For some reason the Owls continue to play down to their competition. Maybe they do it to varying degrees each time, but, regardless, the act is getting old … and it seems to reason that continuously playing with such fire eventually will burn them. Four times now Temple has played inferior teams with inferior talent to its own, and each time, well, you’d have no idea that was the case. Massachusetts, Charlotte, Tulane and now Central Florida all made the Owls sweat things out for some measure of time – a quarter, a half, three quarters, a freakin’ full game – when all of them should have been first-round knockouts for Matt Rhule’s squad, veritable tomato cans that cave after a possession or two. Not one of them has been. It’s a bad sign because, with this, Temple is showing that it is looking past certain opponents and, frankly, despite the dramatic improvements under Rhule’s watch, it is not good enough to do so, and even if it were the habit or trend or whatever the heck it is, is a bad one to have. The type that could cost a special season before it ever really has a chance to truly become special.
2. Positives? Yeah, there were a few
No matter the griping above, there is no denying that the Owls’ current season continues on in historic fashion. How historic? This is only the fourth time a Temple team has started a season 6-0, and the last time was 1974. The others were the 1945 and 1935 editions. It’s a bit early, but stick this in the back of your mind: the 1979 Owls set the program record for wins, going 10-2, and was the only Temple outfit to finish a season ranked. Beyond that, senior LB Tyler Matakevich, in making eight stops, surpassed the 400-tackle mark for his career, becoming just the third Owl ever to do so. He also recorded his fourth INT of the season. Junior RB Jahad Thomas set career single-game marks for carries (31), yards (199) and TDs (3).
3. Not-so special teams provides turning point
With losing two fumbles while trying to return a pair of punts, and some really shaky punting of its own all game, Temple hardly set high standards with its special teams in this one. However, it was Sean Chandler’s 66-yard punt return on the opening play of the fourth quarter that provided the spark to keep the Owls unbeaten. Trailing 16-14 and looking lifeless at the time, Temple needed something, anything, it seemed to get going. Chandler’s electric effort did that for sure. Two plays later, Thomas was scoring the go-ahead TD. Without that return, it’s quite possible the Owls would have lost this one. Temple’s defense was impressive in holding UCF to just 134 yards of total offense, but, yeah, without Chandler busting out that long return, it may not have mattered.
4. Hidden gems
Ventell Bryant had a major, albeit overlooked, impact on the game. The freshman WR from Tampa, Fla., didn’t just haul in four passes for 40 yards, but he made all of them count, garnering first downs on three and a 3-yard TD in the back of the end zone on the other. With the latter, it should be noted the coaching staff, and QB P.J. Walker, were brilliant in going right back to Bryant after he had dropped a potential TD pass in the corner of the end zone. Oh, Chandler also saved some points, too, from his CB position, intercepting a pass at the Owls’ 25 with UCF likely closing in on another FG that would have pushed its 16-14 advantage to five points.
5. This and that
The announced crowd of 31,752 at Lincoln Financial Field is nice and shows that the Owls, indeed, are finally starting to garner a little attention in such a pro-heavy sports town. The reality is, there may have been about 20,000 who actually showed up. Still, it was a vocal bunch, so vocal that the boos emanating from it due to what it was watching actually affected the Owls, according to Rhule when he spoke at halftime. … The latest helmet was a winner, with a cherry Temple “T” replacing the TEMPLE script on a black-cherry lid first unveiled for last season’s Navy game in South Philly. The Owls went with cherry jerseys and white pants, a classic combo to go with its new headgear. Sorry, still don’t appreciate the mini-diamonds design on the jersey sleeves and pant legs. But the helmet gets a thumbs up for sure. … For the second time in three games, the Owls’ defense failed to record a sack. The Owls posted 10 in the season opener and have only 6 combined in five games since. … Chandler’s INT was his third in the last two games. … After going 1-11 to start his tenure at Temple, Rhule has gone 13-5 since. … The Owls have won seven straight, dating back to last season’s finale at Tulane, and are now bowl eligible for the fifth time in the last seven seasons..
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org