OWLS OVERCOME SENIORITIS TO TOP UCONN
BY ROCK HOFFMAN
COLLEGE FOOTBALL EDITOR
Philadelphia – This year’s senior class of Temple football players has been through a lot. Over and above what a normal college student and college football player have to deal with, they were recruited by and played for Matt Rhule, they were coached by Geoff Collins, twice they were led in bowl games by Ed Foley and, finally, they were guided by Rod Carey in their final season in Cherry and White. It all led to an emotional Saturday afternoon as the Owls faced the University of Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field in the regular season finale.
All that emotion effected the Owls underclassmen as well and resulted in what Carey called, “an awful start.” It allowed the Huskies, who had lost 18 American Athletic Conference games in a row, to jump out to a two-touchdown lead. Ultimately, the Owls (8-4, 5-3 AAC) came back to win going away 49-17.
It was 14-0 UConn (2-10, 0-8 AAC) before the echoes of the national anthem had faded. The Huskies sandwiched two touchdown drives around a three-and-out by the Owls. They converted on third-and-10 in each of the drivers. One play after converting the first time, UConn quarterback Jack Zergiotis hit Ardell Brown with a 51-yard touchdown pass. On their next series, the Huskies duo connected again to convert the third down which, eventually, led to a two-yard touchdown run by Steven Krajewski.
With their second possession, the Owls caught their breath and scored to cut it to 14-7. Wide receiver Branden Mack adjusted nicely on a deep ball throw by Anthony Russo and after the cornerback and safety bumped into each other, the Cheltenham High School graduate raced the rest of the way for a 63-yard scoring play.
Early in the second quarter, the Huskies made it 17-7 on a 40-yard field goal by Clayton Harris they wouldn’t snap the ball on the Temple side of the 50 again until the first play of the fourth quarter and by then they were losing 42-17.
Later in the first half, Todd Centeio came in at quarterback for the Owls and once again seemed to spark the offense. He ran it three-straight times before hitting tight end Kenny Yeboah on a 53-yard pass play. On the next play, Jadan Blue was on the receiving end of a 16-yard touchdown pass from Centeio. It made things better but the Owls still trailed at halftime 17-14.
They didn’t trail for long once the second half started. On the first series, Russo, an Archbishop Wood grad, hooked up with the former Panther Mack (their high schools will play for the Pennsylvania state championship at the 5A level on Friday) on a beautiful throw and catch that, after video review, resulted in a 41-yard touchdown for the Owls. Running back Tayvon Ruley had a key 23-yard dash on the drive. It was the first of four scores for the Temple in the quarter while the Huskies could only manage one first down. Owls defensive linemen Quincy Roche and Zack Mesday each had drive-ending sacks on third down plays in the quarter.
Russo capped the next possession with an eight-yard run as the Owls mixed the pass and run to matriculate the ball down the field. Running back Re’Mahn Davis exploded for a 55-yard scoring run and then the defense got into it with linebacker Sam Franklin intercepting a Krajewski pass and taking it 29 yards to make the score 42-17.
“We made some adjustments coming out in the second half,” said Franklin, a senior whose only other career touchdown came earlier this season on a fumble return at USF, “and we played ball like we’re supposed to, everybody stayed doing their job.”
Late in the game, Ruley capped the scoring with a six-yard run.
It was the 33rd overall win - which is third best in school history - and 23rd conference win for this senior class.
“My biggest regret,” said Carey when speaking about the class, “is that I don’t have more time with these seniors because I like being around them. They’re unbelievable guys, first and foremost, before football players and they’re all going to be super successful in life.”
As it is, they hope to be successful in a bowl game at a site and against a team to be determined.
Email Rock Hoffman at email@example.com