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‘We have dealt with COVID and quite frankly COVID won,’ says Temple football coach Rod Carey

The Owls finished their season 1-6 and the final game with Cincinnati was canceled due to COVID situations at both schools.

Temple head coach Rod Carey favors spring practice that starts weeks later than usual.
Temple head coach Rod Carey favors spring practice that starts weeks later than usual.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Temple football coach Rod Carey wasn’t making excuses, just stating the truth when he discussed the Owls’ 1-6 season that ended abruptly when last Saturday’s scheduled home game against Cincinnati was canceled due to COVID-19 issues at both schools.

“Obviously the season was a disappointment,” Carey said. “We have dealt with COVID, and quite frankly COVID won in a lot of respects.”

According to figures provided by Temple, the Owls lost 215 man-games due to COVID protocol, injury, opt-out, transfer rule or suspension.

On the Monday after Temple’s final game, a 28-3 loss to visiting East Carolina on Nov. 21, Carey said there were seven positive tests. That was the biggest number of positives in one test day, according to Carey, and the Owls would later suspend team activities for two weeks.

He said the decision to cancel the Cincinnati game was made last Tuesday, although the American Athletic Conference didn’t announce it until the next day.

As it turns out, Carey said the Owls had an additional 21 positive tests on Wednesday.

“It certainly felt like we were doing things right and, like I’ve said, you can do things right with COVID and get it, and you can do things wrong with COVID and not get it,” he said.

“So, certainly, I felt our team, our staff, our administration, all of us were trying to do exactly what we needed to do to get on the field and we did, we got on the field, so with that you can consider that a success. Obviously, the results were highly disappointing.”

Temple had played seven straight weeks before having a cancellation.

In another matter, the NCAA has allowed all football players to have a free year, meaning eligibility wasn’t used up this season. Temple has 25 seniors, redshirt seniors or grad transfers, all of whom are now eligible to return. Carey didn’t want to say who was coming back, saying it should come from the players.

One prominent player returning is graduate-student linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley, who played in the first two games and missed the rest of the season with a high ankle sprain.

“The plan is to stay at Temple,” Graham-Mobley told The Inquirer on Monday.

Three key graduate students who said on Monday that they have yet to make a decision are offensive lineman Vincent Picozzi, receiver Branden Mack, and cornerback Linwood Crump.

In another matter, freshman quarterback Matt Duncan, who was supposed to start the East Carolina game but was suspended that morning for violating team rules, is back with the team, according to Carey.

Now Carey and his staff are preparing for the early signing period, which starts Dec. 16. Plus, he said that in January the NCAA is expected to approve a transfer waiver, so a player wouldn’t have to sit out a year after transferring a first time.

Had the Cincinnati game been played, Carey didn’t know if starting quarterback Anthony Russo would have been available. Russo missed the final four games, two with a shoulder injury and two due to COVID-19 protocol.

Beyond that, Carey said he would like to push back spring practice as far as possible. Spring practice typically begins the second week of March.

“I would think we could start after April 1 and still get it in before finals, and before the week before finals,” he said. “We’d be up against it right there, but I think that gives us the best opportunity to get out in the warm climate, and who knows what the virus is doing by then?”