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Temple seniors to get one last game at the Linc

With the Owls knocked out of the division race, the focus is now on the final game at Lincoln Financial Field for the seniors.

Temple' Benny Walls, pulling down Georgia Tech’s Jerry Howard Jr. back in September, is one of seven senior starters who will be playing their last game as an Owl at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple' Benny Walls, pulling down Georgia Tech’s Jerry Howard Jr. back in September, is one of seven senior starters who will be playing their last game as an Owl at Lincoln Financial Field.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

After Saturday’s 15-13 loss at Cincinnati, which knocked Temple out of contention for the American Athletic Conference East Division and earned the Bearcats the title, the Owls turn their attention to an always emotional time -- the final home game for the seniors.

Temple (7-4, 4-3 AAC) will host UConn (2-9, 0-7) in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m game at Lincoln Financial Field, the last regular-season contest with only a bowl game remaining.

This is the second straight senior class that will go to four straight bowl games.

Temple has seven seniors -- redshirt seniors or graduate students -- who are listed as starters on this week’s depth chart.

On offense, it is left guard Jovahn Fair and receiver Isaiah Wright. The defensive starters are end Zach Mesday, linebackers Chapelle Russell, Shaun Bradley, and Sam Franklin, and safety Benny Walls.

Dealing with emotions will be difficult, as will bouncing back from such a disappointing loss, where the difference was a 98-yard return of a blocked extra point that gave Cincinnati two points and expanded its lead to 15-6.

Temple outgained the Bearcats, 310 to 210.

“It hurts and sometimes you have to let it hurt to make sure what you need to do to get better,” Walls said after Tuesday’s practice.

Had Temple won, the Owls would have been one game out with one left. Instead, they now concentrate on having the seniors get a good sendoff.

“We love them [the seniors], they love us, and I want to do everything I can to have them go out the right way," said redshirt sophomore receiver Jadan Blue, who has a school single-season record 80 receptions.

Russell, who has overcome two ACL injuries to appear in 43 games with 34 starts at linebacker, says just thinking of his final home game is difficult.

“It is really emotional,” said Russell, a graduate student who is second on the team with 57 tackles. “I am not a guy that shows my emotions all the time, I go out and do my work and what I am supposed to do, but it’s going to hit me when the time comes and my name is called.”

Even though this is only his first year as Temple’s head coach, Rod Carey has a soft spot for the seniors.

“The transition could not have gone easier and that is because of them,” Carey said of the seniors. “All transitions are hard, but they made it so easy because they were dying to get in here and get to work and it has been fun.”

Even Carey, who keeps a firm one-game-at-a-time outlook, never looking back or ahead, says that his emotions will be tested when the seniors are introduced.

“When you see these guys tear up, it certainly gets you emotional,” Carey said.

For UConn, it will be its final football game as an AAC team. The Huskies will be an independent next season in football as their other sports programs are moving to the Big East, which doesn’t offer football.

The Owls opened as 28.5 point favorites over a UConn team that is last in the AAC in scoring offense (19.1 ppg.) and last in scoring defense (39.7 ppg.).

Temple had hoped that this would be a game that would mean something for the division title. Now, the real meaning will be for those making their farewell.

“I always heard seniors never play well on Senior Day because they get so emotional,” said Fair, who will be making his 42nd career start on the offensive line. “I really want to go in there and focus on the game, take a moment with my family when I walk out and think about it after the game of all Temple has done for me, my experiences here and my last game at the Linc.”.