Oct 1, 2011, 4:07 PM EDT
Saturday’s game against the Toledo Rockets did not go the way Temple would have hoped—neither on the field nor in the stands. The Owls have fallen to 3-2 after a 36-13 loss to the now 2-3 Rockets.
Though Temple looked strong early, kicking a field goal on its first drive and forcing two Toledo three and outs, Owl kick returner Matt Brown failed to handle a punt after Toledo’s second stalled possession. The Rockets would recover his fumble on the Temple 10 and ultimately cash in on the opportunity, converting a two-point attempt to take an 8-3 lead.
Brown’s mistake coupled with a near immediate Chester Stewart overthrow and interception put the Owls down 15-3 early, swinging the momentum for the entirety of the contest.
Prior to the game, we had written that Toledo was substantially better than its 1-3 record indicated, and that the Rockets would present a tough test for the Owls.
Where Toledo looked motivated to atone for its controversial loss to Syracuse last week—and salvage its bowl hopes with a solid start to its conference schedule—the Owls looked almost lackadaisical, giving into a letdown in both intensity and execution after their big win over the Maryland Terrapins.
“We were concerned this week about our preparation,” head coach Steve Addazio said after game. “We always talk having a great Tuesday and a great Wednesday, and there were some distractions here. But, the things is, you have to learn how to handle that.”
“I knew [Toledo] would be highly motivated,” he continued. “This was a must-win for them and they played that way.”
Addazio has spoke at length after every game this season regarding the importance of winning the turnover battle. Saturday, the Owls’ early mistakes put them in a position from which they would be unable to recover.
Indicating that it was one thing to make a mistake, but another to compound it, Addazio stressed, “We cannot let that first turnover spill into what it did.”
Under center, quarterback Chester Stewart reverted to his typically erratic mean. Though he did show flashes of his solid play from last week—scrambling to pick up first downs and completing a 55-yard play action touchdown to Evan Rodriguez—he also made multiple mistakes down the field, frequently overthrowing his receivers.
Last week, Stewart credited his coaches and their play calling for putting him in a position to succeed by consistently offering the quarterback quick options behind screens and to crossing receivers underneath. Against Toledo, when asked to engineer a more vertical attack, Stewart appeared out of sync.
Though he is hardly the whole reason for the loss—indeed his scrambling ability helped to sustain a few Temple drives—he also failed to prove that he could lead his team out of a deficit.
On the ground, Bernard Pierce remains two rushing touchdowns behind Paul Palmer’s record. Though he was given plenty of opportunities to run the ball early, he failed to find much success behind the line or outside his tackles. Once Temple fell into a large enough hole, Pierce disappeared from the ballgame, registering just four yards in the third quarter. He was never a factor in the fourth. Bernard would finish the day with 75 yards on 24 carries, an average of just 3.1 yards per attempt.
As for the Owl defense, the unit who failed to give up more than 14 points to any team in its first four games surrendered 15 points in just the first quarter. Though Toledo entered the game without one of its top offensive threats in running back Adonis Thomas, they showed few problems moving the ball against Temple. Their no-huddle attack kept the Owls off balance and rarely in their set positions before the next snap.
Having run a two-quarterback system in its first four games, Toledo stuck with starter Austin Dantin against the Owls. They did so with good reason; Dantin finished the day 12-14 passing, throwing for 115 yards and a touchdown.
When Toledo did indeed opt for another QB, rather than calling on back-up Terrance Owens, they turned to wide receiver Eric Page. Page completed the fourth TD pass of his college career on a 33-yard trick play to third-string quarterback Dwight Macon. If that sentence sounds crazy, it was really just indicative of the entire day for Temple.
Off the field and in the stands, the university underwent a major push to maintain its record attendance levels after the first two home games of the season by offering a variety of $5 ticket offers. While the official attendance was announced at 21,705, the bodies in the stands seemed to reflect a lesser total. And though 21,705 is generally a very successful turn out for a MAC game, its tough to think the university wasn’t anticipating—or at least hoping for—a higher number.
Immediately prior to the game, there were some rumors floating that a potential Temple admission would be on the docket for tomorrow’s Big East conference meetings. Those rumors were quickly squashed by reports indicating that Air Force and Navy will be the schools of interest on tomorrow’s agenda. Whether the story is true or not, the Temple Owls will be well served to keep their minds away from realignment and on their own play.
Their coach will no doubt do his best to keep them on track.
“As I’ve told you before, one game doesn’t define anything,” said Addazio. “Just like last week didn’t define us, nor does this week. We gotta line up, have a great week of practice, and get ready to go play Ball State on the road, and take care of our business one week at a time.”
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