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November 10, 2012

QB change not enough in 34-10 loss

On the field, the final outcome was crystal clear. Temple trailed from the outset, never recovered and lost, 34-10, to Cincinnati Saturday afternoon before an announced crowd of just 20,192 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls, who fell to 3-6, must now win their last two games at Army and at home against Syracuse and hope for the proposed 12th game at Hawaii to be finalized if they want to get to six wins and become bowl eligible. But looking at an offense that produced just 10 points and 267 yards of total offense and a defense that again got shredded Saturday, this time to the tune of 472 yards, that might be a tall task.

Oh, and Temple might have a new starting quarterback next week, too.

Starter Chris Coyer went 5 of 16 for just 56 yards and an interception and was benched after halftime in favor of backup Clinton "Juice" Granger, who went 7 of 15 passing for 86 yards and engineered the Owls' only touchdown drive. Starting running back Montel Harris left with an injury in the third quarter and did not return, and his status or the specifics of his injury were not made clear after the game, although second-year Temple head coach Steve Addazio seemed to indicate that it was nothing serious.

Either way, moving forward, there are certainly more questions than answers for the Owls, and it's clear the program is going to need more time to recruit to the Big East if it wants to compete against teams who have had the ability to do just that for the past several seasons, even if Temple did start out conference play at 2-0 with wins over South Florida and Connecticut after rejoining the conference after being asked to leave it following the 2004 season.

To bring things into focus, during a four-game losing streak that has included setbacks to Rutgers, Pitt, Louisville and now Cincinnati, the Owls has been outscored by 161-54 during that span.

But in the postgame press conference, Addazio channeled equal parts Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Sgt. Slaughter and sounded more like a coach whose team had just won by 24. Over the course of the next 21 minutes and change, he made references to puzzle pieces, quoted song lyrics from The Shirelles and Ruby and The Romantics and even referenced an 80s sitcom, too.

"We're just going to keep fighting," said Addazio, who spoke as if he had chugged five cups of coffee before entering the room. "We're not together yet. That hasn't happened yet; the pieces of the puzzle aren't together yet. We've got a lot of young guys in there and at times, we make mistakes on both sides of the ball and critical errors that cost us dearly.

"I don't blame you if you get tired of hearing that, and I understand that, but that's just the way it is," he added, acknowledging that the team's youth has been one of his favorite talking points. "But those are the facts of life. I like our football team, I really believe in our football team. I really believe, as I said, our day will come. Our day will come."

There's a good chance Addazio is right. But right now, he's coaching a team that's getting flashes of good play from it's younger players but otherwise inconsistent or poor play from most of its upperclassmen.

Freshman outside linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who has led the team in tackles - this time with eight - ever since he became a starter six weeks ago, played well again. Senior defensive end John Youboty rediscovered his pass-rushing abilities and got two sacks, and redshirt freshman middle linebacker Nate Smith registered a pass breakup and played with the same energy he always does, even if it only amounted to two tackles.

Otherwise, defensive coordinator Chuck Heater's unit was overmatched again, and they didn't even have to deal with the sometimes electrifying and sometimes maddening Cincinnati quarterback, Munchie Legaux, who was benched in favor of backup Brandon Kay. Kay, who had attempted just five passes this season, completed 13 of 21 throws for 244 yards and two touchdowns - a 75-yard bomb to wide receiver Kembrell Thompkins in the first quarter that gave way to a 14-3 lead and a perfectly-thrown, 65-yard strike to Chris Moore in the third quarter that helped the Bearcats jump to a comfortable 31-10 advantage.

On the 75-yard touchdown throw, Cincinnati's offensive line remained in its stance as the ball was snapped, as if to trick Temple into thinking it had jumped offside. It worked.

Cincinnati running back George Winn, the Big East's leading rusher, did his damage, too, getting 83 yards and two one-yard touchdown runs on 20 carries. And even Kay racked up 71 yards on the ground, with 40 coming on a busted play that saw him run away from the pass rush and into a wide-open seam in the field as senior strong safety Justin Gildea inexplicably ran away from the action and opened up a big running lane.

Meanwhile, Temple managed just three first-half points on a 20-yard field goal by senior Brandon McManus and trailed by 24-3 at halftime. At that point, Addazio told Granger he would be going in at quarterback to start the second half and told Coyer he would be staying on the sideline.

"There were definitely a few balls that I would have liked to have back," said Coyer, who went 2 of 8 passing for just 20 yards and fumbled twice in last week's loss at Louisville. "You guys know the rest."

After Cincinnati's first series of the second half stalled, Granger, who has only seen scant backup time this season, engineered an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cody Booth in the back of the end zone, a play that saw Granger stay settled in the pocket and go through his progressions before finding Booth with a tightly-thrown ball. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Granger, who played his high school football at Philadelphia's George Washington High School and made two junior college stops prior to arriving at Temple before the start of last season, went 3-for-4 on that drive and hit on a 17-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Romond Deloatch and a 33-yard strike to John Christopher.

After the game, Addazio would not commit to naming Granger his starter for next Saturday's game at Army, but it sure sounded like he's leaning that way.

"Juice went in and I thought he did a nice job," Addazio said. "I want to watch the tape, but I'm all about putting the guy in there that can move the football team. For me to stand up here and make proclamations, I'm just not wired that way. But I thought he did a nice job. I liked what I saw. I wanted to get him into the game and he went in the game and to the guy's credit, he orchestrated a nice drive and looked good doing it - made some plays, made some throws, did some things, checked some protections. Good for him.

"I can't wait to coach him. I can't wait for Monday. I'm not going to diddle around with it. I'll confirm my tape and you'll get an answer from me."

Granger said he had not been told anything yet about whether or not he will start next week, but he obviously sounded like he wants to be the guy.

"I feel as thought I could bring a lot," Granger said, "leadership, making the throws, making the runs, checks. Just being an all-around quarterback."

When asked if he felt he had proved himself worthy of being the starter, Granger wouldn't go quite that far.

"I feel as if I showed flashes," he said.

Flashes. That might be one of the key descriptors of Temple's season. The Owls will show some of them, just as they did in the wins over South Florida and UConn and at other points along the way. Addazio is starting to see flashes from freshman receivers like Deloatch, who registered his first career catch and caught a team-high four passes for 42 yards, and Sam Benjamin, who hauled in a 13-yard reception. There's the obvious talent of sophomore slot receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, who caught two passes for 31 yards and saw several snaps as a wildcat quarterback, a position he played at Harrisburg High School.

True freshman Kyle Friend is staring to settle in at center, where he's replaced injure starter Sean Boyle, and senior tailback Matt Brown appears to be gaining strength in his injured ankle and carried the ball nine times for 35 yards and tallied 78 yards on three kickoff returns.

But until it all comes together, until all the pieces of the puzzle interlock as Addazio said, there will be more growing pains for a Temple team that's reacquainting itself to life in the Big East.

Just don't expect the ups and downs to keep Addazio down or have him at a loss for words in his postgame sessions with the media.

"This is as fun of an outfit as I've been able to coach in my career," said Addazio, who won two national championships as an assistant on Urban Meyer's Florida staff before coming to Temple prior to the 2011 season to replace Al Golden. "It's real moldable. It's frustrating, but it's moldable and that's exciting."

OwlScoop.com editor John Di Carlo can be reached at jgdicarlo@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @OwlScoop_com or @jdicarlo.


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