Insurmountable. That's what the 26-3 Maryland lead at halftime seemed like to many Temple fans.
The straight-line winds of the impending storm began to whip through the concourses before the Owls returned to the field, but they were nothing compared to the whirlwind of action on the field of play in the game's final 30 minutes.
After an opening half where its offense managed to string together an anemic 34 yards of total offense while losing 60 yards on five penalties and racking up four fumbles, Temple had quite the laundry list of corrections to address in between sessions in the locker room.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Nate D. Smith
rattled them off in quick succession.
“Missed assignments. Missed cues. Misreads,” he said of the mistakes that plagued a sluggish Temple offense.
“We turned the ball over three times. First return we have a penalty and then turn the ball over,” head coach Steve Addazio said in his post-game press conference.
“Two snaps over the head. We had three personal foul penalties and we had a field goal blocked. That about tells you the tale right there,” he continued on.
Fortunately for the Owls, that tale was one of two halves.
Temple exploded out of the tunnel with a second-half agenda that included a 24-point scoring barrage.
It wasn't the pretty, perfectly executed Temple offense that debuted in last week's Mayor's Cup victory against Villanova; instead, a gritty, dogged display of will.
“Our kids battled,” Addazio said. “They came in at halftime with great resolve. Came out in the second half -- we've got a young team -- and I thought they banded together. I thought they had great energy and great passion in the second half, and that we really had a great opportunity to win the game.”
To say the Owls battled would be discrediting the gutsy performance of quarterback Chris Coyer
, who threw 178 yards on seven completions despite registering a fever of 101 degrees just minutes prior to kickoff.
It would be a failure to recognize the efforts of Matt Brown
, the 5-5 lionhearted running back who came out desperate to tear up the back field in the second half even after he spent part of the first half writhing in pain in the end zone, clutching a sprained ankle.
And don't dare forget about true freshman defensive back Tavon Young
's first career fumble recovery on Maryland's opening drive of the second half that gave Temple excellent field position at the Maryland 35-yard line.
“A young group of guys really clawed,” Addazio said. “A young football team came back, battled, scratched and juiced together to give us a chance to go win a football game.”
Thanks in part to Maryland's series of the very same misplays, miscues and misreads that plagued the first-half Temple offense, a handful of Terps fumbles and Temple interceptions, the Owls were able to shave the Maryland lead to a manageable two points, 29-27, with seven minutes remaining in the game.
So much for that insurmountable lead.
“The energy on our sideline was really incredible at that point,” Addazio said.
It wasn't quite the full-fledged comeback that Temple had hoped for after Maryland's Demetrius Hartsfield iced any chance of redemption by snaring a Coyer pass with three minutes remaining in the game.
“Quite honestly, I thought we had it going enough that we were going to turn it in the end,” Addazio said. “I really did.”
Instead, the Owls returned to the locker room battered and bruised, gassed and gutted -- not by the sting of defeat, but by the exhaustion of depleting each and every physical resource in pursuit of victory.
A display of mental toughness, of willpower, of the reckless abandon required to sacrifice one's body for the sake of his team isn't necessarily a quantifiable aspect, but one could make the argument that this afternoon it accounted for 24 of Temple's 27 points.
“That says something about your team when you have a group of guys firing at the end like that. They gave everything they had left in their tank.”
By Kami Mattioli, Owlsports.com columnist