DALLAS --Temple coach Rod Carey was direct as a charging linebacker when discussing the Owls’ attempt to stay with a runaway SMU team.
The Owls had just lost to the No. 19 Mustangs, 45-21 in an American Athletic Conference game, and Carey got right to the point in dissecting his team’s performance.
“Sometimes, you feel like you lose games, but we got beat, and there is a lot to fix on all areas,” Carey said.
A real lot.
The Owls (5-2, 2-1 AAC) didn’t play like a team that was ranked No. 25 in the USA Today’s coaches poll. Temple watched as SMU simulated a relay team, running by defensive backs and finding wide-open areas in the defense, while playing a forceful defense.
No wonder the No 19 Mustangs are 7-0, 3-0, their best start since beginning 10-0 in 1982, when they finished 11-0-1.
Temple had beaten undefeated ranked teams Maryland and Memphis, but those wins came at home.
This was different on the road, and few could escape blame for the performance at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
“Everybody wants to talk about the 45 [points allowed], but the offense was just as bad,” Carey said. “They needed to stay on the field, and they couldn’t, whether that is drops, whether missing a block, getting a key penalty on a third-down pickup.”
The problems with third down continued for Temple, which was 4 of 16, while allowing SMU to go 10 for 21.
The Owls watched SMU quarterback Shane Buechele, a graduate transfer from Texas, enjoy a career day.
The junior completed 30 of 53 passes for 457 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception.
Temple put some heat on him, but the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Buechele did a good job of buying time.
“The quarterback was really composed and calm in the pocket,” said Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley, who had 12 tackles. “He took the pressure on him, he was calling out the calls and did a really good job organizing the offense and keeping the ball, so kudos to him.”
Buechele had the luxury of finding receivers who were getting wide open on short, intermediate, and deep routes.
Junior Reggie Roberson led the onslaught with eight receptions for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He set the tone by catching a pass in stride for a 33-yard touchdown on the Mustangs first possession.
On Temple’s first play following that score, wide-open receiver Isaiah Wright dropped a pass at the SMU 45-yard line. That set the tone for an inconsistent day.
Roberson would set up a field goal with a 54-yard reception and later exploded on two go-routes for touchdown receptions of 75 and 60 yards.
One bit of suspense occurred late in the first half, with the Mustangs leading, 17-7, and marching toward a score. Mustangs receiver Myron Gailliard caught a pass at the Temple 28 and was hit by Sam Franklin, who forced what was ruled a fumble that Christian Braswell returned 72 yards for a score.
The play was overturned when it was ruled that Gailliard’s elbow was down before he fumbled.
Three plays later, Buechele hit a wide-open James Proche in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard score with 20 seconds left in the half. That left Temple down, 24-7, at halftime, instead of possibly being within 17-14. Carey said it was the right call.
“Yes, he was down on the fumble,” Carey said. " It was one of those situations that would have been great if it was a touchdown, but it wasn’t, and the review confirmed that.”
Temple got to within 10 points twice in the second half , but each time SMU answered with a score.
The offense struggled, especially in the first half, when Temple had just 106 total yards.
“It was tough because of the three-and-outs,” said quarterback Anthony Russo, who was 18-of-32 for 171 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions and scored on a 1-yard run. “It wasn’t just rough on the offense, but the defense. Putting the defense in that position, they get a stop and we go three-and-out before they can sit down on the bench.”
And it doesn’t get easier, as the Owls will host two-time defending AAC champion Central Florida on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. They’ll have a week to do a lot of fixing.