Observations from Temple's 52-40 loss at Central Florida
Russo continues coming of age
Temple redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo had his best game in his seventh career start, completing 31 of 52 passes for 444 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions (including one on Temple's final play when the game was essentially over).
Russo made all the difficult throws, had plenty of zip on his fastball and showed both his touch and arm strength, especially when hitting Randle Jones in stride for a 70-yard scoring pass. Russo also hurt UCF with his legs, not just gaining yards (46) but also stepping up from the pressure. UCF has great speed on the edges and the Temple offensive linemen were blocking them to the outside, allowing valuable room for Russo in the middle of the field. He took advantage of the situation.
He was able to lead Temple to a school record 670 yards against a UCF defense that entered the game allowing 18.1 points per game.
Russo seemed to relish being in a shootout, trying to match one of the nation's best offenses point for point.
He admitted afterward that this was a confidence booster not only for him, but the offense.
Bad penalties, this is a recording
The Owls were penalized 14 times for 149 yards, season highs in both categories. One sequence in particular was crippling. It was in the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Owls were trailing, 42-34, but had a third-and-4 from the UCF 12-yard line. The Owls then committed consecutive false starts and faced a third-and-14 from the UCF 22. Russo threw an incomplete pass, and the Owls then missed a 40-yard field goal, coming up empty when there were points for the taking.
Temple's previous highest scoring output that the defense allowed came in a 45-35 loss at Boston College. In that game Temple was penalized 11 times for 95 yards, which were both season highs at the time. So the two games in which the Owls allowed the most points, they also were assessed their most penalties and most penalty yards. It's not surprising that the two are connected.
Stopping the run
UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton was eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year, and despite missing the previous game with an undisclosed injury, is still in the conversation this year. Milton was certainly effective with 312 yards passing and three TDs, but what really hurt the Owls was the Knights running game. The Knights rushed for 325 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Temple had trouble dealing with the Knights speed, but the Owls also missed several tackles. Maybe the Owls and most teams are tired at this point, and that could be the reason for the missed tackles. UCF had plenty of running backs that can make a defender miss, as Temple saw first-hand.
Strong return for Armstead until…
Ryquell Armstead didn't seem bothered by the fact that an ankle injury kept him out of Temple's previous two games. Armstead rushed for 142 yards on 27 carries. That's a heavy load and he looked fine until early in the fourth quarter, when he left the game after tweaking the ankle. Armstead is one of the toughest players on the team (which is why he was awarded a single-digit number). He showed great strength and quickness and his presence was another example of how much better the Owls' offense runs with him in there. What can't be comforting is that coach Geoff Collins said afterwards that Armstead apparently tweaked the ankle and that is why he left the game for good in the fourth quarter. If he is limited or can't go in the Owls Nov. 10 visit to Houston, it takes away a major dimension of the offense.
Where’s the pressure?
There were times when Milton had to step up in the pocket while being rushed, but for the large majority of the game, he didn't face a lot of pressure. Part of that is that Milton releases the ball quickly and it's hard to get him down. The other is that, like Russo, he feels the pressure and is able to step up in the pocket and make plays. Actually, Milton had ample protection most of the time, but a few throws simply got away from him. Temple entered the matchup second in the AAC in sacks per game (2.88) but finished with no sacks.. The Owls linemen didn't get the push and while a lot of credit goes to UCF, part of the reason the Knights scored 52 points was the offensive line won its matchup with Temple's defensive line.