It’s the time of year when non-bowl-eligible teams begin to take stock of their returning players.
During Saturday’s 51-3 loss to Virginia, injuries and ineffectiveness of veterans provided the football team with a glimpse at some of the underclassmen who next year will take the place of the team’s 38 departing seniors.
True freshmen Joe DeSanzo and Georg Coleman started for the Owls at quarterback and tailback, respectively. Freshman wide receiver Bruce Francis led the team with seven receptions for 68 yards.
But the freshman effort was not enough to spark the Owls to their first win of the season.
Coleman, playing in place of injured senior Umar Ferguson, was unable to establish himself on the ground against the Cavaliers’ defense, gaining 21 yards on 18 carries. DeSanzo could only get two first downs and was replaced in the second half by on-again, off-again senior quarterback Mike McGann.
“We played very poorly on the offensive line and that made it very difficult for us to move the football,” coach Bobby Wallace told Virginiasports.com. “We could play Virginia 19 times, and 20 times it would be just like that.”
Virginia’s offense had its way with the overmatched Temple defense, racking up 449 yards offensively and scoring at will through the air and on the ground.
The Owls (0-10) couldn’t contain running backs Wali Lundy and Jason Snelling. Lundy finished with 113 yards and four touchdowns, while Snelling had 124 yards and two scores.
A foot injury had caused Lundy to gain only 191 yards in his last six games.
The Cavaliers (5-3) started the scoring on their first drive, driving 80 yards and finishing with a 19-yard run by Lundy. The Owls were unable to respond offensively, finding only two first downs in the first half.
In the second quarter, trailing 24-0, Coleman broke free for a 72-yard touchdown run. The play was called back, however, after offsetting personal foul penalties. Besides that, there were no bright spots for the Owls offensively.
“That’s a crying shame what happened on that play,” Wallace said. “It was away from the play and two guys [were] wrestling. They get a break by getting a penalty.”
After Virginia kicker Connor Hughes hit a 28-yard field goal to make the score 27-0, the Owls got the ball back with 2:48 remaining in the first half. The drive would be DeSanzo’s most consistent on the day, as he connected on four straight passes to gain 36 yards. Senior kicker Ryan Lux came up short on a 58-yard field goal attempt as time ran out on the first half of play.
McGann did not fare much better than DeSanzo, going 9 for 20 for 91 yards, mostly against Virginia’s backups. His first pass was deflected by linebacker Ahmad Brooks and intercepted by Brennan Schmidt at Temple’s 11 yard line.
Lundy converted the turnover, and the subsequent Coleman fumble, into two scores for the Cavaliers.
After Snelling’s second touchdown, the Owls put together an 11-play, 42-yard drive deep into Virginia territory. Stalling at the Virginia 15 yard line, Coleman converted a fourth and two with a three yard run. Lux hit a 30-yard field goal to end the shutout.
Virginia kicked another field goal with 3:10 remaining to end the day’s scoring.
The loss was the Owls’ 10th of the year, giving them just one more chance, in two weeks at Navy, to get their first win. If the Owls lose, it will be their first winless season since 1959. In 1986 the Owls were winless, but only after they had to forfeit six wins because of an ineligible player.
Wallace, who will coach his last game for Temple on Nov. 19, expressed optimism for the Owls in the future.
“I’m excited about not coaching,” Wallace said. “I’m excited about spending time with my family. I’m looking forward to that. … I think Temple is going to be in good shape in the future in the MAC conference.”
Chris Reber can be reached at email@example.com.