TAMPA, Fla. – Temple tried everything including employing three quarterbacks in the first half alone, but nothing seemed to work against flashy South Florida Thursday night.
On a night when the Owls best offensive weapon was defensive end Jacob Martin, Temple suffered a 43-7 loss to the host Bulls in the opening American Athletic Conference football game for both teams at Raymond James Stadium.
The Owls' offense was plagued by ill-advised passes, dropped passes and a familiar sore point, a stagnant running game, which totaled minus four yards rushing.
The defense, which was consistently put in difficult situations due to six Temple turnovers, had trouble stopping the run. USF gained 312 yards on the ground."The story of the game was our lack of rushing offense vs. their really good rushing offense," Temple coach Geoff Collins said. "…And then the turnovers, six turnovers you aren't going to win many games."
USF (4-0) opened the scoring on a 44-yard field goal by Emilio Nadelman with 8 minutes and 59 seconds left in the first quarter. The score was set up when USF nickel back Deatrick Nichols intercepted Logan Marchi at the Owls' 26-yard line.
It was the first pick thrown by the Temple redshirt sophomore this season. That broke a string of 108 passes without an interception to start the season.
Later in the quarter, Temple (2-2) got a break after Alex Starzyk had his punt blocked by the Bulls' Elkanah Dillon. Teammate Craig Watts failed in his attempt to retrieve the ball. Martin recovered for Temple at the USF 39-yard line
Temple couldn't move the ball and Aaron Boumerhi came out for a 52-yard field goal attempt. The Owls instead opted for trickery. Marchi the holder, rolled out to pass, but was sacked by Devin Abraham for a 20-yard loss.
Temple had to feel fortunate to be down 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Owls had minus-19 yards rushing in the first quarter and 32 passing.
USF, which entered the game averaging 40 points per game, had just 36 total yards in the first quarter.
The second quarter wasn't as kind to the Owls. On the first play of the quarter, USF running back Darius Tice burst up the middle and ran untouched for a 47-yard touchdown.
Temple freshman quarterback Todd Centeio then took over briefly in the next series. Centeio, a dual-threat and resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was sacked his first two plays for a total of 12 yards. Marchi then came in and handed off to David Hood, who gained 5 yards.
After a Starzyk's 19-yard punt on the next series, USF took over on the Temple 25. Two plays later Quinton Flowers scored on a 22-yard run, the 33rd rushing score of his career, a school record.
It was vintage Flowers who looked bottled up, waited for an opening up the middle, darted outside, broke a tackle by Mike Jones and was off to the end zone.
On the next series, with 6:55 left in the first half, Temple redshirt junior quarterback Frank Nutile made his season debut. He completed his first pass to Adonis Jennings, who fumbled at the 50.
Owls nemesis Nichols forced the fumble that was recovered by teammate Tajee Fullwood.
USF turned it into Nadelman's 28-yard field goal.
"We still got a lot of work to do," safety Delvon Randall said.
Martin gave the Owls a glimmer of hope when he stripped Flowers of the ball as he was attempting a pass. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Martin recovered the fumble and raced 44 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-7 with 2:06 left in the first half.
"Tried to get points on the board by halftime and the opportunity to make a play presented itself," Martin said.
Nutile's first pass of the third quarter tipped off Jennings' hands and was intercepted by Abraham. Four plays later, Tice scored on a 3-yard run making it 27-7 with 11:47 left in the third quarter.
Marchi replaced Nutile on the next series and fumbled the first snap. USF's Nico Sawtelle recovered on the Owls' 22 and it led to another field goal, making it 30-7. It was the 21st consecutive game with 30 or more points, the current best streak in the nation.
"I just had a bad day, played terrible," Marchi said.