Written by: Dan Wilson
ANNAPOLIS — For the fifth time in five years, Temple played in a bowl game. For the fourth time in those five years, the Owls were defeated, losing the Military Bowl 55-13 at the hands of North Carolina on Friday.
For Rod Carey’s personal postseason record, it doesn’t get any better. Carey, who just completed his first season as the Owls head coach after leaving Northern Illinois University, dropped to 0-7 lifetime in bowl games.
“The game obviously did not go the way we wanted it to go,” Carey said. “It didn’t go our way at any point during the game, it’s a hard one to swallow.”
For the Owls seniors, they walked off the field for the final time in their collegiate careers at Navy-Marine Memorial Stadium, a venue where they played Wake Forrest in the 2016 Military Bowl and where they were crowned AAC Champions earlier that same month. This group has been through it all; the final year of Matt Rhule, the entire Geoff Collins era, Manny Diaz’s 17 days, Ed Foley’s two head coaching appearances in bowl games and finally, one season with Rod Carey.
However, there was no storybook ending for this group that accumulated a 33-20 record over the past four seasons. The 42-point loss ties this season’s 63-21 loss to UCF for the largest margin of defeat this senior class ever had to endure.
“When I came to Temple, I instantly fell in love with the players, the people, the coaches and the culture,” senior linebacker Shaun Bradley said. “I wouldn’t have traded it for anything or done anything differently, just honored and blessed to finish the four years of my career healthy.”
Bradley and the defense will have plenty to hold their heads high about when they look back at their efforts this season. Their performance against freshman quarterback Sam Howell and UNC’s offense is one they’ll try to forget as soon as possible.
Howell went 25/34, throwing for 293 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 53 yards and caught a touchdown on a goal-line play call that resembled the “Philly special.”
Tar Heels receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome each came into Friday’s game with 947 receiving yards on the season. The duo combined for 158 yards and caught all three of Howell’s passing scores in the contest.
However, it wasn’t just the passing game that led the offensive clinic for UNC. In addition to Howell’s 53 rush yards, the Tar Heels three-man backfield of Javonte Williams, Michael Carter and Antonio Williams combined for 185 yards on the ground. Williams punched in two touchdown runs of his own, from one and two yards out respectively.
Owls quarterback Anthony Russo threw for 128 yards and a pick-six, a throw that went directly into the awaiting hands of UNC cornerback Storm Duck. Yes, you read that correctly, his name is Storm Duck.
For Russo, he finishes his first full season as the Owls starter with 2,861 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. His 11 interceptions will be the figure he looks to improve upon most in 2020.
“I’m going to go back and watch the film from every game this year in the offseason,” Russo said.
Russo was playing without two of his usual weapons, as tight end Kenny Yeboah announced earlier this week that he will be transferring to Baylor and receiver Isaiah Wright was sent home on Thursday due to illness.
If there was any bright spot for the Owls, it was that receiver Jadan Blue became the first player in Temple history to notch 1,000 receiving yards. Blue, who was playing in his home state of Maryland on Friday, finished the season with 95 receptions, 1,067 yards and four touchdowns.
“I don’t know if there is that big of a gap between those two teams,” Carey said. “But there was today, you have to just tip your cap to UNC.”