DALLAS -- Temple entered Saturday’s game with SMU having already beaten two previously ranked opponents, then-No. 21 Maryland and then-No. 23 Memphis.
Those wins came at home. It was much different on the road as No. 19 SMU beat the visiting Owls, 45-21, in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference game at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
This was a game with a slow-starting offense, a defense that was torched by the long pass, and SMU receivers running freely and wildly all day.
Here are three takes as Temple fell to 5-2, 2-1 in the AAC and SMU improved to 7-0, 3-0.
A day of wide-open SMU receivers
Entering Saturday, Temple was allowing an average of 199.5 passing yards a game. In this passing-crazed era of college football, that is a solid figure. Yet the Owls had by far their worst game of defending the pass in Saturday’s loss.
While the secondary will be criticized and rightfully so, SMU quarterback Shane Buechele often did a good job of buying time to throw.
In the first half, Buechele, a graduate transfer from Texas, completed 19-of-31 passes for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Several times his receivers had no defenders anywhere near them.
This is also the first game in which Temple was beaten so badly on the deep ball.
It began with the first touchdown pass when Buechele hit a streaking Reggie Roberson, who beat Linwood Crump for a 33-yard touchdown.
Roberson had five receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns – in the first half.
On the Mustangs’ second series, Roberson set up a field goal with a 54-yard reception, beating Harrison Hand on the play.
Roberson beat Freddie Johnson on a go-route for a 75-yard touchdown reception. Then James Proche, the No. 1 receiver, scored on a 10-yard reception with 20 seconds left in the first half. Proche was wide open, which is hard to do when only having 10 yards to go.
Temple put some heat on Buechele and sacked him twice in the first half, but he was able to escape the rush several times and keep plays alive.
The beginning of the second half wasn’t much better. SMU tight end Kylen Granson was wide open in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard scoring pass that increased the lead to 31-14.
When Roberson caught his third touchdown of the day, a 60-yarder that made it 38-21, he was again wide open and hit in stride, running past Hand.
Buechele wasn’t as dominating in the second half, but he didn’t have to be. He completed 30-of-53 for 457 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
No doubt the Owls missed safety Benny Walls, who was sidelined for the second straight game with an upper body injury, but he wasn’t there last week, and they still were able to beat nationally ranked Memphis.
Sloppy first-half offense for Temple, not much better in the second
After SMU opened the game with a touchdown, Temple had a chance to answer. But on the Owls first play from scrimmage, receiver Isaiah Wright dropped a pass after being wide open on the Mustangs 45-yard line. There would have been plenty of yards after that catch had it been made.
That set the tone for a sloppy first half on offense, when the Owls were 1-of-7 on third down conversion and had some key holding penalties.
The Owls had just 106 yards of total offense. Quarterback Anthony Russo threw for just 59 yards in the first half, although there were key drops. While the defense had its struggles, the offense could have helped with more consistency.
After scoring on their first drive of the second half, the offense then went in an up-and-down mode the rest of the half. It can be said that the Temple offense has yet to have a break-out game, if you excuse the opening 56-12 rout of FCS Bucknell.
Right call, wrong execution
Temple was trailing, 31-14, and had a fourth-and-2 from its own 44-yard line with less than 3:30 left in the third quarter. Todd Centeio was at quarterback (playing his one predetermined second-half series), and Temple coach Rod Carey elected to go for the first down.
The Owls couldn’t afford to punt on the play, but Centeio, scrambling to his left, was sacked for an 8-yard loss by safety Patrick Nelson. What hurt on the play was that freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis missed his block, and Centeio ran right into Nelson.
One can’t fault the call, just the execution.