1. Did they deserve to lose? Maybe. Did they deserve to win? Maybe not. Regardless of what any of us think, the Owls prevailed, surviving an out-of-their-mind effort by the Minutemen despite a lackluster one of their own. Not sure if that’s a sign of a good team just getting the job done where it matters most, the scoreboard, or just plain luck. Temple did outgain its hosts in this one – barely, 458 yards to 438. It did dominate the clock, possessing the ball for more than 35 of the game’s 60 minutes. It did post more first downs, 24 to 20. It did produce the game-deciding play, a two-point conversion by DB Will Hayes after UMass’ point-after kick attempt once it took the lead with 1:20 to go. It did get the game-winning play with seven seconds remaining, when sophomore kicker Austin Jones drilled a 32-yard field goal to close the scoring. In a lot of ways, it reads as the Owls earning exactly what they got – a close win on the road.
2. The Owls clearly, and that’s CLEARLY in CAPS, were not prepared to play this game, emotionally, strategically, schematically, mentally, whatever-ly. Credit, obviously, has to go for UMass in terms of its game-planning, its success in following that game-planning, and its effort throughout against a team that, frankly, is more talented across the board. On D, Temple had two players to worry about: the host Minutemen’s QB, Blake Frohnapfle, and WR, Tajae Sharpe. It played as if it had never heard of either, as Frohnapfle threw for 393 yards and three scores while Sharpe hauled in 11 passes for 156 yards. Coordinator Phil Snow receives a ton of credit for what this unit did last season and in the opener against Penn State this season. He deserves some serious heat on this one. His D was flat and ill-prepared.
3. Yeah, it was a good thing for Owls head coach Matt Rhule and his offensive braintrust to get QB P.J. Walker going in this one. Had he not thrown for a career-high 391 yards, no way does Temple walk out the victor. The junior was money, mostly, when it mattered. On the game-winning drive, Walker directed the Owls 50 yards in 68 seconds, connecting on six of nine passing attempts to cover all that real estate. The most crucial connection was the last, as nifty, 12-yard sideline shot to WR John Christopher that made Jones’ kick that much more manageable when the ball was snapped from the UMass 15 with 12 ticks left. But Walker didn’t elude the sleepwalking that plagued the entire squad throughout this one, tossing a pair of picks and missing a wide-open Adonis Jennings with what would have been a game-clinching TD that could have saved Jones from tapping into his ice-water veins.
4. Rhule’s reliance on Jahad Thomas almost cost the Owls. For the second week in a row, he coughed up the ball to an opponent in the final minutes, giving it a chance to drive for the tying or winning score. Last week, Cincinnati went the length of the field before Owls LB Tyler Matakevich showcased his tip-drill skills to collect an INT in the end zone to thwart any chance of the game going to OT. Today, UMass went right down the field and scored what seemed like it would be the game-winning TD – only the Owls got the two-pointer on the blocked-kick conversion attempt to set up Jones’ heroics. Thomas, frankly, was just a rush attempts eater prior to then anyway. All told he finished with 66 yards on 25 carries – with each one being a painfully obvious example that he wasn’t going to have any bust-out game as he did in each of the first two weeks. Frankly, if Rhule isn’t going to use another RB, or even if he is, Walker needs to be far more involved as a runner. That talent is going to waste, and on a day like today it was sorely needed.
5. Game balls go to the three guys who actually seemed to be “into” this game: Jones, Christopher and punter Alex Starzyk. Though his yards per attempt took a hit this week, Starzyk continues to be a weapon for an offense that stalls either a lot or seemingly at the most inopportune times. Several times he buried the Minutemen with coffin-corner kicks, often saving the Temple D from facing the full plate of the UMass offense when it scaled back to compensate for poor field position. Jones is flat-out MONEY thus far this season. He drilled three FGs in this one, including 33- and 37-yarders to go along with his game-winner, and all of them were needed. Christopher is the classic unheralded “glue guy” for the offense who does all the little things that matter and possesses the skills to make crucial plays at times. He led the Owls in receptions (7) and receiving yards (72) in this one, and that end-game catch along the sidelines with a DB draped all over him was the definition of clutch and concentration.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org