A.J. Francis collected an usual trifecta Saturday in Philadelphia, snagging a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick during Maryland’s visit to Temple.
He also helped the Terrapins improve to 2-0 as they upended the Owls 36-27.
“I’ve only been 2-0 twice in my whole life and once was two years ago and then this year,” the senior defensive lineman said. “I’ve never been 3-0.”
And so it’s on to Saturday’s visit from Connecticut (1-1) to take care of that issue.
But consider how odd it is for one player to make such visible plays. Since at least 2000 (and perhaps going back quite a bit further than that), not Terp has had a sack, fumble recovery and a blocked kick in one game.
In fact, only six Maryland players have done it in a season since 2000 – Marlon Moye-Moore (2000), E.J. Henderson (2001), David Holloway (2004), Josh Wilson (2005), Alex Wujciak (2008) and Cameron Chism (2010).
“No question. A.J. was very focused coming into this game, not that he wasn’t focused last week, either,” coach Randy Edsall said. “I’m starting to see A.J. – I’ve seen him mature quite a bit. … I’m seeing a guy who’s relishing being a senior and relishing this is his last opportunity to play college football.”
This season is already a bit of a revival for Francis, who was asked to lose weight before last season and was subsequently miscast. He floated in and out of the starting lineup, and saw his production fall during Maryland’s lost season.
Perhaps his biggest moment Saturday was swatting Brandon McManus‘ 23-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
“I was pushing and he came up and I heard the ball getting batted and I was like ‘It was A.J. He’s the only one who blocks it for us,’” defensive lineman Joe Vellano said. “It was a huge play.”
The gregarious Francis has a running joke of pointing out miscues in the final statistics handed out at the end of games.
There was no quibbling, though, with anything about Saturday’s numbers – either on the scoreboard or on the stat sheet.
“That’s the only things I did,” Francis said. “I didn’t have any other tackles. I had three big plays. Everything else, I just did my job.”