TURNOVERS DOOM OWLS AGAINST UCF
If Temple was supposed to beat UCF because the undefeated Knights were looking ahead to their showdown for the American Athletic Conference East Division with South Florida next week or because with temperatures in the 50’s and a forecast that called for rain, the Knights might not be able to handle the weather since they spend most of their time hanging out in Mickey Mouse’s home town – Orlando – no one told the 15th ranked team in the country as they rolled to a 45-19 victory on Saturday afternoon at cool but dry Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls (5-6, 3-4 American) committed five turnovers, including three in the second quarter that basically decided the game. Knights (10-0, 7-0 American) quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for four touchdowns and ran for another.
“We didn’t send the seniors out the way we wanted to,” said Temple head coach Geoff Collins, “[in]their last home game.”
The teams traded scores late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter, the Owls took a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi. After turning the ball over on downs at their own 46-yard line to set up the Boumerhi field goal, the Knights raced down the field with their second possession and Milton ran in from the four to cap a 60-yard drive that took just 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
The Owls would answer right back, with an eight-yard touchdown pass from Frank Nutile to Keith Kirkwood. It was a similar catch to the eight-yard reception he made with one second left in the game last season to cap the Owls comeback win over the Knights.
The Temple defense couldn’t slow down the high-powered Knights offense, which is the top scoring offense in the country averaging 48.6 points per game, this time they went 70 yards in 2:06; the big play was a 41-yard pass from Milton to Tre’Quan Smith on the first play of the drive. Dredrick Snelson scored on a two-yard run to give the UCF a lead they would never relinquish.
“I was expecting them to put up points and us keep putting up points and it was going to be a high-scoring game,” said Temple running back David Hood, who had 81 yards on 12 carries and had the honor of wearing jersey No. 1.
“Having so many turnovers threw off our rhythm,” he said.
On the second play of Temple’s next possession, Nutile was intercepted by Pat Jasinski at the Owls 20. It set up Milton’s first touchdown pass which was for nine yards to Otis Anderson.
Ryquell Armstead fumbled on Temple’s next turn with the ball, it was forced by Shaquem Griffin, who is an NFL prospect despite having only one hand, and recovered by Titus Davis at the Temple 23. The Owls defense pushed the Knights back but Matthew Wright was still able to kick a 44-yard field goal and UCF was up 24-10.
After Temple punted, the Owls defense was in desperate need of a stop and they did just that. They halted the Knights drive which had reached the Temple 31 with back-to-back tackles for loss, one by Sam Franklin and the other a sack by Sharif Finch but they committed their third turnover in seven minutes of game action when Kyle Gibson picked off Nutile at the Temple 22 and took it back to the five-yard line. Milton needed only one play to find Gabriel Davis for the score.
With less than two-and-a-half minutes left in the first half and UCF due to receive the second half kickoff it was imperative that the Owls run out the clock and they did just that. Nutile connected with Ventell Bryant on an eight-yard pass to convert a fourth down and on a third-and-10, he hit Kirkwood with a 17-yard pass to keep a drive alive. The end result was a 41-yard field goal by Boumerhi and an 18-points deficit – the same amount the Owls trailed by last season against UCF before Phillip Walker led them on an epic comeback that was key to Temple’s championship season.
However, there would be no miracle finish this year. In the third quarter, Milton added two more touchdowns. One of 22 yards to Smith and the other eight yards to Marlon Williams.
For the final score, Adonis Jennings was on the receiving of a 74-yard pass from Nutile, it was the Owls longest play from scrimmage of the season but was of little consolation.
“The goals are still out there to send these seniors out the right way,” said Collins. A win next week at Tulsa would make the Owls bowl eligible for the fourth season in a row and make the seniors the all-time winningest class at Temple with 32 victories.
Email Rock Hoffman at Rock@footballstories.con