ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Temple’s misery in bowl games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams continued Friday, and yet another Owls season ended in frustrating fashion.
For the third time in four years, Temple lost a bowl game to an ACC team, this one a 55-13 defeat to North Carolina in the Military Bowl before 24,242 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Tar Heels (7-6) set a Military Bowl record for points.
Temple fell to 3-6 all-time in bowls, and the ACC is responsible for half of those losses. All three of those setbacks to ACC teams occurred on Dec. 27. Wake Forest beat the Owls, 34-26, in the Military Bowl in 2016. Last season, Duke scored the final 42 points of the Independence Bowl in a 56-27 rout of the Owls.
The loss also continued the frustration of first-year Temple coach Rod Carey, who is now 0-7 in bowl games. Carey, who won two Mid-American Conference titles as head coach at Northern Illinois, was 0-6 in bowls for the Huskies.
“It’s a hard one to swallow because I don’t know if there is that big of a gap between those two teams, but there was today,” Carey said.
There certainly was, especially at quarterback.
Tar Heels 6-foot-2, 225-pound true freshman quarterback Sam Howell, the ACC Rookie of the Year, completed 25 of 34 for 294 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions while also scoring on a touchdown reception. He was named the game’s MVP.
“I haven’t played against too many quarterbacks better than him,” said Temple defensive end Quincy Roche, the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year.
Howell benefited greatly from an offensive line, led by 6-8, 315-pound left tackle Charlie Heck, that didn’t allow a sack.
“My O-line really did a good job all year long,” Howell said. “And how about those receivers?”
How about them?
Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown and sure-handed Beau Corrales were among the the best set of wideouts the Owls have seen. The three combined for 17 receptions for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
Temple finished 8-5 for the second straight season and will go into the offseason with these two words: “What happened?”
“They didn’t show us anything different, we just have to do a better job of executing," said Temple quarterback Anthony Russo, who completed 12 of 20 for 128 yards and one pick-six interception.
Leading by 20-6 at halftime, UNC scored 21 unanswered third-quarter points to quickly take away any suspense, if indeed there was any in the first place.
The Tar Heels scored on the opening second-half possession, a 10-play, 83-yard drive capped by Antonio Williams’ 1-yard run. North Carolina’s Storm Duck then scored on a 20-yard interception return off a Russo pass. Adding insult to injury, Howell later scored on a razzle-dazzle 2-yard pass from receiver Rontavius Groves, making it 41-6.
Temple played without cornerback Harrison Hand, who had surgery on a broken hand, and receiver/return man Isaiah Wright, who was originally with the team, but went home because he was ill.
The bright spots for Temple were redshirt sophomore receiver Jadan Blue and freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis.
Blue became the first Temple player to accumulate 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He had eight receptions for 92 yards, ending with 95 receptions for 1,067 yards, both single-season school records.
“You know, when you are the first to accomplish something, there is always satisfaction in that," Blue said. “I am thankful to God first, my family, my teammates for putting me in situations and me for capitalizing on hard work and everything.”
A 60-yard catch-and-run by Blue set up Davis’ 4-yard touchdown run that cut UNC’s lead to 10-6 with 7 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first half.
Davis also scored on a 45-yard pass from Todd Centeio in the third quarter.
When the game was still close, the Tar Heels got some needed breathing room late in the first half. The first came on a 16-yard scoring pass from Howell to Newsome, making it 17-6. It was originally ruled incomplete, but was overturned when replay clearly showed that Newsome’s right foot was in bounds.
The turning point came when Temple’s Amir Tyler blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by Noah Ruggles and returned it for an apparent score as time expired in the first half. The play was nullified by an offside call on Roche.
“You just can’t do that,” Roche said.
On the final play of the half, Ruggles hit a 36-yard field goal to increase the Tar Heels’ lead to 20-6.
Then the third quarter began and the rout was on.