EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Hits and misses.
That was the story of Temple’s game at Connecticut Saturday.
The Owls had their share of big plays – both positive and negative – as they fell to the Huskies, 22-17, dropping their record to 0-3.
A big hit by red-shirt junior Omar McDonnaugh-Hales forced Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen to cough up the football early in the third quarter. The Owls capitalized on sophomore running back Jason Harper’s touchdown run, a 13-yard rumble, which put Temple ahead, 14-13. The lead was Temple’s first since the team defeated Bowling Green last season.
In the fourth quarter, a hit from sophomore defensive end Brian Sanford stopped Lorenzen on a fourth-and-one to give Temple momentum and the ball on the UConn 32-yard line.
Later, red-shirt sophomore safety Dominique Harris and junior defensive end Terrance Knighton stopped Huskies running back Lou Allen on another fourth-and-one, with 2:24 left in the game.
Temple’s defense hit early and often, registering six sacks on the day, as sophomore defensive tackle Andre Neblett led the way collecting a career-high two sacks.
The Owls’ offensive line hit the UConn defensive linemen enough to open holes for Harper, who muscled his way to a career-high 114 yards on 22 carries.
And for each of those hits, there were misses.
One came in the form of a fumble by Harper after the Owls had marched 47 yards from their own 14-yard line.
“The fumble came at a time when we were kind of getting in a groove,” coach Al Golden said. “So, that hurt us, but he bounced back and kept running hard. Harp got his pads down today and kept running hard.”
Another miss came after Sanford’s fourth down stop. Quarterback Adam DiMichele, who went 9-for-18 passing with 143 yards and a touchdown, tried to hit freshman Daryl Robinson after being flushed from the pocket. But DiMichele was intercepted by cornerback Donald Vaughn.
Golden said that was just a case of a captain attempting to lead his team.
“I know that’s one he wishes he had back,” Golden said. “He was trying to make a play and he saw Daryl and Daryl was waiting for the ball instead of coming back to the ball. [Daryl] doesn’t even know where to line up sometimes, more or less what to do in scramble drills. We have some growing up to do.”
DiMichele said he knew it was a miss as soon as it left his grasp.
“There were plays where I was scrambling in the first half and people were like, ‘Throw it across your body, make a play,'” he said. “But there were times last year where I would do it and it’d get picked off. And the one time I do it this year . . . I knew it was a pick when I threw it.”
Temple also missed an opportunity to slow down the opponent’s rushing offense, with the Connecticut game marking the third time an individual has topped the century mark on the ground against the Owls.
Andre Dixon did the honors for the Huskies, turning 21 carries into 129 yards.
Another miss for the Owls came on the last drive of the game.
No, not that play. There will be more on that later.
The miss came on the play immediately before the drive’s controversial final play. DiMichele dropped back to throw on the Huskies’ 12-yard line on third-and-seven. With the Owls trailing 22-17, DiMichele had sophomore wide receiver Dy’Onne Crudup in his sight as Crudup had come open on a crossing route in the middle of the field. But a UConn defender blew by his man and hit DiMichele as he released the ball and the pass fell incomplete.
DiMichele said he was confident if he had a little more time on the play, it would have played out the way it did in his head at the time.
“I saw Dy’Onne coming across the field,” he said. “I knew if I had another half a second, I would have gotten him the ball and he would have turned it up the field. I saw it in my head and I knew he was going to turn it up the field.”
Then, in some eyes, came the official’s time to miss something – the correct call.
On fourth-and-seven from the Huskies’ 12-yard line, the Owls went for it all, a decision Golden said the players earned.
“You fight for 3 1/2 hours, and I wish we would’ve gotten more [yardage] on first and second down, but you’ve got to take a shot,” Golden said. “It’s really what the kids deserved at that point. They deserved to have an opportunity to win.”
And the opportunity presented itself in a big way. A halfback toss reverse pass was called, with DiMichele handing off to Harper, who then tossed it to Crudup coming around on a reverse.
DiMichele, who bolted downfield as a receiver, tipped the ball, which landed in the hands of wide receiver Bruce Francis, whose left foot appeared to drag inbounds after the catch.
The pass was ruled incomplete on the field and was upheld by officials after replay. It was the second replay involving Crudup, who had a catch nullified earlier in the game by the replay officials.
“What happened? I don’t know what happened,” Golden said. “I just saw the video. He’s in. I don’t know what to say.”
Even Golden was missing – missing words to describe his emotions.
Terrance McNeil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.