Temple saw its chance to win the American Athletic Conference East Division title end with Saturday’s 15-13 loss at Cincinnati. The Bearcats (10-1, 7-0) clinched the title, and Temple (7-4, 4-3) will close the regular season on Saturday by hosting UConn and then await its bowl fate when bids are announced Dec. 8.
After reviewing the tape of the game, here are five takeaways from the loss.
Disastrous play of special teams
All season the special teams have struggled for Temple, but Saturday’s showing was a major reason for the loss. In the first quarter, Temple had a fourth-and-1 from its own 39. The Owls first lined up as if they were going to punt but then switched the formation and were ready to go for a first down but were called for a false start. Temple then did punt.
Late in the first half, Temple punter Adam Barry fielded a low snap and had his knee hit the ground on the Owls’ 6-yard line. That set up a 37-yard field goal that extended the Bearcats’ lead to 6-0.
On Temple’s first second-half drive, trailing 13-0, Will Mobley missed a 32-yard field goal attempt after having made his last 11.
Cincinnati’s James Smith averaged 44.6 yards on seven punts and Temple wasn’t able to return any.
The real killer was after Temple scored to make it 13-6 with 11:19 left, Mobley’s PAT kick was blocked and Cincinnati’s Coby Bryant took it 98 yards for two points. The block was bad enough, but Temple had Bryant pinned on the right side before he reversed field and took off down the left side for the score.
The departure of former special teams and tight ends coach Ed Foley, who left for Baylor in July after he was offered an off-the-field job at Temple, has proved to be a major loss for the Owls.
Missed opportunities on the first series set the tone
While many will focus on the late-game plays, Temple set the tone for a frustrating evening by not converting on its first series. On first down from the Cincinnati 30, quarterback Anthony Russo overthrew Branden Mack in the end zone. Mack had at least one step on his defender. Then on a fourth-down play, Jadan Blue was open inside the Cincinnati 20, but he fell down and the pass sailed by him. Had he kept his footing, Blue would not have only made the catch and earned the first down, but would have had plenty of room to run. Instead, Temple would have to wait until the fourth quarter to score.
The defense played well enough to win
The defense allowed just 210 total yards. Cincinnati threw for just 62 yards and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Linebacker Chapelle Russell led the way with 11 tackles, going sideline-to-sideline. Russell had two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. The only negative on the defense was the Bearcats’ first drive in the second half, when they scored. Temple had too many missed tackles on that nine-play, 65-yard drive.
Another standout game for Blue
While the Temple offense struggled, Blue had another big game. With 4:41 left in the third quarter, Blue made a 24-yard reception while taking a hard shot from Darrick Forrest, who was initially called for targeting. That call was overturned, although it probably shouldn’t have been. Still Blue hung on for a big-time reception. That was just one example of his clutch play against Cincinnati. He finished with 13 receptions for 120 yards. In his last three games, he has 36 receptions for 372 yards and a touchdown.
Hats off to Warren
While Temple’s defense played extremely well, Cincinnati running back Michael Warren provided a workmanlike performance. He gained 106 yards on 24 carries and scored the Bearcats’ lone touchdown on a 13-yard run up the middle. Last year, Warren rushed for 132 yards and a score on 25 carries in Cincinnati’s 24-17 overtime loss at Temple. The Owls did a great job both last year and on Saturday against Cincinnati’s offense, with the 5-foot-11, 222-pound Warren among the Bearcats’ few bright spots both games.