WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – For a brief moment, Ventell Bryant believed everything went black.
That was until he noticed the visor on his helmet was cracked, and the blood was dripping down his face.
Lying face down on the grass, Temple’s redshirt sophomore wide receiver pulled himself up in a daze, staggering to the line of scrimmage for one final play. A few seconds later, the ball landed in the hands of Owls’ receiver Keith Kirkwood, who ended up in the back of the end zone holding the game-winning touchdown.
With a bandage dangling on his left cheek, Bryant began to describe Temple’s improbable 26-25 victory over Central Florida on Saturday, where he caught three consecutive passes on the Owls’ final drive.
“On the last catch, I came across the middle, the guy tackled me and I landed on my face, the left side of my face,” Bryant recalled after Tuesday’s practice. “I guess my visor cut my face and the left side of my visor was filled with blood and I thought I blacked out or something, but it was just the blood so I was stumbling over to get my composure back.
“Luckily, [receiver] Adonis Jennings said, ‘Get up, get up, we need you’ and I lined up and then we threw to Keith Kirkwood for the touchdown.”
Trailing 25-20, Temple took over on its own 30-yard line with no timeouts and 32 seconds left. From there, quarterback Phillip Walker connected with Bryant for 62 yards, forcing the offense into a mad scramble on Central Florida’s eight yard line with under ten seconds remaining.
“I think Keith was the only one who actually ran a route,” Walker admitted. “Ventell was all woozy from the last play, and Adonis I think was confused because he was the one who got Ventell up and had to run back to the other side of the field.
“I told Ventell I was going to come to him. I looked at him before every play. I tried to manipulate the safety as best as I could so he couldn’t get a clean shot at Ventell.”
Since returning from a month-long left shoulder injury on Oct. 1 against Southern Methodist, Bryant has honed in 207 receiving yards on 13 receptions, and has brought an additional dynamic to Temple’s deep receiving core.
“It was nice to have Ventell back out there – and don’t let that get lost in the sauce that Ventell was out there,” head coach Matt Rhule said. “[Offensive coordinator] Glenn [Thomas] called some great plays to get single coverage to Ventell and he made the plays.”
Temple (4-3, 2-1) will likely need to produce several miraculous plays on Friday night, as the Owls host the South Florida Bulls (6-1, 3-0) at Lincoln Financial Field. The Bulls are favored in this matchup by about a touchdown. A victory would hand Temple the tiebreaker over South Florida in the AAC East Division standings.
But Bryant is still mesmerized by the Owls’ late-game heroics.
“That was probably one of the best moments of my football career,” Bryant said. “That was a tremendous drive we put together.”