SHREVEPORT, La. --It was all going so well for Temple, until the Owls took the field for the second half. Leading 27-21, Temple surrendered touchdowns on Duke’s next five possessions and fell, 56-27, to the Blue Devils on Thursday in the 43rd annual Independence Bowl.
Duke set the bowl’s record for most points scored by a team.
The Owls, who entered the game winners of six of their previous seven games, finished 8-5 and are now 3-5 all-time in bowl games. Duke, which lost its last two regular-season games by a 94-13 total, also ended 8-5
Temple running back Ryquell Armstead and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin sat out. Both will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26, and Ya-Sin will compete in the East-West Shrine game on Jan. 19. Armstead missed two games this season with an ankle injury and tweaked his ankle in the last game of the regular season against UConn. Ya-Sin was sick recently.
Neither player was available for comment.
“Both have medical situations that did not allow them to play,” interim Temple coach Ed Foley said. “It was not a decision on their part not to play. It was medical for both of those guys."
Temple could only have wished that Duke quarterback Daniel Jones sat this one out. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound redshirt junior has not declared for the NFL draft, but he could be a potential first-round pick. He can use the tape of this game to boost his reputation.
Jones completed 30 of 41 passes for 423 yards and an Independence Bowl-record five touchdowns, with two interceptions. The second interception came when Duke was up, 56-27, and still hucking it in the fourth quarter.
For good measure, Jones scored a touchdown and completed a deflected pass to himself.
After the game, Jones wouldn’t discuss his future, but he was more than happy to talk about why the Blue Devils were successful, especially in the second half.
“They are primarily a man team and play an awful lot of man coverage, and we like our matchups,” the game’s offensive MVP said.
The best matchup involved getting the ball to T.J. Rahming. Getting open all game, the 5-10, 170-pound Rahming had 12 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Temple’s Anthony Russo completed 25 of 46 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown, with one interception. The offense that moved so freely in the first half stalled in the second half.
“It wasn’t any different looks [Duke showed]; they brought a little bit more pressure, that is all,” Russo said of the second half. “Our line picked that [pressure] up, but I don’t think we found our groove in the second half.”
The Owls' running game managed only 53 yards on 29 carries, which didn’t help.
A backbreaker was a short slant to Rahming that the senior turned into an 85-yard touchdown to increase Duke’s lead to 35-27 with 7:28 left in the third quarter. And the Blue Devils kept pouring it on.
Temple opened the game with a three-and out, and Duke quickly took a 7-0 lead, But the Owls responded with two touchdowns, Russo ran 15 yards for a score, and senior defensive back Delvon Randall, who was named the game’s defensive MVP, returned an interception 52 yards for a TD. It was his 12th career interception, moving him to fifth on Temple’s list.
Twice, the Owls took 13-point leads, on Rob Ritrovato’s 1-yard run and Brodrick Yancy’s 8-yard touchdown pass from Russo that made it 27-14 with 4:26 left in the first half.
After that, it all fell apart in a big way for the Owls.
For Temple’s coach, this was the end of a devastating week. Last Friday, Foley’s younger brother, Cliff, died. Foley wore the initials “CF” for his brother on his hat.
"The people we have around our program, and I have around me, are really strong and great, caring people,” Foley said. “If not for them, I am not sure what would have happened. We made it through.”