After going undefeated the last two seasons in American Athletic Conference play, Central Florida was not expected to be a powerhouse this season.
Yet nobody else this season gave Temple such a thorough beating and the Owls have played three teams that were nationally ranked at the time they faced them.
UCF wasn’t ranked in either current poll, but that could change after the Knights pounded Temple, 63-21, Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
What the game also showed, as did the previous one, is that the Owls don’t have the speed to keep up with high-octane offenses.
UCF entered the game fifth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 44.3 point per game.
A week ago SMU found open receivers all day and threw six touchdown passes in a 45-21 win. SMU entered the week sixth nationally in scoring (43.0)
UCF has a potent passing attack, but the Knights prospered by the home run ball from its backfield.
The speed was especially on display during the third quarter, which may have been the Owls’ worst of the season.
Trailing just 28-21 at halftime and showing great fight, Temple was outscored 28-0 in the quarter. Owls quarterback Anthony Russo threw two interceptions in the period.
It was 56-21 after the third-quarter onslaught.
“Certainly respecting that they are a good team as well, but the second half tonight wasn’t who we are or what we are about,” Temple coach Rod Carey said. "So we will go back to work here, get after it and fix it.”
There is a lot of fixing to do and it will be hard to find answers.
“We didn’t do our job,” linebacker Shaun Bradley said.
The Owls’ chances in the AAC East Division took a major hit.
Temple is 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the AAC. Cincinnati, which had a bye, is 6-1, 3-0.
UCF, which needed the win even more than Temple since it has already lost to Cincinnati, is 6-2, 3-1.
So Temple is two behind Cincinnati with four to play (with the Bearcats having five left).
Temple must win its remaining four games, and have Cincinnati lose two, one being to Temple and the other possibly to Memphis.
That’s a lot of looking ahead, especially since winning the next one, Nov. 7 at USF, is no gimme for the Owls.
“We got a by week, a lot of guys are banged up, so we have to focus on getting guys healthy and getting back in the rotation,” linebacker Chapelle Russell said.
Temple has to pick up the pieces after giving up so many big plays.
Five of the first eight touchdowns were for 28 or more yards. There were other long non-touchdown runs, when the Knights simply turned it up a gear and Temple couldn’t keep up.
UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel had to simply be mortal. Through the first three quarters he had completed 10 of 20 passes for 218 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The true back-breaker came with UCF leading 28-21, when Gabriel hit Marlon Williams for what appeared to be a 10-yard completion. The 6-foot, 222-pound Williams shook off an arm tackle by Ayron Monroe and sped 73 yards to the end zone, making it 35-21 with 10:41 left in the third quarter.
The rout was on.
UCF ran all over Temple. Through the first three quarters, the Knights had rushed for 306 yards on 30 carries, averaging more than a first down per attempt.
One of the few highlights for Temple was Branden Mack’s 75-yard touchdown reception on a deep ball. He had to fight off would-be tackler Zamari Maxwell en route to the end zone.
That was in the first half, when the game was competitive. The second half was a mismatch, leaving Temple’s once-promising season in serious trouble.