The slow starts, the bad hands, the soft zone defense, the over-reliance on Jahad Thomas, they all came back to bite the Owls in this one. It also didn’t help that overconfidence seemed to creep into the equation here, not just with the players laying back, acting as if the game ultimately would roll in their direction because, hey, it always had save for the last four minutes on Halloween night, but with their head coach making decisions seemingly based on a belief much in the same way. Not for nothing, Matt Rhule, but this was an out-classing, out-performing right out the chute by the Bulls – there was no time to waste with running plays, outside of scrambles, in the second half when your offense was moving at a snail’s pace and down three scrores, nor FGs with the team ahead, far ahead, of you is scoring TDs. This was not a game that could not have been won. South Florida left the door open several times, and the Owls opted not to enter, failing to grasp the sense of urgency at hand throughout the game’s final 30 minutes probably because the football gods had graced them with so many improbable escapes from the jaws of defeat already this season. Sorry, that was fool’s gold and it finally showed up to be in this one. You can’t live on guts, guile, sheer luck and speed forever, especially when the latter two are completely erased by the opposition.
2. Saving grace
That seemingly sure-fire trip to the inaugural American Athletic Conference by the Owls, it’s gone … save for one thing – the schedule. Frankly, Temple, right now, would be dead to rites in regard to that affair if not for Memphis having a season back-loaded with difficult games and South Florida still having to play Cincinnati, which, honest to crud, probably is the best damn team in the circuit, but has done just enough to self-implode itself into the middle of the standings. Heading into Saturday night in Tampa, everyone was thinking the Owls were a given to be vying for AAC honors. They were 8-1 overall, 5-0 in the conference. Trailing ’em in the AAC East division were the Bulls at 5-4, 3-2. You’d think, oh, man, this is easy, home-free type stuff. Only, by losing to USF, the Owls essentially made their final two games must-wins since the Bulls would hold any tiebreaker edge due to head-to-head should both teams finish 6-2 in the AAC. Funny thing is, a loss next week to Memphis was an automatic … had the Tigers not collapsed at unbeaten Houston, throwing away a three-score, second-half advantage, to drop out of the AAC West race. So, they’ve been gutted. Plus, Cincy looms for USF this coming Saturday, and the Bearcats have long since accepted their middling status in the conference and have readjusted their goal to getting the best bowl game possible. In short, they have no pressure on them. USF now does.
3. You know what, target this ...
The Owls were flagged for two targeting hits, and the refs pulled back the hankie on the second. Reality is, they were either both targeting … or not. In each case, the USF player in the mix was a moving object, not a set-in-stone one, whereby the Owl in question lined up his prey and speared himself helmet to helmet with total connection. That’s the whole basis of the rule, to rid the game of such violent, unfair attacks. If anything, the ejection of Saladeem Major was way over the top, an overreaction to the impact of two players colliding and the fear of what could have happened to one of them (and nothing bad did happen, either). The only thing right with the officials’ conferring after to determine the validity of the penalty was them determining that the ball, bouncing around after a USF kickoff, had hit Major’s head and gone out of bounds, thus nullifying an infraction for the Bulls. How they missed that in the first place, who knows … If anything No. 2, DB Alex Wells’ hit on Quinton Flowers was far more questionable since the scrambling Bulls QB already had hit the turf with one knee before the Temple senior even lunged at him.
4. Thanks for the numbers
On a night when Temple had little reason to celebrate, Thomas did eclipse 1,000 yards rushing this season with his 16-carry, 65-yard effort and junior QB P.J. Walker surpassed 2,000 yards passing with his 259-yard performance. Thomas became just the 10th Owls runner to get a grand on the ground, and Walker matched a mark he had reached in each of his first two seasons. Also, senior LB Tyler Matakevich posted 9 tackles to inch closer to another 100-stop campaign. With three in the books, he has two more weeks to accumulate 4 more tackles to become just the fourth FBS all-time to have four seasons of 100 or more. That being said, T-Mat’s stock took a serious hit in this one as Flowers and lickety-split RB Marlon Mack embarrassed him time and again.
5. Unis a winner ... again
Owls remained unbeaten this season in the looks department at 9-0-1 … the tie coming against Notre Dame two weeks prior. Though fellow Under Armour swagger USF was pretty sharp with a white-green-green ensemble, the Owls’ white jersey and black pants (with cherry and white piping) topped off by that nasty black-cherry helmet was just too sweet to beat. In a way, Temple and UA seem to have morphed this old-school classy with new-school bad ass into a tremendous brand. The one caveat is those stupid diamonds mixed into the equation, along with the patched “T” on the jersey sleeves. Then again, if that’s what it takes to make the diamond “T” helmet of yesteryear disappear, thumbs up.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org