Three takeaways: Temple vs UCF

For the second straight week, Temple football had a chance to upset one of the American Athletic Conference’s top teams.

And for the second straight week, the Owls fell flat.

Temple scored first but ultimately could not keep pace with UCF in a 63-21 loss on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

UCF dominated the line of scrimmage and showcased its big-play offense en route to a blowout victory against Temple.

Temple (5-3, 2-2 AAC) falls to third place in the AAC East Division while UCF (6-2, 3-1) takes sole possession of second place in the East.

Here are Mike Zingrone’s three takeaways from Temple’s loss to UCF:

Outmanned in the trenches

Temple’s offensive and defensive lines were bitten by the injury bug.

The Owls were without center Matt Hennessy, who was ruled out before the game with a concussion, and defensive lineman Ifeanyi Maijeh while Quincy Roche was limited against UCF.

Without Hennessy, the Owls rushing attack and pass protection struggled mightily. 

Temple averaged 151.9 rushing yards per game and only gave up 10 sacks in seven contests coming into Saturday. But the Owls gained a season-low 266 yards and allowed a season-high 4 sacks with Leon Pinto starting in place of the injured Hennessy. 

“I don’t know that much of [the run game] worked at all,” said Temple head coach Rod Carey. “We certainly had some holes in there, at times missed some, at times didn’t get a block, and times where they adjusted.”

As a result, Temple was forced to chase UCF on the scoreboard all game, which was too much to ask.

Temple’s defense did all it could to keep its offense within striking distance but with Roche limited and Maijeh, along with safety Benny Walls missing the entire game, UCF was too much to handle.

However, Owls’ first-year head coach Rod Carey did not want to use injuries as an excuse.

“We absolutely had some mental errors and some missed assignments,” Carey said. “When you miss assignments against a team that’s that explosive, you get this.”

The Knights had their way on offense, averaging 8.6 yards per play and finishing the game with 614 total yards. This is the second week in a row Temple conceded more than 600 yards on defense and the first time the Owls allowed more than 60 points in a game since 2006.

UCF running backs Adrian Killins Jr., Otis Anderson and Ben Thompson combined for 346 yards on the ground and each rushed for at least one touchdown. Anderson had the best day of the three with 205 rushing yards on 17 attempts. 

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns. The Knights backup quarterback Darriel Mack added a passing touchdown of his own in the fourth quarter.

Big plays

The Owls’ defense needed to bounce back after its bad performance last week against SMU but failed to do so. 

UCF scored nine touchdowns on Saturday, six of which were from 20+ yards out.

Temple has allowed 11 20+ yard touchdowns in each of the last three outings against Memphis, SMU and UCF.

“They’re hurting,” Carey said. “Worried about their confidence and how they don’t have any? That’s not this group. They’re a confident group, they’re hurting, and we have to get in there and fix it and move forward.”

Temple held UCF to just 28 first-half points and headed into the locker room just one score away from tying the game.

Then, the third quarter happened. 

The Knights scored four touchdowns in the third quarter, outscoring the Owls 28-0, to put the game out of reach. UCF marched down the field in under a minute on each of those touchdown drives. 

“UCF is a great team, they’ve always had a great scheme, well-coached, run a good offense and they’re very explosive,” linebacker Chapelle Russell said. “We know you got to do a little extra with teams like this.”

Mack Attack

Branden Mack had the best game of any Temple player. 

The redshirt-junior wide receiver compiled 104 yards and a touchdown on 5 receptions. 

In a game where quarterback Anthony Russo threw four interceptions and neither Temple running back gained more than 42 yards on the ground, Mack was the only bright spot. 

In the second quarter, Russo hit Mack down the sideline and he outran the UCF secondary en route to a 75-yard touchdown, which cut UCF’s lead to one possession. 

Mack has 401 yards in his last four games since his nine-yard performance against Georgia Tech on Sept. 28. He also has three touchdowns in that stretch.

Last season, Mack finished second on the team with 601 receiving yards and led the team with five receiving touchdowns. 

Mack has surpassed last season’s yardage total through eight games in 2019 and has tied his touchdown mark. The redshirt junior is up to 629 yards and five touchdowns this season.

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