Temple received the best Thanksgiving present a day before the holiday.
On Wednesday, the American Athletic Conference announced that Temple’s season finale against Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial Field, which was scheduled for Saturday had been canceled and would not be made up.
The game was canceled because of positive COVID-19 cases and the ensuing contact tracing of athletes at both schools, according to the conference.
Finally, this charade of a season had ended.
In the week leading up to last Saturday’s 28-3 loss to visiting East Carolina University, Temple coach Rod Carey had said he wouldn’t have played the previous three games if it were up to him.
The AAC has a medical advisory group, that consists of a medical professional from each of the member schools. When determining whether to play a game, the group considers only COVID-related issues and does not get involved with injuries, suspensions, players opting out, etc.
In the future, all factors should be considered.
Wanna bet Carey also wouldn’t have played last week against ECU, when he had to start redshirt freshman walk-on Kamal Gray, the fifth-stringer, at quarterback?
And his backup was wide receiver Branden Mack, who later in the game became the sixth player to take snaps at quarterback.
Temple has been a wreck because of injuries and players in COVID-19 protocol. Only five players were able to start all seven games this year, and Mack, who suffered an injured thumb against ECU, wouldn’t have made it to an eighth.
If Temple had played Cincinnati, the busiest person would likely have been the team trainer, plus the scoreboard operator.
Temple finished its season 1-6 overall and in the AAC. No. 7 Cincinnati is 8-0, 6-0 and still has visions of earning a berth in the College Football Playoff. That’s quite an achievement just to be in contention for a Group of 5 team.
The Bearcats lead the AAC in scoring defense, allowing 15 points per game. How many times do you think this depleted Temple offense would have crossed midfield?
Regardless of the score, and it wouldn’t have been pretty, it was becoming dangerous for Temple to field a team with many more reserves than starters.
Temple ended the season losing its final five games. Throughout the losing streak, the Owls showed some initial grit, but they eventually wore down.
Need more evidence?
In those games, Temple was outscored in the second half, by a total of 130-34.
“I’m really proud of our team and this staff for all the work they put in to be ready to play each week,” Carey said as part of a statement released by the school. “Our record is not indicative of how tough and relentless this group of young men are.”
That is true.
But a team is what its record is, and the Owls weren’t a good team.
The injuries and rising list of players in COVID protocol never game them a chance. Yet the games kept being scheduled.
And with each passing week, the Owls looked like a group trying to put out a 10-alarm fire with a squirt bottle.
What was gained by this season?
The team did stick together. As Carey said, the players played hard. But it was getting painful to watch such an outmanned team each week.
What’s worse, last week the Owls had a player who showed COVID symptoms before the ECU game. The player went back to the school to get tested and had a positive result.
The game was not canceled but delayed 50 minutes, while that player and four others were declared out because of COVID-19 protocols as part of contact tracing.
Four of the five players were starters. ECU, a team that entered the game 1-6, looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers against Temple.
Other than the players’ courage and determination to keep fighting, there was little redeeming value to this season. Finally when the Cincinnati game was canceled, there was a tremendous sense of relief.