Temple’s special teams hinder Owls in single-digit loss to Cincinnati

Temple wide receiver Jadan Blue reeled in a one-handed catch on third-and-11 from Cincinnati’s 20-yard line for an Owls first down. Freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis then took an outside zone run in for a seven-yard touchdown on the next play. Temple (7-4, 4-3) trailed 13-6, and percentages would let you assume Temple would cut the deficit to six points. However, 6’9″ redshirt freshman center Lorenz Metz blocked Owls kicker Will Mobley’s extra point. Missing out on the point was bad enough, but Cincinnati junior Coby Bryant recovered the loose ball for a two-point play.

For a Temple offense who struggled finishing drives, a two-possession contest asked the Owls to create two more scores. Temple trailed 15-13 with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and starting their penultimate drive at the 24-yard line. They accomplished phase one of their two-part objective, with quarterback Anthony Russo (R-Jr.) connecting with tight end Kenny Yeboah (R-Jr.) on a wheel route for a 16-yard touchdown.

However, Russo felt incoming pressure. He overthrew a covered Branden Mack for an interception from safety Darrick Forrest Jr., sealing the Temple loss, 15-13.

One Mistake Too Many for Temple

In a game littered with Temple errors, Russo’s pick capped off a game Temple could’ve won against a ranked opponent. Mobley missed his lone field goal attempt from 32 yards out, Jacob LaFree (Grad.) had two kickoffs roll out of bounds, and punter Adam Barry (So.) is still probably adjusting to rugby style punts, a shift from his style to open the season. Barry had to corral a low snap and his knee touched the ground, giving Cincinnati possession at Temple’s six-yard line. The Bearcats would translate that blunder to three points.

Russo completed just 24 of 43 passes for 228 yards. That’s 5.3 yards per attempt, as Russo opened the game five-of-five passing but finished 19 of 38 (50 percent) over his final 38 attempts. He overthrew Mack on a wheel route that would’ve been an Owls touchdown. He also doesn’t have enough mobility to pose a threat as a runner in Temple’s option attack.

The agility advantage lies in backup sophomore quarterback Todd Centeio (1/2 passing for four yards, one rush for negative-one yard), whose only possession at the helm was cut short from an Isaiah Wright drop, something the senior wideout has dealt with throughout the season. Centeio threw two touchdowns over Temple’s previous two games when spelling Russo.

Bearcats Bear-ly Better

Cincinnati (10-1, 7-0) quarterback Desmond Ridder went just 9 for 25 passing for a mere 62 yards. Senior safety Benny Walls picked off one of Ridder’s passes, as it skipped off a receiver’s grasp. Opposing quarterbacks are just 20-for-52 with 165 total passing yards against Temple over the past two games.

Junior running back Michael Warren II is a powerful back who amassed 106 yards on 24 carries. On the Bearcats’ last meaningful possession, Temple blew up a run to the left from Warren to force Cincinnati into a third-and-12. Cincinnati opted to go deep with a pass instead of bleeding more clock, so that second down stop was pretty critical.

Davis and Blue Do What They Can

Re’Mahn Davis led Temple with 71 yards on 13 rushes. He also played a part in Temple’s passing game, taking a pass to the flat for 23 yards on a third-and-14. Senior Jager Gardner only tallied 24 yards on 10 rushes and took a massive hit in the fourth quarter.

Jadan Blue (R-So.) is now Temple’s single-season receptions leader with 80 receptions on the year. He finished Saturday’s game with 13 receptions for 120 yards. Blue is a do-everything wideout for Temple and could be considered their offensive MVP, as they prepare for their regular season finale next week when they host UConn (2-9, 0-7). Blue’s versatility and impact are vital to Temple’s offensive success this season. He’s 77 yards away from 1,000 receiving yards for the season and has grown into a star for head coach Rod Carey’s offense.

Both Blue and Davis have evolved as talented skill players this season. Senior defensive end Quincy Roche recorded 1.5 sacks, as he eclipsed the 10-sack mark on the season. Despite the special teams issues and shoddy quarterback play, there are definite positives.