Temple came into Buffalo riding high after a huge win versus #21 Maryland. As you read here in my preview, I had a deep fear that this game could be a potential trap game for Rod Carey and our Temple Owls. Unfortunately, what has plagued this team through the last two games was only highlighted on Saturday. Poor special teams, inability to convert third downs, and the loss of a very key player on defense ultimately led to a shocking 38-22 Temple loss.
It was a quicksand kind of game for the Temple Owls. Everything that could have went wrong, did go wrong. Here is a quick recap of the game vs. Buffalo on Saturday.
First Half: The good, the bad, & the ugly
It didn’t take long for redshirt sophomore Christian Braswell, who was making his second career start on Saturday, to get his name heard. After a Dan Archibong sack up the middle forced 3rd and long, Christian Braswell picked off Matt Myers on Buffalo’s first offensive possession. This play was eerily similar to the interception from Harrison Hand during Maryland’s first offensive possession the previous Saturday.
The Temple Owls came into Saturday’s game with the 5th best rush defense in the American Athletic Conference. The first half was no different, holding Buffalo’s offense to just 30 yards on their first 14 carries. Temple scored on its first offensive possession, ending in a 3 yard touchdown pass from Anthony Russo to Isaiah Wright. This was the third straight game Isaiah Wright had a touchdown on offense this season.
Temple’s 3rd down offense and performance on special teams has been beyond dreadful since the Maryland game. A botched snap during a Temple punt led to a first and goal and 4 yard touchdown run for Buffalo. Buffalo led 10-7 after the score and Rod Carey opted to bring in a new long snapper, redshirt freshman Ronald Gaines. Bad snaps hurt them vs. Maryland, and it continued to rear its ugly head vs. Buffalo.
After a targeting call disqualified Shaun Bradley for the remainder of the game, Temple’s offense went cold and Buffalo’s offensive line began to dominate. In last year’s matchup, Temple’s poor offense on 3rd down (3-14) led to a Buffalo upset. The first half on Saturday was also no different. Temple was 1-7 on 3rd down in the first half and, at one point, had a -25 yards of total offense during the second quarter. Temple had 50 yards through the air and -1.7 yards per carry at the half. Anthony Russo had 16 passing yards after scoring on the first possession of the game (he completed 6/7 passes at one point).
Field position and time of possession were major recurring themes in the first half. Buffalo gained possession twice starting within the Temple 20 yard line, leading to two scores. A 14-play, 84 yard, 5:43 touchdown drive gave Buffalo a 24-7 lead at the half. Buffalo scored 24 unanswered points in the second quarter and held the ball for nearly 19 minutes.
Second Half: When it rains, it pours…
Different half, same back-breaking performance by Temple’s offense and special teams. A 43-yard fade route pass to Jaden Blue gave the Owls great field position to begin the third quarter. After a 2 yard run by Re’Mahn Davis, Anthony Russo was picked off by Aapri Washington after overthrowing Jaden Blue. Following a 3 and out by Anthony Russo and the Temple offense on the following possession, a horrible 21-yard punt by Adam Barry gave Buffalo, yet again, great field position.
After a big stop by the Temple defense, Anthony Russo was intercepted by Devon Russell on the Temple 23. This was Temple’s third turnover of the game, which gave Buffalo yet another scoring opportunity with great field position and led to a 4-play, 3 yard touchdown run by Jaret Patterson. With Buffalo leading 31-7, this was Buffalo’s third touchdown score following three Temple turnovers (2 interceptions, 1 fumble).
While Anthony Russo was fighting inaccuracy all afternoon, he certainly didn’t get any help. Isaiah Wright, Jaden Blue, and Brandon Mack each had major drops during crucial downs in the first and second half. Anthony Russo was routinely out of rhythm, either overthrowing or throwing behind his receivers all game. The third drop by Jaden Blue on 4th down in the third quarter led to a turnover on downs. Similar to the Maryland game, Temple’s out of sync offense and inability to convert on 3rd down (2-16) haunted the team all afternoon.
It didn’t end with the offense. Buffalo’s offensive line continued to dominate throughout the second half. RB Jaret Patterson forced more than a handful of missed tackles by Temple’s linebackers and secondary. At one point during the fourth quarter, Buffalo doubled Temple in regards to time of possession. A tipped Anthony Russo pass led to a pick-6 for Buffalo that extended the score to 38-10 in Buffalo’s favor.
A touchdown pass to Branden Mack, a successful onside kick, and a quick drive got Temple down the field, but an overthrow by Anthony Russo led to yet another turnover on downs. It was too much, too late for Anthony Russo as they were upset by a young, rebuilding Buffalo team 38-22.
Top Takeaways from the Temple Loss
Inability to Stop the Run
It was almost as if the Shaun Bradley ejection squeezed all the life out of the Temple Owls. After the first quarter, Temple was simply abused by Buffalo’s offensive line. After holding an electric Maryland team to 3.5 yards per carry, Buffalo had 217 yards of offense (4 rushing touchdowns) on the ground compared to Temple’s 31 yards. Temple’s 1.3 yards per carry doesn’t tell the whole story though. If you remove Re’Mahn Davis’ 45 yard run in the third quarter, then Temple’s ground game looks significantly worse. Beyond that, Temple’s inability to stop Buffalo’s read option was one of the largest surprises of the game on Saturday.
Inability to Convert on Third Down
For whatever reason, Temple cannot seem to convert on third down vs. Buffalo. Since 2018, Temple is 5-30 on 3rd down vs. the Buffalo Bulls. Combined with the Maryland game, Temple is 7-37 (19%) on 3rd down. Mis-throws, drops on crucial downs, and an inability to control the line of scrimmage put Temple in a deep hole early on, making it impossible to dig themselves out. Temple isn’t going to win many football game converting third downs at the current clip they’re at.
Anthony Russo & Losing the Line of Scrimmage
Pick yourself up, Anthony Russo. Head up, learn from your mistakes, and let’s keep this offense rolling vs. Georgia Tech. This was by far the worst performance we’ve seen from a normally very efficient Anthony Russo. By no means does all the blame go on the shoulders of Anthony Russo. Temple’s offensive line lost the line of scrimmage and Buffalo’s defense sacked Russo three times on Saturday. The last time Anthony Russo threw three interceptions in one game was during an overtime win vs. Cincinnati in 2018.
Jaden Blue’s Emergence
Yet another very strong game from wide receiver Jaden Blue on Saturday. Jaden’s 8 reception, 87 yard performance has certainly begun to turn some heads. Despite playing one less game than his competition, Jaden is now 3rd in receptions and yards in the American Athletic Conference. The 6’ sophomore had 3 receptions for 39 yards during his freshman season. He now has 23 catches and 336 yards through three games. Jaden Blue has arrived.
Luck or Missed Opportunity?
Temple got a huge break on Saturday, but it wasn’t in Buffalo. To the delight of many Temple fans, the Pittsburgh Panthers defeated the UCF Knights 35-34 with a “Pitt Special” that will surely go down as the play of the day. Pittsburgh’s defense was able to pick off freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel twice during the game. There are now zero undefeated teams in the East division of the American Athletic Conference. On the flip side, Temple missed out on a huge opportunity to lead the division. UCF, Cincinnati, and Temple now each have one loss in the East.
What’s on tap?
For Temple fans, it was a very forgettable game. For the Temple players and coaches, there were a significant amount of miscues and mistakes that must be corrected if Temple wants a shot in the conference championship game. Temple ex-Head Coach Geoff Collins returns to Philadelphia as Temple will next face Georgia Tech on Saturday 9/28 at 3:30pm.