Temple Owls, Russo surge past the Maryland Terrapins in a 35-14 win

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Facing nearly insurmountable odds behind a backup quarterback, the 16-point underdog Temple Owls shocked the football world and upset the Maryland Terrapins.

When I set out to profile the Temple Owls‘ Week 3 showdown in against the Maryland Terrapins, any outcome other than a loss seemed like a daunting task.

After dropping a pair of should-have-been wins largely due to the inconsistent play of starting quarterback Frank Nutile, it seemed almost unfathomable that Temple could correct these issues against a remarkably impressive Maryland team surging behind first-year interim head coach Matt Canada.

We even went so far as to put up a Twitter poll asking if Temple had any chance of beating Maryland before the game began, a pole that skewed almost exclusively towards no all the way up until kickoff.

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But that’s the beauty of sports, anything is possible.

It all began in the first quarter when Temple surged out to a 7-0 lead. Now granted, any lead is nice, but plenty of teams have come back after surrendering the first touchdown of the evening, but when the Owls entered halftime with a surprising 21-7 lead, having only surrendered a pick-six touchdown, it’s pretty clear the ball was firmly in Geoff Collins‘ court.

30 minutes and scores later and it’s clear, Temple football isn’t packing it in for 2018, no, this new crop of owls know what it means to be Philly Tuff.

But, you may ask, how did the team go from losing two straight at home to a pair of under matched foes into a team capable of punching above their weight class to dethrone a potentially ranked opponent?

Easy, Collins finally made a change at QB.

Now granted, this wasn’t a true changing of the guard per se, as Nutile went out with a surprise injury, but could Philly fans have asked for a better performance by Anthony Russo in his debut start?

Standing a prototypical 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Russo held down the fort against Maryland’s 22nd ranked defense, putting up 228 passing yards and a touchdown while completing 60 percent of his passes. Take away a careless first half pick-six and Russo had an almost perfect afternoon.

And that’s all the team really needed to finally get back on track.

While Temple’s defense has always been solid, as they held Maryland’s potent rushing game to a mere 132 yards for the game vs their season average of 293, the team’s sloppy offensive play has forced the Owls into a string of shootouts that they are ill-equipped to take on week-in and week-out.

No, for Temple to win they need to take a page out of Alabama‘s playbook: play physical defense, win the time of possession, and win the turnover battle.

Without a truly transcendent playmaker at the quarterback position, like, say, Penn StatesTrace McSorley, Temple has to task their quarterback with being a game manager, keeping the ball moving, making smart decisions, and completing passes on third downs. While Nutile has, at times, tried to force things against less than formidable defenses, Russo allowed the game to come to him and made the most of his first start.

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So, with Tulsa headling to the Linc next week for the first game of the Owls’ American Athletic Conference play, it looks like Temple may have a surprise quarterback competition on their hands.