did not use to be this way.
The last time Temple went to Maryland, it knew was it was doing with short rollout passes from Chester Stewart to tight end Evan Rodriguez went 9-for-9 and allowed Temple to use its elite tailback, Bernard Pierce, behind a great fullback blocker in Wyatt Benson. This Temple team does not use the tight end or fullback and, probably not coincidentally, cannot create enough holes for Ryquell Armstead, a proven AAC elite champion tailback.
Between the lines, Maryland has a slight advantage in this one. Between the ears, Maryland’s advantage is a gaping one.
Has the less confident and talented team ever won under those circumstances? Probably, but the examples are few and far between.
Tomorrow: Game Analysis