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Observations from Temple’s 28-3 loss to ECU

The Owls started fifth-string redshirt freshman quarterback Kamal Gray, and he didn't appear overwhelmed.

Temple quarterback Kamal Gray makes a throw against East Carolina on Saturday.
Temple quarterback Kamal Gray makes a throw against East Carolina on Saturday.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

After the game was delayed for nearly 50 minutes because a Temple player had to be tested for COVID-19, the Owls saw their struggles continue in Saturday’s 28-3 loss to East Carolina in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field.

Temple is 1-6 overall and in the AAC. Next Saturday’s home game against No. 7 Cincinnati will end this forgettable season. ECU is 2-6, 2-5.

Here are some observations from the game:

Gray’s debut

Freshman walk-on quarterback Kamal Gray didn’t look intimidated in making his first start at quarterback for Temple.

Gray was the starter after fellow freshman Matt Duncan was suspended for violating team rules. Temple starter Anthony Russo was out due to COVID-19 protocol, and redshirt sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell were both sidelined by injuries.

Even though Gray is the fifth-string quarterback, he showed early confidence. Late in the first quarter, he threw an outstanding 30-yard completion to tight end David Martin-Robinson on a back shoulder play. That was a big-time throw.

Temple wasn’t just limiting him to short throws. He overthrew Branden Mack on a bomb in the first half. Gray certainly has the arm strength to make all the throws.

He did, however, look like a freshman by throwing a fade to Branden Mack into double coverage and was intercepted by Shawn Dourseau.

In the third quarter, Gray threw a bullet to Mack on a slant for a 14-yard gain. There was plenty of arm in that throw.

Gray didn’t finish strong, missing some throws and tossing a fourth-quarter interception on a deep ball to Willie Erdman. But he should benefit from this unusual opportunity.

Mack attack

Temple coach Rod Carey moved Mack from wide receiver to quarterback to begin the second half. A high school quarterback at Cheltenham, Mack is a difficult runner to bring down, at 6-foot-5 and 220-pounds. He had an immediate 10-yard gain on a first-down run. But after that, he didn’t do much in his two series at quarterback, which included one under-thrown pass on third down.

Kobe Wilson playmaker

Temple freshman linebacker Kobe Wilson has made the most of his chances to see immediate playing time. Due to injuries, he was making his third start of the season. Wilson is just 5-11, 210-pounds, but he reminds some of former Temple linebacker Sam Franklin, now a rookie with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Wilson has excellent speed, and he showed it by taking down running back Rahjai Harris for a 3-yard loss midway through the second quarter.

Later in the quarter, he caused a fumble. Next season, Wilson should make a serious bid for a starting spot.

Owls defensive line active in first half

The one unit on which Temple had several of its best players available was the defensive line, although its top player, defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, was out due to the COVID-19 protocol.

Defensive tackles Dan Archibong and Ifeanyi Maijeh, along with Khris Banks off the bench, were a force in the middle and against the run. They also put decent pressure on quarterback Holton Ahlers. Defensive end Manny Walker provided a solid pass rush.

Special praise goes to defensive end Evan Boozer, who blocked a field goal, had a third quarter sack of Ahlers, and played with a relentless motor.

Just like the previous four losses, the Owls defense, including the line, wore down in the second half.

Turning point

Temple was marching toward a touchdown when Gray threw an interception in the end zone with 1 minute, 4 seconds left in the first half and the Pirates leading, 14-3.

ECU needed only two plays to score. The second play was a 46-yard touchdown connection from Ahlers to Tyler Snead. It was a busted coverage by Temple, and Snead was wide open. Instead of Temple being down 14-3 or 14-6, they were down, 21-3, at halftime.

That was the game right there.

Snead the difference

Snead, a 5-7, 169-pound sophomore, was the difference in this game. Beside the 46-yard touchdown reception, he added a 95-yard kickoff return earlier in the second quarter. Temple got an up-close view of his great burst and big-play ability.