Costly turnovers hurt Temple’s comeback effort in loss to UTSA

Despite history-making performances from its offense, Temple missed out on its first conference win in the 49-34 defeat Saturday.

Temple's defense struggled in the Owls' loss to the University of Texas at San Antonio. | JOSHUA CRELLIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Football entered its matchup against UTSA looking to win its first conference game of the season. The Owls lost to Tulsa last Thursday and needed to make a statement during Homecoming weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.

However, that didn’t happen. The Owls could not get out of their own way with two first-half turnovers that led to 14 points for the Roadrunners.

Temple (2-4, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) fell to UTSA (2-3, 1-0 AAC) 49-34 Saturday afternoon. Turnovers and sloppy play plagued the Owls during their second conference loss this season. 

“Our guys fought, and we can build off of that piece of it alone,” said Temple head coach Stan Drayton. “They had an answer for when we didn’t get our job done on defense. They had an answer for the turnovers.”

Temple’s offense played its best game to date this season. Walk-on wide receiver John Adams led the team with 10 catches for 127 yards, both career highs, and added a touchdown. Tight-end David Martin-Robinson had his career high in receiving yards, earning 112 on eight receptions and two touchdowns.

Quarterback E.J. Warner tied former Owl Anthony Russo for the most 400-yard passing games in Temple’s history and became the first Temple quarterback with two five-touchdown games. The sophomore finished with 472 yards and a 65 percent completion percentage in the loss. 

Despite these performances, two early turnovers ended up biting Temple back and stalling its comeback effort.

Temple’s first turnover came on its second drive. Running back Joquez Smith fumbled the ball on the UTSA 47-yard line, which led to a quick UTSA 14-yard touchdown rush for running back Kevorian Barnes three plays later.

The second was a strip sack on quarterback E.J. Warner after tackle Victor Stoffel got beat by Jimmori Robinson. On the next play, Robert Henry’s 6-yard rushing touchdown gave UTSA a 28-21 lead with three minutes left in the first half.

The Owls mounted a comeback effort in the second half. Tight end Peter Clarke caught his first career reception, a two-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with a little more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Tight-end Jordan Smith also scored a 13-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. 

The Owls could not recover from these mistakes, which ultimately cost them the game.

“It was one of our better games,” Warner said. “But we made a couple critical turnovers that hurt our team, so not perfect. We know we need to get better, but definitely a step in the right direction.”

Temple’s ground game continued to struggle, which did not help the effort. The Owls finished with 70 rushing yards, 57 of which came in the first quarter.

Smith finished with 27 yards on 10 carries, while running back Darvon Hubbard ran for 25 yards on 11 attempts. Hubbard also showed promise as a secondary back from his receiving out of the backfield Saturday, finishing with eight catches for 95 yards. 

“[Hubbard is] kind of a natural guy that way,” Drayton said. “He understands coverage, can find open gaps for a quarterback to see him. It’s something that we’ve been building since fall camp, and he’s been doing a really good job.”

Temple’s defense struggled in the loss, allowing more than 40 points for the third straight week. The Owls gave up six plays that went for more than 25 yards and failed to pressure UTSA quarterback Frank Harris. 

Harris returned to play for the Roadrunners for the first time in two weeks and didn’t lose a step. He finished with 338 yards, three touchdown passes, with a 76 completion percentage. 

“First half [there was] misfits and miscommunication on our end,” said Temple linebacker Jordan Magee. “I missed a play, I know I can name multiple other guys who messed up plays, but as a defense, we’ve not been good. We’ve got to come back better.”

This week’s loss to UTSA puts a serious damper on Temple’s hopes to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since the 2019 season. With their 2-4 start, the Owls need four wins over the next six games to make it happen.

The Owls will continue to look for their first conference win as they travel to Denton, Texas, to take on North Texas (2-3, 0-1 AAC) on Oct. 14 at 12 p.m.

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