PHILADELPHIA — Weeks away from its return to Big East action, Temple played like the team that got kicked out early last decade.
Perry Hills threw two touchdowns and ran for one in his second start to help Maryland hold on and beat Temple 36-27 on Saturday.
Embarrassed by the Owls in a 31-point loss last season, the Terrapins (2-0) nearly blew a 23-point lead at halftime. Hills had all three of his scores in the half to help Maryland race to a 26-3 lead. The Owls rallied in the second half but ran out of time and big plays.
“We created our adversity today,” coach Steve Addazio said. “We are going to be in all kinds of games that are going to be ebb and flow momentum shift games all year long. You got to learn how to handle it. As ugly as that first half was, we’re right back in the game in the third period. That’s football. You have to learn how to handle that kind of football. It’s going to happen every Saturday.”
Maryland played nothing like the team that squeaked out a 7-6 win last week against Football Championship Subdivision team William & Mary. The Terrapins’ 12 first downs in the first half were one less than they had all of last week. They outgained the Owls by 145 total yards in the first half.
The Owls (1-1) were sloppy and out of sync in a game where they were 10-point favorites.
C.J. Hammond had a 62-yard TD catch for the Owls.
Maryland and Temple combined for nine fumbles — six of them lost.
The Owls crushed Maryland last year because Bernard Pierce set a school record with five rushing touchdowns. Pierce has moved on to the NFL and, without him, Temple couldn’t gain any momentum on the ground.
“We didn’t come out with a power game mindset,” Addazio said. “Establish the run and then work off of that. We came out wanting to utilize more weapons and then we put the ball on the ground.”
The Terrapins tried to give away the game late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 29-20, the Owls recovered a fumbled punt at Maryland’s 12 yard line, and were in prime position to inch closer toward a fantastic comeback.
But Brandon McManus had a field-goal attempt blocked and Maryland recovered at midfield.
One nice, slow drive could have sealed the win for Maryland. Not so fast.
The Terrapins lost a fumble on the first play of the drive and the Owls capitalized.
Chris Coyer connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Jalen Fitzpatrick to cut the deficit 29-27 with 7:04 left.
Then it was Hills’ turn to shine.
On third and 11, Maryland came up clutch for the first time in the half and clinched the win when Hills hit Stefon Diggs on a 38-yard reception. Diggs made a sensational catch falling out of bounds at the 12. Justus Pickett’s 6-yard TD run made it 36-27 and finished the Owls.
“I knew we needed to score,” Hills said. “I had to stay calm out there. Calm and confident. That’s what we did.”
The win was tougher than the Terps expected after a first-half rout.
Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield posted a simple message on Twitter this week: “Payback week ...enough said.”
The Terps said payback with a dominant first half that included a 23-point second quarter. They came out sharp and ready to avenge their humbling 38-7 home loss last season to the Owls.
Aided by the bumbling Owls, the Terrapins reversed last year’s sluggish start when they trailed 31-0 at halftime.
Temple fumbled on its first carry of the game, leading to a Maryland field goal. Temple’s late hit on a punt gave Maryland the ball at the Owls’ 38 and that led to Hills’ 32-yard TD pass to Marcus Leak. And a snap over Coyer’s head was recovered in the end zone by Temple for a safety.
Not even a solid second half for the Owls could do more than make the final score competitive.
The Owls are set to play in the Big East for the first time since 2004 and had a realistic goal of entering conference play 3-0.
They lost in front of new Big East commissioner Mike Aresco.
Under coach Randy Edsall, Maryland matched its win total from last season.
“That really showed me something about the heart, the soul, the character, the belief, these kids have in one another and in themselves,” Edsall said.