Memphis redshirt-senior tight end Joey Magnifico thought he gave his team a first down.
The ruling initially gave Magnifico a catch, but the referees reviewed the play and ruled the pass from Tigers redshirt junior quarterback Brady White hit the ground.
The ruling gave Temple football (5-1, 2-0 The Ameican Athletic Conference) possession with one minute and 50 seconds remaining in the game and a 30-28 victory over Memphis (5-1, 1-1 The AAC) on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Tigers, who are ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, were undefeated heading into the meeting.
“From the naked eye, I thought that it was a completion,” coach Rod Carey said. “But then you saw the replay up there. I thought it was clear as day that it was incomplete. They made the right call.”
White’s incompletion on fourth down was one of several missed opportunities by the Tigers’ offense. The Tigers committed four turnovers and failed to convert on all three of their fourth down opportunities. White, who had an interception and lost two fumbles, was responsible for three of the Tigers’ turnovers.
In the first quarter, White floated a pass which ended up in the hands of junior cornerback Harrison Hand for an interception. Hand’s interception led to a 31-yard field goal by redshirt-sophomore kicker Will Mobley to give Temple a 10-0 lead.
“I was in man [coverage],” Hand said. “I don’t know if [the receiver] was supposed to run a hitch or a fade, but I guess they had a miscommunication. I just stayed on top and came through with the ball.”
Later in the quarter, White got strip-sacked by graduate defensive end DeAndre Kelly and the ball was recovered by senior linebacker Sam Franklin. Franklin returned it 32 yards to the Tigers’ 12 yard-line. After the Owls’ offense went three-and-out, Mobley made a 29-yard field goal to increase Temple’s lead to 13-0.
After the Tigers drove the ball to the Owls’ 15 yard-line, Tigers freshman running back Rodrigues Clark fumbled a ball forced by redshirt-senior defensive end Dana Levine. Redshirt-junior defensive end Quincy Roche then recovered the ball at the Owls’ 19 yard-line. The fumble led to a 44-yard field goal by Mobley, making the score 16-0.
“I feel like that’s built in to our team and defense in general,” Hand said. “That’s just Temple TUFF. Everyday we’re practicing, we’re hitting, we fight to the ball, we on the ground. It’s just how we play.”
The Tigers put together their first scoring drive in the second quarter. White found redshirt-junior wide receiver Damonte Coxie for a 14-yard touchdown. The touchdown cut Temple’s lead to nine.
After Temple went into halftime leading 23-14, the Tigers scored on their first possession of the half on 23-yard run by redshirt-sophomore running back Kylan Watkins. Watkins’ touchdown cut Temple’s lead to just two.
Later in the quarter, Hand forced a fumble on White, which was recovered by redshirt-junior safety Amir Tyler. On Temple’s ensuing drive, Russo found redshirt-junior wide receiver Branden Mack for a 12-yard touchdown. Mack led the team with nine catches and 125 yards.
Even though the Owls scored 16 points off Tigers’ turnovers, Russo thought the team should have scored more, he said. Russo completed 20-of-33 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think as an offense, that’s gonna be a point of emphasis this week,” Russo said. “Touchdowns in the red zone. A bunch of times in the first half, we got down to the red zone and we weren’t to come out with points. Points are always good against a good team like that. If we had scored touchdowns in the red zone, it would not have been that close in the end.
Next, the Owls will face another ranked team Southern Methodist (6-0, 2-0 The AAC) in Dallas on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Mustangs are ranked No. 21 in the AP poll.
“We just gotta have the same momentum,” said redshirt-sophomore quarterback Todd Centeio. “We gotta play like we play at the Linc. Our defense is one of the best in the nation, so we just gotta have that mentality and take it to the next team.”