Temple football coach Rod Carey loves the competition and the chance for his team to compete each week, but he said Monday if it were up to him, he would not have had the Owls play in any of their previous three games because of players who were injured or in COVID-19 protocol.

“I would not have played the last three weeks, but again it is an opinion and I am not the decision maker,” Carey said during a news conference on Zoom.

When asked who is the decision maker, he attempted to describe how it works.

“It is a whole process that the conference has laid out and obviously getting the support from our university and then it goes to the conference and the conference has a medical advisory committee — which is really only charged with COVID, not total health of the team — and then it goes to the presidents and ADs from there," Carey said.

The last three games Temple played were a 38-3 loss at Tulane on Oct. 31, a 43-27 home loss to SMU on Nov. 7, and a 38-13 defeat at Central Florida on Saturday.

“I would have tried to reschedule those games; it’s not that I did not want to play the games,” Carey said. “I want the opportunities for the young men, but I think rescheduling would have given us our best opportunity, not competitively but as far as numbers-wise and safety wise.”

Carey said Temple traveled to UCF with 45 scholarship players and he estimated about 16 walk-ons. He said the numbers were slightly higher for the previous two games, but they were declining.

“I think we have been at a critical mass for three weeks, but the powers that be have not agreed,” he said.

When contacted, Temple spokesperson Larry Dougherty responded to Carey’s comments.

“We support our coach, but there is a process with the AAC that schools go through when they want to ask for a postponement or cancellation,” Dougherty said. “That goes to the league’s medical advisory board and they base it on COVID protocol issues and Temple didn’t fall under their parameters to postpone or cancel their three games. They allowed for the movement of the SMU game but didn’t' postpone it any further.”

Temple was originally supposed to host SMU on Thursday night, Nov. 5, and the AAC allowed the game to be played Nov. 7 to give Temple two more days to prepare.

Temple has been hit hardest at quarterback. The Owls (1-5 overall and in the American Athletic Conference) will be down to their fourth-string quarterback when they host East Carolina (1-6, 1-5) Saturday at noon.

Starting quarterback Anthony Russo has missed the last three games, the first two with a shoulder injury and last week due to being in COVID-19 protocol. Carey says Russo won’t come off the COVID list until next Monday.

In the first two games that Russo was out, Temple alternated redshirt sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell at quarterback.

Beatty was hurt in the loss to SMU and won’t be available this week, Carey said. Mitchell, a transfer from Iowa State, made his first start last week, but suffered an injury and Carey says he is out for the year.

That means freshman Matt Duncan will get the start. Duncan saw his first action Saturday. He entered the game late in the third quarter and the Owls trailing 31-3. Duncan played one other series, entering with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Temple’s backup will be freshman walk-on Kamal Gray, a local product from Pope John Paul II.

No fans for Temple games

The City of Philadelphia announced new outdoor restrictions Monday due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. The restriction will prohibit fans from attending Eagles and Temple games through Jan. 1.

Besides Saturday against ECU, Temple’s final game will be at home the next week, Nov. 28, against Cincinnati.

“Temple supports these officials who have had to make tough decisions to ensure safety for everyone given the current health climate,” the school said in a statement.