It was a ruling that might be the turning point in Temple’s football season. It certainly was in the Owls’ wild, back-and-forth game against Memphis at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Trailing Temple by two points with a fourth-and-9 at the Owls’ 43-yard line, Memphis quarterback Brady White scrambled and hit tight end Joey Magnifico for a 13-yard completion with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Magnifico, who gave Temple fits all day, needed to dive to make the catch.
The catch was reviewed and overturned, however, and Temple survived the comeback effort to defeat No. 23 Memphis, 30-28, in the Owls’ homecoming game.
“To the naked eye, I thought it was a completion," Temple coach Rod Carey said. "But then you saw the replay, and I thought it was clear as day that it was incomplete, and they made the right call,”
White, the Memphis quarterback who began his career at Arizona State, thought otherwise.
“It looked like [Magnifico] was able to get under it and make a catch, and obviously they reviewed it and overturned it, but I can’t control that stuff,” White said.
Temple (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) has beaten two ranked teams -- the other then-No. 21 Maryland, 20-17, in the second game of the season.
The Owls will face another ranked team on Saturday, when they visit No. 21 SMU, which was idle this weekend.
Can Temple find its way to the Top 25 as well?
That will be answered on Sunday, when the new polls come out. The answer to the overturned catch came from the AAC.
"The ruling was that the Memphis player didn’t have control of the ball as it hit the ground and that there was enough video evidence to confirm it,” Chuck Sullivan, the assistant commissioner for communications, said in a statement.
“This falls in line of a judgment call, and we wouldn’t make the replay official available for that by the conference policy," Sullivan said.
The Tigers (5-1, 1-1 in the AAC), who entered the game averaging 39.8 points per game, were plagued by turnovers, losing three fumbles and throwing an interception.
Temple lost two fumbles. The Owls scored 16 points off the Memphis turnovers, while Memphis scored seven off Temple’s.
The Owls were in control early, with Isaiah Wright jumping over a defender to complete a 12-yard scoring pass and give Temple a 23-7 lead with 2:21 left in the first half.
But, Memphis kept fighting back, answering with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, to trail, 23-14, at the half.
In a game with so many turnovers, a true standout was Temple junior cornerback Harrison Hand, the Baylor transfer from Cherry Hill West High School. Hand finished with nine tackles, including two tackles for loss; one interception; one pass breakup; and a forced fumble.
His first-quarter interception led to a field goal. He also stopped Memphis for no gain on a 4th-and-1 from its 49 in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Hand forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Amir Tyler and run back to the Temple 45. The Owls then scored on that drive, ending with Anthony Russo’s 12-yard, back-shoulder throw in the end zone to Branden Mack. That gave Temple a 30-21 lead with 12:48 left.
“I think this was my best game,” said Hand, who has enjoyed several big ones in his first season with the Owls.
For the second straight game, Temple used backup quarterback Todd Centeio for two series in place of Russo, one in each half. And, again, he led the Owls to a field goal on his first series. For the game, the redshirt sophomore completed all three passes for 32 yards and rushed seven times for 44 yards.
Russo completed 20 of 33 passes for 224 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
After Russo connected on the scoring pass to Mack (9 receptions, 125 yards, one TD), Memphis came back on Daniel Tyce’s 3-yard touchdown reception, making it 30-28 with 9:58 left.
On the next series Temple’s Re’Mahn Davis was stopped 1 yard short on a fourth-down run. Memphis took over on its 30-yard line, but that drive concluded with the overturned ruling.