Temple entered its game at Central Florida a prohibitive underdog, and as it turns out, this would be no miracle game..
Early Temple turnovers combined with a major talent discrepancy led UCF to a 38-13 win Saturday in Orlando.
The Owls are 1-5 overall and in the American Athletic Conference, while UCF is 5-2, 4-2. Here are some observations of the game:
Great individual effort on the first turnover
On its second offensive series, Temple set up a wide receiver screen to Jadan Blue. The Owls had tight end David Martin-Robinson and receiver Jose Barbon out there to block. But UCF linebacker Tatum Bethune blew by Martin-Robinson and Barbon and intercepted Re-al Mitchell’s pass.
UCF’s speed on D
So much is made of UCF’s speed on offense, but the Knights are just as fast on defense. Mitchell, a dangerous runner, had some openings, but the closing speed of UCF defenders limited his effectiveness. The same was the case with any of the Temple running backs who didn’t have a lot of success running to the outside.
Lucky break for Owls
Still in the first quarter, UCF receiver Jacob Harris was open past the Temple 40-yard line by at least five yards. While the ball was a little overthrown, it was catchable. But Harris wasn’t able to handle it. Kimere Brown was on the coverage, and that should have been a touchdown.
Not airing it out
This was Mitchell’s third game and first start. Starting QB Anthony Russo, who missed the previous two games with a shoulder injury, was unavailable against UCF after being placed on the COVID-19 protocol list
In his three games, Mitchell has been limited to mainly short passes. That is not to say he can’t throw the deeper throws, but we haven’t seen a lot of them. UCF was often playing nine in the box, daring Mitchell to throw deep.
Mitchell did have a nice 20-yard completion to Blue on Temple’s fourth drive. But those type of throws were have been infrequent the past three games.
It didn’t help that UCF’s pass rush was putting a lot of heat on Mitchell. Still, many of the play designs were for shorter passes. Eventually, he will have to air it out more to loosen up defenses.
Questionable play call
Trailing, 21-0, early in the second quarter, Temple had a third-and-12 from the UCF 14-yard-line, and Owls offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich had Tayvon Ruley run the ball up the middle for a 1-yard gain. Temple would settle for a field goal.
We get that Temple was maybe looking for the element of surprise, but UCF was playing eight or nine in the box on most plays, and the Knights weren’t going to be fooled by a running play.
Temple pressuring Gabriel
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel entered the game with 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions. He runs a fast-paced offense, but the Owls were doing a good job making him throw earlier than he wanted. The pressure finally paid off when defensive tackle Khris Banks sacked Gabriel for a loss of nine to the Knights 2-yard line in the second quarter.
During the next series, on a third-and-15, Temple blitzed Gabriel, and he threw short on a screen pass attempt that could have been a big gainer. UCF then missed a 45-yard field goal.
The protection was much better in the second half, and Gabriel was much more effective.
UCF scored on its first possession of the second half when Gabriel hit Marlon Williams for a 23-yard scoring strike. Gabriel took advantage of a blown defense. Williams, who entered the game second nationally in receiving yards per game, ran by linebacker Will Kwenkeu.
A linebacker shouldn’t be expected to cover Williams, who lined up in the slot. Kwenkeu wasn’t on him from the beginning but was the closest to him when he caught the ball in the end zone.
Any thought of a comeback ended on that first second-half series.