Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
October 6, 2012Just strain.
Those two simple words Temple coach Steve Addazio utters to his football team frequently in practice made the difference in a play Saturday that turned what would have been a heartbreaking loss into a history-making win for the Owls.
Temple, which had been asked to leave the Big East conference back in 2004, was hosting South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field in its return to the league, and it looked like things were slipping away when Bulls placekicker Maikon Bonani was lining up for a makeable, 45-yard attempt with the Owls clinging to a two-point lead with 1 minute, 19 seconds left to play.
But Temple defensive end Marcus Green, as Addazio likes to say, strained to get just high enough off the ground and blocked Bonani's field goal attempt. Owls cornerback Anthony Robey recovered it and brought it 32 yards to the South Florida 35-yard line with 1:11 to play, and the team erupted into a celebration along the sideline.
And one play later, running back Montel Harris popped off right tackle for a 35-yard touchdown run that put the exclamation point on a 37-28 win before a homecoming crowd of 25,796 at the Linc.
Just like that, Green and then Harris took a Temple program that used to lose Big East games like this all the time from anxiety to elation in the span of 16 seconds on the game clock.
"In the huddle, Coach said we needed a play," Green told OwlScoop.com. "I wanted him to miss the field goal, but Coach said we needed a play. I saw a hole on the line where the tackle was and hopped in. I was lucky enough to get a hand on it. When I saw Robey running down the field with the ball, it was just a great feeling."
That great feeling is a collective one being felt by a Temple fan base that nearly lost its football program not long after the Owls were asked to leave the Big East eight years ago. Temple got beat up as an independent in 2005, became an affiliate member of the Mid-American Conference in 2006 and remained in the MAC through the 2011 season before getting back into the Big East back in March.
So for the Owls to mark their return to the league with a win is, well, a pretty big deal.
"This is a great win for our program. It's an emotional win," Addazio said. "It's Temple back in the Big East conference, our first Big East game, making a statement that our program is headed in the right direction, and we'll be a valued member in this conference."
The things that plagued Temple in its previous two losses - turnovers, dropped passes and missed defensive assignments - didn't resurface again Saturday. Instead, the passing game found some life and Harris, who transferred to Temple after becoming Boston College's all-time leading rusher, finally had his breakout game in a Cherry and White uniform.
Junior quarterback Chris Coyer, who got the Owls on the scoreboard with a 24-yard touchdown run at the 8:38 mark of the first quarter for an early 6-0 lead (placekicker Brandon McManus missed the extra point), completed 16 of his 20 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, a 9-yard scoring pass to tight end Cody Booth for the junior's first career score, one that put Temple ahead by 23-14 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.
Coyer completed passes to eight different players, starting with some early quick throws to players like Harris and running back Matt Brown, who left the game early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, before getting guys like Booth (three catches, 39 yards), slot receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick (three receptions, 34 yards) and wide receiver Deon Miller (one catch, 16 yards) involved.
Coyer, who wasn't helped by several dropped passes and overthrow Booth on what would have been a touchdown at Penn State, bounced back in a big way and didn't lose sight of the historical significance of the win.
"It's a great feeling," the 6-foot-3 lefty said. "It's a little more than coming back off a two-game losing streak; that, in and of itself, feels good. But it's coming back into the Big East and doing something that's a big win for Temple University, and we know that. First game back in the Big East after being kicked out so many years ago, and it's a great feeling to do something that's so good for the university."
Temple navigated five lead changes and got help from a defense that, for the most part, held talented South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels in check. Daniels, who has been battling an ankle injury, went 18 of 31 passing for 219 yard and two touchdowns - one through the air to wide receiver Lindsey Lamar that gave the Bulls a 7-6 lead with 3:34 left in the first quarter and another on the ground - a 1-yard plunge - that got South Florida within two at 30-28 with 5:19 left to play. Sophomore safety Chris Hutton picked Daniels off late in the game, and Shahid Paulhill, Nate Smith and Tavon Young (Smith and Young teamed for a half-sack) all got to him for the Owls' two sacks.
And freshman outside linebacker Tyler Matakevich stepped in nicely for an injured Olaniyi Adewole. All Matakevich did was ring up a game-high 15 tackles, including two that totaled losses of 12 yards. Smith, who continues to play more like a senior than a redshirt freshman, registered eight tackles.
In fact, it was a penalty from Smith that added to the game's drama. On fourth-and-5 from the South Florida 48, Daniels threw incomplete to Demetri Murray when Temple linebacker Gary Onuekwusi made a play to break up the pass. The Owls celebrated before they noticed the yellow flag that signaled a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Smith.
That 15-yard foul, combined with a 5-yard sideline warning penalty (it went into the books as a delay-of-game call) on Temple in reaction to the call, put the Bulls at the Temple 32.
Four plays later, Green came up with the blocked field goal that will go down as one of the more important moments in the program's history.
"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that this game makes a season," Addazio said. "That would be real foolish and I won't do that. This is a great moment and we're going to enjoy it. Guys like Bill Bradshaw, our athletic director, and the administration here at Temple brought this program back from the ashes. And they scraped and they fought and they brought in (former Owls head coach and current Miami head coach) Al Golden, and Al Golden scraped and he fought. And then we came in. It's been a team effort by the university, by everybody, by the fan base to build this thing back. It's a very proud moment for everybody for those reasons."
Extra points: The one blemish on the afternoon was the FOX29 report that Temple defensive tackle Kamal Johnson, who had started the first two games of the season, was arrested on kidnapping and a related charge. When asked about it after the game, Temple coach Steve Addazio simply said, "No comment." Saturday marked the Owls' fourth-straight homecoming win and its fourth-straight win in a conference opener. Senior placekicker Brandon McManus' missed extra point snapped a streak of 59 consecutive made extra points, dating back to the 2010 season. Addazio said backup quarterback Kevin Newsome played the role of South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels in practice to prepare the team for facing the Bulls' offense.
OwlScoop.com Editor John DiCarlo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow John on Twitter @jdicarlo or @OwlScoop_com