SHREVEPORT, La. – Temple University didn’t have its leading rusher and top cornerback in its deflating loss to Duke University on Thursday.
Senior running back Ryquell Armstead and senior cornerback Rock Ya-Sin both wanted to play, but were not healthy enough to participate in Temple’s 56-27 loss to Duke in the Independence Bowl, interim coach Ed Foley said.
Both Ya-Sin and Armstead received invitations to play in next month’s Senior Bowl, a showcase of college football’s best seniors in front of NFL scouts.
Some players on NFL teams’ radars sit out their team’s bowl games to remove injury risk during the period before the draft. But senior safety Delvon Randall adamantly said Armstead and Ya-Sin sat out because they couldn’t play.
Armstead and Ya-Sin weren’t made available for comment after the game, but Ya-Sin tweeted after the game saying he had a sinus infection.
“[Ya-Sin] told us all week that he wasn’t feeling too well, for medical reasons,” Randall said. “The same with Ryquell. Honestly, it was truly medical issues. I don’t think those guys would ever leave us out to dry like that.”
In his lone season at Temple after transferring from Presbyterian College, Ya-Sin led the Owls with 12 pass breakups while adding two interceptions. Temple’s pass defense missed Ya-Sin’s presence against Duke.
The Owls’ conceded only one pass play of more than 20 yards in their last two regular season games. On Thursday, Duke had seven of those plays, including an 85-yard receiving touchdown by Duke senior wide receiver T.J. Rahming in the third quarter. Blue Devils redshirt-junior quarterback Daniel Jones, CBS Sports’ No. 3 NFL quarterback prospect, threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns.
Armstead ran for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games this season. Without him, Temple gave the bulk of the carries to redshirt-junior running back Jager Gardner and redshirt-senior fullback Rob Ritrovato. Gardner finished the day with seven carries for 34 yards, while Ritrovato recorded 15 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Temple struggled to move the ball in the second half. Duke turned a 27-21 halftime deficit to a 42-27 lead at the end of the third quarter and forced Temple to have to pass the majority of the second half. The Owls had less than 100 total yards in the final two quarters.
The Owls finished with 53 yards rushing, their second-lowest total of the season.
“Not having those two guys was a missing piece,” Randall said. “But we just had to come out and play. Next man up is our mentality here.”