WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – In the past two seasons, Temple Football couldn’t afford to lose more than one conference game if they wanted to appear in the American Athletic Conference championship. If that number remains the same in 2017, then the Owls won’t be defending their title this winter.
Despite a second-half rally, in which Temple cut a 20-point deficit down to seven late in the fourth quarter, the Owls’ hole was just too deep to climb out of, as the Houston Cougars escaped Lincoln Financial Field with a 20-13 win on Saturday afternoon.
Houston improved to 3-1 (1-0 AAC) this season, while Temple dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-2 in conference play.
“That team that played in the cherry and white, that’s a good football team,” Temple head coach Geoff Collins said after the game. “They fought. They stayed together. That team that played in the second half is really good. Obviously, got to give credit to Houston. Played a really good game.”
TEMPLE’S OFFENSE SHOWS SIGNS OF LIFE
Although Temple’s offense posted only 13 points, it was a vast improvement compared to last week’s game against No. 21 South Florida, in which the Owls were shut out on offense for the first time since 2007. When Houston took a 20-0 lead early on in the third quarter, Temple’s offense finally clicked, and the unit scored on its next three possessions.
Two of the three scores were via field goals by kicker Aaron Boumerhi. His first from 41-yards out made it 20-3 in favor of the Cougars with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter, and the latter from 29-yards with 8:47 left in the game cut Houston’s lead to seven, 20-13. In between the kicks was a one-yard touchdown play, as quarterback Logan Marchi pitched the ball to halfback David Hood who then crossed the goal line. At that point, it was 20-10.
Despite minus-eight rushing yards in the first half, Temple rushed for 150 in the second, and halfback Ryquell Armstead led the Owls with 63 yards on 14 carries. Marchi, who started his fifth consecutive game, completed 20-of-41 passes for 182 yards and a score, but he also threw three interceptions – two of which deflected off receivers.
“That is the offense we want to be and that is the offense we are going to be,” Marchi said of the second half. “I’d say we left some points on the board. We got in the red zone twice and came out with two field goals. The first half, we didn’t move the ball how we wanted to, but the second half we picked up the running game. And we were able to execute the way we wanted to, and the run the ball well and throw the ball well. That’s our offense.”
WRIGHT TIME TO SHOW UP
Isaiah Wright led the Owls in receiving yards (53 on five receptions), and he had one athletic catch and run which resulted in a 22-yard gain during the second quarter.
On the final drive of the game, Temple had an opportunity to try and knot the score, but poor play calling and clock management hurt the Owls’ chances. With 0:25 left on the game clock, Marchi connected with Wright on a five-yard pass, but Wright’s attempt to run out of bounds to stop the clock failed, which forced Temple to throw a Hail Mary from inside its own 40 with four ticks left. That chuck and pray from Marchi was picked off.
“In that moment when I caught the ball, all I thought about was getting out of bounds,” said Wright, who knew he made a mistake. “I wasn’t aware it was a first down and I could’ve just dropped and then we could’ve spiked it. I just wasn’t aware.”
20 POINTS WAS JUST ENOUGH
Houston’s offense drew first blood midway through the first quarter. An eight-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Cougars’ hybrid quarterback and halfback D’Eriq King, which helped make the score 7-0 at the 4:18 mark.
Less than six minutes later, Houston tacked on a field goal, as Caden Novikoff’s 25-yard attempt split the uprights. The Cougars’ next possession also resulted in three points, as Novikoff drilled one from 35-yards out with 7:57 left in the second quarter. At halftime, Houston led 13-0.
Houston quarterback Kyle Postma’s lone touchdown pass came on the first drive of the second half, as he connected with receiver Linell Bonner on a nine-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone. At that point, it was 20-0 Cougars with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Postma finished the afternoon completing 25-of-36 passes for 226 yards, a score, and one interception, which was caught by Owls’ defensive back Delvon Randall.
OTHER STATS, NOTES
– A team source told WHIP Radio that Temple halfback Jager Gardner is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, and kicker Austin Jones could miss the rest of the year for medical redshirt purposes. Jones tore his ACL against Memphis last October.
-Steven Dunbar led Houston in receiving yards (78 on six receptions), while Potsma led in rushing yards (81 on 15 carries). Postma’s longest carry went for 35 yards.
-Houston finished with 388 total yards of offense (67 plays), while Temple finished with 324 (79).
-Houston rushed for 162 yards, Temple rushed for 142. In passing yards, the Cougars won, 226-182.
-Both teams combined for 22 penalties for 191 yards.
-Temple’s time of possession was 30:55. Houston’s was 28:35.
-Houston now leads the all-time series, 6-0. Temple has yet to defeat the Cougars.
-The announced attendance at Lincoln Financial Field was 24,024.
Temple will visit the East Carolina Pirates (1-4, 1-1) on Saturday, Oct. 7. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.
Michael is an award-winning radio host at WHIP Radio. He has been a staple host on WHIP’s Wake Up Call, and has recently occupied the role of Program Director for the station.