Words by Chris Kofsky
Photo by Mike Zingrone
AMHERST, N.Y. – Temple football was looking to ride the momentum it gained from its upset from last week into a matchup with the University at Buffalo on Saturday.
But, the Owls (2-1, 0-0) fell flat in upstate New York in a 38-22 loss to Buffalo at UB Stadium.
After the Owls grabbed the early lead, the Bulls (2-2, 0-0) scored 31 consecutive points en route to a dominating win against Temple.
Temple wanted to avenge last year’s loss to Buffalo, but, a poor performance from quarterback Anthony Russo, the absence of the Owls’ best defensive player and struggles on third down spelled defeat for the Cherry and White.
Here are Chris Kofsky’s three takeaways from Saturday.
With eight minutes to go in the first half and the Owls trailing 10-7, senior linebacker Shaun Bradley was ejected due to a targeting penalty.
From that point forward Temple was without it defensive leader and arguably the best player on that side of the ball for the rest of the game.
“It was an unfortunate call,” Carey said. “He was making a football play, his head just went down and you can’t do that. He’s got to pull up right there.”
Without Bradley, Temple’s defense did not look the same.
Buffalo scored 21 offensive points with Bradley in the locker room, including three rushing touchdowns, and ran the ball at will against Temple.
The Bulls finished the game with four rushing touchdowns and totaled 217 yards on the ground.
Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson had 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 27 carries. Kevin Marks added 22 carries for 78 rushing yards and a score.
“There is no way to prepare for [losing Bradley],” Temple head coach Rod Carey said. “You got backups and your ready to go and Isaiah Graham-Mobley is a great player, he’s a single digit too but I don’t ever try to think negative.”
Coming into Saturday, the Owls owned the fifth-best passing offense in the nation and sat atop the American Athletic Conference with 392 passing yards per game. In addition, Temple placed ninth in the nation and second in the AAC in total offense with 561 yards per game.
Against Buffalo, however, Russo recorded a career-high four turnovers – three interceptions and one fumble.
The Owls tallied just 289 total yards – 31 on the ground and 258 through the air – in part becasue of Russo’s lackluster performance.
Russo struggled as he completed 22-of-51 passing attempts for 258 yards and three touchdowns. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown by Buffalo’s safety Joey Banks after the ball hit off of Isaiah Wright’s gloves in the fourth quarter to give the Bulls a 38-10 lead.
This was the second time in Russo’s career that he threw three interceptions.
Russo has now thrown an interception in 15 of his 17 career starts for Temple and Russo has thrown at least one interception each game this season.
Russo’s 49-percent completion rate is his lowest this season and just the second-lowest of his career.
Carey took the blame for the bad performance.
“This one is on me, I didn’t have them ready enough obviously,” Carey said. “ I’ll do a better job and it starts with me, and we will get it correct and go forward.”
Temple has converted just five of its last 30 third downs.
On Saturday, the Owls failed to succeed on third-down situations as the team went 2-for-16.
The Owls got away with a 3-for-14 performance on third-down conversions against Maryland last Saturday. But, Temple’s poor conversion rate hurt them against Buffalo.
Through the first three quarters, the Owls were just 1-for-10 on third downs.
After the game, Carey said the Owls execution needs to get better on every side of the ball.
On the season, Temple is 16-for-45 on 3rd-down conversions.
The Owls will look to bounce back next week as they welcome back former coach Geoff Collins and Georgia Tech to Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 28.