This was not supposed to be competitive, but Temple, a 28.5-point favorite to open the week, had all it could handle -- for one half -- before beating UConn, 49-17, Saturday in an American Athletic Conference regular-season finale at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple trailed, 17-14, at halftime before getting things in gear in the second half.
Here are three takeaways from the Owls win, which left them 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the AAC while awaiting their bowl bid, which will be announced Dec. 8.
Another key spark provided by Centeio
Beginning with Temple’s 27-17 win at East Carolina on Oct. 3, Temple coach Rod Carey inserted backup Todd Centeio at quarterback, usually for one series per half.
In Saturday’s win over UConn, after Centeio successfully led Temple to a 5-play, 75 yard drive that was capped by his 10-yard scoring pass to Jadan Blue with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half, the redshirt sophomore quarterback stayed in for the next series. He began the second series with a 45-yard run, but it ended in a punt.
Centeio is known for his running ability, but what has earned him time has also been his passing. The TD pass was his fourth in his limited time. It’s interesting to see if he will appear in more than one series per half in the bowl game.
Starter Anthony Russo was again at controls when Temple opened the third quarter and on the first series hit Branden Mack with the second bomb of the day, a 41-yard scoring strike. Like the rest of the offense, Russo hit his stride in the second half, but it was Centeio who gave the Owls the spark they needed because they were flat for much of the first half.
Impressive UConn arm
UConn freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis isn’t overly big -- 6-foot-1, 222 pounds -- but he has a gun for an arm. He isn’t the best quarterback Temple has faced, but he might have the strongest arm. He hit Ardell Brown in stride for the game’s first touchdown, a 51-yard strike. Yet his best throw may been on UConn’s second series when he hit Brown on a deep out for a 15-yard completion and first down. The deep out is the throw to judge arm strength, and he threw a laser. Zergiotis didn’t have great pocket presence and didn’t do a great job of feeling the rush, but his quick release got him out of some potential sack situations.
Owls defense buckled down
After seeing UConn jump to leads of 14-0 and 17-7, Temple’s defense got down to business, making the necessary adjustments. While receivers were wide open, especially in the middle of the field earlier in the game, that wasn’t the case later on. And the Owls also began putting more heat on Zergiotis, who didn’t have good scrambling ability. The cushion the UConn receivers were getting earlier in the game didn’t exist later on. Like the offense, the defense rebounded after a rough start.