With a new quarterback calling the shots, the football team got a taste Saturday of what its future might hold. But No. 7 Miami, a former Big East Conference foe, reminded the Owls of their painful past.
In their first game at Lincoln Financial Field, the Hurricanes thrashed the Owls for 27 first-quarter points, reaching the end zone on four of their first five possessions in a convincing 34-3 win.
Freshman quarterback Joe DeSanzo replaced senior Mike McGann after just two series. In his first action in a Temple uniform, DeSanzo was efficient, completing 10 of 20 passes with no turnovers against the Hurricanes’ third-ranked defense.
Aside from one delay of game call, the Ellwood City, Pa., native handled the position admirably, coach Bobby Wallace said after the game. Wallace said he made the decision to play DeSanzo with the blessing of the DeSanzo’s family.
“If I was his dad, I’d probably wish he was redshirting,” Wallace said. “I said five years he would be here, but at the same time there are no guarantees in this world. You could have an injury one year. A lot of things could happen. So they really expressed strongly they wanted [him] to play.”
Wallace would not say whether DeSanzo would be his new starting quarterback this Saturday against Clemson; the eighth-year coach said he would play the quarterback who gives the Owls the best chance to win.
“If this helps us win – and I can’t guarantee it will – I think it’s the best decision,” Wallace said of benching McGann.
With McGann on the field, the Owls (0-7) put together a promising drive on their first possession of the game, advancing the ball 40 yards to the Miami 40 yard line. From there, the Owls could not advance any further and punted the ball inside Miami’s 10 yard line, where it was downed at the 7.
Two plays later, Hurricanes wide receiver Sinorice Moss caught a pass in the flat along the left sideline, then ran 92 yards untouched for the score. The hookup between quarterback Kyle Wright and Moss, the younger brother of Washington Redskins wideout Santana Moss, was the second-longest pass play in Miami history.
Things only got worse for the Owls as the first quarter progressed. The Hurricanes tacked on three more touchdowns in the quarter, including a 48-yard punt return for a touchdown by Miami’s explosive return man Devin Hester. After being surrounded by a handful of cherry jerseys, Hester backed up a few steps before darting down the right sideline for the score.
Miami’s speed was a factor in the Owls’ loss, Wallace said.
“We tried everything we could do,” Wallace said. “At times it looked like we had [Hester] all defended, we got him surrounded. It’s a real struggle to get them to the ground because they’re great athletes.”
Senior Christian Dunbar had two sacks and two forced fumbles at defensive end. Dunbar, who was on the field for both Moss’s and Hester’s scores, said the Hurricanes’ speed made them more difficult to stop.
“Those guys are fast. I mean, that’s what Miami has,” Dunbar said. “That might be the only thing, talent-wise, that separates them from other teams – that speed.”
After hurting his throwing shoulder in spring training camp, DeSanzo said he had thoughts of redshirting this season. The injury set DeSanzo back on the depth chart, keeping him from getting playing time in the team’s Cherry & White Game in April.
As a result, DeSanzo said, he put on 20 pounds in the offseason. His throwing form wasn’t right because “something was missing.”
Getting back on the field against the Hurricanes, he said, was satisfactory enough. DeSanzo said he wasn’t fazed by playing his debut against a top-ranked opponent.
“[Not playing] was really killing me,” he said. “I wanted a chance to prove myself. I went to Coach, and I told him I wanted my chance. They respected it, the coaches had a meeting, and they gave me my chance. It was great to have my first game against these guys. There’s no better challenge.”
The Owls will try to pick up their first win of the season against a well-rested Clemson team. The Tigers, who enter Saturday’s game having not played in nine days, beat North Carolina State, 31-10, on Oct. 13 behind running back James Davis’ career-high 143-yard, two-touchdown performance.
The win was the first in over a month for the Tigers, who dropped three consecutive games – two in overtime – by a combined 13 points.
Like the Owls, the Tigers (3-3) have a grueling schedule. They have played five teams that have been ranked at some point this season, and are a member of the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. In the Owls’ only meeting with Clemson, the Tigers put up big numbers in a 37-7 win in 1991.
The Hurricanes have beaten the Owls in all 13 contests between the two teams since 1993. The closest game in the series was the Owls’ 23-point loss in 2002 at Penn’s Franklin Field. … The Hurricanes have held each of their last four opponents to one score apiece. … Since 1990, the Hurricanes have lost only nine of 117 games against unranked opponents. … Owls junior wide receiver Bruce Gordon had a 16-yard catch in the third quarter, his first reception in two games.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.