One quarterback started the game, but another finished it.
In all but two of its games this season, the football team has had two different quarterbacks behind center. In the Owls’ 37-7 loss at Clemson on Saturday, coach Bobby Wallace yanked his newest starting signal-caller for reasons other than trying to win a game.
Freshman quarterback Joe DeSanzo, who turned in a worthy collegiate debut against Miami (Fla.) on Oct. 15, left the game early in the second quarter after just four series. The Associated Press reported that sore ribs led to DeSanzo’s early departure from the game.
Fifth-year senior Mike McGann, benched by Wallace a week ago because the coach believed the Owls had a better chance to win with DeSanzo at the position, entered the game off the bench. Against the Tigers, McGann turned in his best statistical performance of the season.
It made no difference.
McGann, who came into the game with the Owls behind by 17-0, completed 23 of 38 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. He spread the ball around, hitting 10 different receivers. McGann got some needed support from junior transfer Bruce Gordon. With only five receptions in his last two games, Gordon had eight catches for 120 yards against the Tigers.
In four drives, DeSanzo led the Owls (0-8) on two three-and-outs, gaining just two first downs in the process. He completed three screen passes, and was constantly under pressure. Though the Tigers (4-3) landed a few hits on DeSanzo, the freshman was never sacked.
McGann, sacked six times on the day, led the Owls on their only scoring drive. Late in the fourth quarter, trailing 30-0, McGann completed a pass to senior running back Umar Ferguson for a 31-yard gain. Two plays later, a nine-yard pickup by Ferguson led to another first down.
McGann and the Owls advanced the ball to the Tigers’ 4 yard line. From there on third down, junior wideout DoMerio Hamilton caught a four-yard pass from McGann for the Owls’ only score. The reception ended a 15-play drive that started from the Owls’ 20.
Ferguson turned in another consistent performance for the Owls. Entering the game averaging 81 rushing yards per game, the senior gained 68 yards on 17 carries, and hauled in six passes for 69 yards.
Three games, three losses. That’s how the Owls have fared this season against Mid-American Conference opponents. A matchup with Miami (Ohio) rounds out the MAC portion of the Owls’ schedule. (Next season, in their second year as an affiliate member of the MAC, the Owls will play six MAC teams.) Saturday’s game, the first ever between the RedHawks and the Owls, is Temple’s last home date of the season.
The RedHawks have won four of their last five games, but they caught a break on Saturday in their 24-23 come-from-behind victory at Eastern Michigan. An EMU touchdown with 13 seconds to play pulled the Eagles to within one, but the RedHawks came away with the win when a mishandled snap and delayed hold caused the Eagles’ game-tying extra-point attempt to hit the upright.
The RedHawks (4-3, 3-2 in the MAC) got some help before halftime, too, when the Eagles failed to convert a play on fourth down at the one-yard line. That kept the score at tied at 10-10.
Quarterback Josh Betts has led the way for the RedHawks, throwing for 1,972 yards and 16 touchdowns. Betts has put up those numbers despite having been substituted in five of the RedHawks seven games.
A 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior, Betts averages 281.7 passing yards per game, ranking him second in the MAC behind Bowling Green’s Omar Jacobs. In his second year as starter, Betts ranks second in the conference in total offense yards and fourth in passing efficiency.
But the RedHawks have more weapons than just Betts. Running back Brandon Murphy anchors a solid rushing attack for the RedHawks. The sophomore has gained 933 yards on the ground this season. Junior Ryne Robinson and senior Martin Nance are among the conference leaders in receiving, combining for 100 receptions, 1,394 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Senior kicker Ryan Lux punted for the first time in his collegiate career, booting seven kicks for an average of 36 yards. He placed one punt inside the 20-yard line. … Senior strong safety Bobby Fulmore made his first career interception, grabbing one of Charlie Whitehurst’s first quarter passes. … In their eight games this season, the Owls have been outscored by an average score of 46-9. In their last four games combined, the Owls have managed just 24 points, or one score per game.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com