After its first three games were canceled and the opener delayed for two weeks due to COVID-19 restrictions, Temple finally kicked off its season last week just in time to experience a heartbreaking defeat. The Owls give it another go Saturday in their first home game of the season, taking on the win-starved South Florida Bulls at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Temple outgained Navy in the opener, 407-299, but fell behind early and trailed by 11 points entering the fourth quarter. The Owls (0-1, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) scratched back from an early deficit, only to come up short on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:02 remaining and lose 31-29.
Senior quarterback Anthony Russo accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing), while Re’Mahn Davis rushed for 97 yards on 23 carries and scored on a 1-yard touchdown that set up the game-tying two-point try.
“There were multiple moments you wish you could have back,” Temple coach Rod Carey said. “We need to address those things and fix them. It’s a very resilient group.”
South Florida coach Jeff Scott is also counting on his group showing resilience.
After defeating The Citadel in its opener, South Florida (1-3, 0-2 AAC) has lost three in a row, has been outscored 124-31 in those three games, and is still seeking its first win of the season against an FBS opponent.
There might not be a better time for the Bulls to try to turn things around. Last season, they were off to a 4-4 start and had won three of four games when Temple visited Raymond James Stadium and left with a 17-7 decision.
That started South Florida on its current stretch of seven consecutive losses to FBS teams. The Bulls fell to East Carolina 44-24 last week.
“We knew that it was gonna be a process,” South Florida coach Jeff Scott said. “I firmly believe that our better days are ahead of us. I believe in the players that are in that locker room. I don’t understand quite why we haven’t played better than we have, but that’s my job to get it fixed and we’re gonna work on that starting tomorrow.”
Sophomore running back Johnny Ford continues to have a productive season with 269 yards combined rushing and passing following his 136 all-purpose yards in last week’s game. And sophomore Jordan McCloud completed 26 of 35 passes for 298 yards against the ECU.
“Jordan played well but we didn’t protect well enough for him,” Scott said.
Temple returns home to Lincoln Financial Field where it has won 10 of its past 11 games and has the last two meetings with South Florida.
The Owls’ returned three of their best receivers in Jadan Blue, Branden Mack and Randle Jones, who combined to catch 16 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown last week.
Linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley recorded a career-high 14 tackles and a sack to lead Temple’s defense. But the Owls couldn’t force a turnover, and Navy put together some time-consuming drives.
“We were a month and five days late, but I don’t think it should have had an effect,” Graham-Mobley said. “We felt like we had a good game plan that if we executed we could defeat them.”
Carey said Monday he expects starting right guard Adam Klein to return this week after missing the game against Navy with an unspecified injury.