The Owls’ span of 20 years without a bowl game will now be stretched to 21.
Not since 1979, and a win over California at the Garden State Bowl, has Temple been invited to a bowl game. After a 31-12 loss to Syracuse last weekend, the Owls’ bowl hopes were dashed yet again.
Temple came into the game with a 4-5 record. Two wins likely would have given the program a bowl bid, but one loss would knock them out of contention.
It looked good early, as Temple took an early 5-0 lead in on Syracuse. But then the Orangemen took over and never looked back.
After the game, Owls’ coach Bobby Wallace had to do something he didn’t want to do all season: concede that his goal of going to a bowl was ruined.
“I’m very disappointed that we’re not going to reach our goal for the year,” Wallace said.
After a long pause, the coach that had dreams of propelling Temple into a bowl, stood at the dais with a downtrodden look on his face and continued.
Temple said all year that this would be the season that preconceived notions of Temple football would be shattered. Temple started the season playing some of its best football in recent memory.
The team’s 3-1 start was its best since 1987. Then Temple started to face tougher opposition when the Big East schedule started. Since that 3-1 start, Temple has only won one game — a blowout victory over Rutgers.
“That’s just the way the ball bounces,” senior linebacker LeVar Talley said, “Basically, when it all boils down to it, I’m proud of every one of them. They went out there and they fought. Unfortunately, I just fell short of a bowl game this year.”
Talley, in his final season, is one of the leaders on the team, and has been the most vocal in expressing the idea the Owls’ intention to qualify for a bowl game.
“They’re all winners and playing with them is my bowl,” Talley said. “When they go next year, that’s like me going.”
This year’s dream began to fade after a 29-24 loss to West Virginia to start the Big East season. Losses to Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College and now Syracuse followed.
“We’ve been through a lot with leaders like Talley and the other seniors,” sophomore Tanardo Sharps said. “They stepped up and they’ve been leading us all year and they let us know, if we play our best the sky’s the limit.
“We’re not going to hang our heads after this loss we just have to go back to practice and get things straight and come back next week.”
Sharps was the leader of the Temple offense last Saturday. His 104 yards put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He is the first Owl since Todd McNair (1987) to gain over 1,000 yards in a season.
“It’s real bittersweet,” Sharps said. “We went out there and gave a team effort, we thought we prepared real well this week. It’s sweet to get 1,000 yards but it would have been better going to a bowl.”
The dream of a bowl survived early in the game when Temple took a 5-0 lead on a field goal and a safety.
Syracuse was forced to punt from their 21-yard line on its second possession of the game. The punt was blocked and knocked out of the end zone for a safety.
The Orangemen were forced to kick off to Temple, which got the ball at its own 40-yard line. An eight-play, 42-yard drive culminated in a 35-yard Cap Poklemba field goal, extending Temple’s early lead.
Terrance Lefwitch got his second interception of the season on the next drive by Syracuse; but Temple was forced to punt. The Owls tried some chicanery on the punt, lining up third-string quarterback Mac DeVito as the punter on third down. DeVito ran into the shotgun formation and fired a pass to Chonn Lacey. The ball was overthrown and Temple had to punt for real.
After Temple quarterback Mike Frost threw an interception to Jameel Dumas, Syracuse capitalized with a 27-yard Mike Shafer field goal. Temple’s lead, and the momentum, was lost to Syracuse after Sharps fumbled the ensuing kick off.
The Orangemen had the ball at the 13-yard line and marched into the end zone in three plays. Running back Dee Brown recorded the three-yard touchdown run to give Syracuse a 10-5 lead.
Brown had 84 yards on 13 carries for Syracuse, but James Mungro was the Syracuse back that really hurt the Owls. He ran for 136 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
Mungro used Syracuse’s first drive of the second half to give the Orangemen a 17-5 lead. He slashed for 10 yards and then scampered for a 36-yard touchdown run.
He capped off the day’s scoring with a 20-yard touchdown run with 2:34 left in the game.
“We couldn’t tackle him at the end of the game,” Wallace said. “He’s a great back I know we were worn down, but we were hitting him pretty good and he was breaking tackles. He basically beat us.”
That and the combination of the Owls’ lack of offense.
Aside from Sharps’ 104 yards, Temple could produce only 59 yards of offense. Frost threw for 44 yards on six completions in 25 attempts.
“We felt that eventually we’d be able to get a big one on them (and) make a big play somehow,” Frost said. “You throw enough of them up you figure you’re going to get one of them and it just didn’t happen that way.”
After Sharps ran in for a 33-yard touchdown, making things 17-12 Syracuse and a lot more exciting, Frost threw a costly interception.
On a drive where Temple was called for 20 yards worth of penalties, Frost lobbed a pass into the direction of Lacey. The ball was easily picked off by Quentin Harris.
The interception and 40-yard pass from Syracuse quarterback R.J. Anderson to David Tyree, set up Brown’s second touchdown of the game on a play of 15 yards. Brown made the score 24-12 and put the momentum in the Orangemen’s court for good.
Mungro’s second touchdown run of the game sealed the victory and assured that Temple will have to go another year without a bowl.