The football team’s game plan against Northern Illinois Saturday called for the offense to stay on the field as much as possible in an effort to keep Garret Wolfe, the Huskies’ Heisman Trophy candidate, off the field.
The blueprint had one flaw: It left Huskies defensive end Larry English on the field.
English tallied 4.5 sacks, forced a fumble and recovered another as the Huskies rolled over the Owls, 43-21, at Huskie Stadium.
Temple got 311 all-purpose yards from Travis Shelton but it wasn’t enough to stave off an 0-8 start and the Owls’ 20th consecutive defeat.
The loss moved Temple’s losing skid into a tie for eighth-worst in Division I-A history. The Owls are one loss away from tying the program record of 21 consecutive losses, a streak that stretched through their 1957-59 seasons.
English had a field day against Owls left tackle Devin Tyler, who, at 260 pounds, is about 40 pounds shy of the typical D I-A lineman. English’s first sack virtually extinguished a strong opening drive for the Owls, knocking them into a third-and-22 situation.
“Credit the Northern Illinois defense, but we didn’t convert,” coach Al Golden said. “We didn’t put any points on the board. When you’re kind of methodical like that and you take [seven] minutes off the clock, you got to get some points for it.”
Then English nearly single-handedly ended the Owls’ next three drives.
On third and nine he sacked quarterback Adam DiMichele to halt the Owls’ second drive.
His third sack of the day caused DiMichele to fumble on the unit’s next series.
Huskies’ Mike Thornton scooped it up on Temple’s nine-yard line. The turnover resulted in a field goal.
The Owls’ offense had barely settled onto the field for their fourth drive when English sent the unit packing for a third straight time, pouncing on tailback Tim Brown’s second-play fumble.
By that time, the Huskies had constructed a 13-0 lead.
When the Owls returned for their fifth drive, English greeted DiMichele with his fourth sack. For good measure, he teamed with Brad Benson to sack DiMichele in the third quarter on another third-and-long play.
By the time the Owls could recover, they trailed 40-0 in the third quarter.
Though the Owls’ offensive line struggled to maintain English, the defensive line kept Wolfe, the nation’s leading rusher, in check.
The Heisman Trophy candidate collected just 45 yards on 17 carries. He exited the game midway through the third quarter with just three gains that totaled more than five yards.
Four times the Owls’ defense tackled Wolfe for a loss.
Though the defense, which entered the game last in Division I-A rushing defense, allowed a season-low 89 yards, sophomore defensive end Philip Simpson said the Owls refuse to claim any moral victories.
“My personal feeling is, I’d rather take a win and give him 300 yards,” Simpson said. “… That was a good stepping stone for us to keep doing the things we’re doing.”
Without Wolfe, the Huskies turned to an aerial attack. Quarterbacks Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson combined for 377 passing yards and four touchdowns. Eight Northern Illinois wide receivers caught at least two passes.
The Owls also found success through the air. DiMichele opened the game by completing his first five passes for 61 yards as the Owls marched down the field. That’s when the Huskies, led by English, smothered their attack.
The Owls notched just 12 more yards as the Huskies danced to a 40-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. DiMichele finally put the Owls on the board on their next drive when he connected with Shelton, a sophomore wide receiver, for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Then, the unit began rolling.
After Simpson picked off Nicholson, DiMichele again hooked up with Shelton, this time for a 44-yard touchdown.
“I have a great quarterback,” Shelton said. “So, he’ll make plays. I just got to catch it.”
DiMichele and Shelton again led the Owls up the field with 10 minutes remaining. Shelton caught two passes, including a 59-yard bomb, and wideout Steve Maneri caught a two-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 43-21.
“I’m really proud of the way we finished the game,” Golden said. “The way we’re competing – I know the kids are starting to believe in the process and the things that we’re trying to teach them. If we continue to do that we’ll win our share of games here in the future.”
Shelton finished with 311 all-purpose yards, including 204 receiving yards. DiMichele totaled a career high 322 yards on 20-of-29 passing. He tossed one interception, but it came on a high toss into the endzone as time expired.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.