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Temple running out of QB options ahead of season finale vs. No. 7 Cincinnati

Receiver Branden Mack, who was last week's backup QB, will miss the season finale with a thumb injury

Temple quarterback Kamal Gray (18) tries to fend off East Carolina inside linebacker Xavier Smith (12) during Saturday's game.
Temple quarterback Kamal Gray (18) tries to fend off East Carolina inside linebacker Xavier Smith (12) during Saturday's game.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

During this final week of practice that will wrap up a frustrating football season, Temple coach Rod Carey will be trying to find a potential backup quarterback -- or two.

The COVID protocol/injury bug hit another potential signal-caller when wide receiver Brandon Mack suffered a thumb injury that will require surgery. Carey said Mack will miss the season finale at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field against No. 7 Cincinnati. The redshirt senior suffered the injury while making a block during Temple’s 28-3 loss to East Carolina on Saturday.

Temple is 1-6 overall and in the American Athletic Conference and has lost five straight. Cincinnati (8-0, 6-0) still eyes a College Football Playoff berth, although a lot would have to happen for that to take place.

No wonder Cincinnati has opened as a 35-point favorite.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Mack, who is considered an NFL prospect, was Temple’s backup quarterback last week. He lined up at quarterback for Temple’s first two series in the second half, failing to complete either of his two passes.

Mack became the sixth Temple player to play quarterback this season. Saturday’s starter was freshman walk-on Kamal Gray, a late addition to the starting lineup after freshman Matt Duncan was suspended indefinitely that morning for violating team rules.

Starter Anthony Russo missed his fourth straight game, the first two with a shoulder injury and the last two while in COVID protocol. He is eligible to return to practice Tuesday, but Carey said he can’t say for certain that he would play this week.

The first two backups, redshirt sophomores Trad Beatty and Re-Al Mitchell, are injured. Carey said Beatty could return in an emergency role, but he didn’t sound overly optimistic. Mitchell has a knee injury that Carey said won’t require surgery, but he is definitely out.

So if Russo can’t play, Temple will need a backup quarterback. Actually the Owls probably need a few backups with the way things have gone this year.

Auditions, anyone?

“We’ll find a backup from a different position group,” Carey said during his Zoom news conference Monday.

Whoever is at quarterback will be playing with a depleted offense. Three key offensive linemen missed last week’s game with injuries and will be out Saturday: Adam Klein, Vincent Picozzi, and Joseph Hooper. Mack and Jadan Blue, the top two receivers, are out with injuries. Top running back Tayvon Ruley, who hurt his shoulder Saturday, is also out.

The best-case scenario would be for Russo to be able to return.

In three games he threw nine touchdown passes. All the other Temple quarterbacks threw for two in the last four games.

Cincinnati leads the AAC in scoring defense (15 points a game average)).