Senior Day was just another day for defensive end Mike Mendenhall, who said he felt little difference between the football team’s matchup with Miami (Ohio) and other games this season.
Even though Mendenhall, his senior teammates and coach Bobby Wallace took part in their final home game, Mendenhall said the feeling was much of the same.
“I think once that last game’s over, it’s going to hit me then,” Mendenhall said. “There was nothing really different feeling. I was a little extra pumped up. The guys, themselves, were a little more enthused about it. You know, it’s our last home game. They’re pushing to get the seniors a win.”
The outcome did not differ much either, as the Owls lost, 41-14, to Miami. The loss marked the third season in Wallace’s eight-year tenure that the Owls (0-9) failed to win a home game.
Only once in their five home games this season did the Owls finish within 25 points of their opponent. The Owls’ 19-16 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 24 ended in a game-winning field goal for the Broncos as time expired.
“I thought we could have won a couple of the games that we had here,” Mendenhall said. “But it didn’t happen. A lot of things didn’t go our way.”
Saturday marked Temple’s final chance to beat a Mid-American Conference team this season. But Miami’s passing attack was too much for the Owls’ pass defense. RedHawks quarterback Josh Betts threw for 379 yards and three touchdowns.
“Everybody’s seeming to be able to throw the ball on us pretty easily,” Wallace said. “But I think [Betts is] a good player and I’ll give him credit for executing.”
The Owls kept pace with the RedHawks (5-3) for much of the first half. With the Owls trailing, 17-7, in the second quarter, senior running back Umar Ferguson burst off the line, turning a screen pass into a 45-yard gain. Ferguson ran the ball in for a touchdown only two plays later, trimming Miami’s lead to 17-14.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior defensive end Christian Dunbar recovered a fumble by RedHawks kick returner Ryan Redd, giving Temple the ball on Miami’s 34-yard line. But senior quarterback Mike McGann, replacing freshman starter Joe DeSanzo, threw an interception near the end zone. Miami capitalized on the turnover, driving 96 yards for a touchdown to increase its lead, 24-14.
“I thought we had tremendous momentum when we recovered the fumble,” Wallace said. “Then we throw an interception, and then we give up a big pass and give it right back to them.”
The interception highlighted Temple’s passing struggles. McGann and DeSanzo combined for just 120 yards on 10 of 24 passing attempts. McGann threw two interceptions.
Wallace said one of his two quarterbacks needs to “step up.”
“Somebody’s got to step up and play, and I didn’t see anything that caught my eye that either one of them did today,” Wallace said.
Down 24-14 at halftime, the Owls could not close the gap. The RedHawks scored on their first three drives in the second half to put the game out of reach.
Ferguson continued his solid season on Saturday, providing the offense with 120 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. Of the 15 plays called during the Owls two scoring drives, Ferguson touched the ball nine times.
“Umar’s having a good year,” Wallace said. “He’s a good receiver, he runs hard, [and] makes people miss. He has good feet [and] great hands.”
Ferguson has averaged 73.1 rushing yards per game this season while amassing 585 total rushing yards. Ferguson, who has reached the end zone six times, was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with a foot or ankle injury.
The Owls scored double digits for the first time since they notched 16 points against Western Michigan on Sept. 24. … Despite each school having a football program for more than 100 years, this was the first time the Owls and the RedHawks met.
Ryan Lux, a career place kicker, has punted for the Owls in their last three contests. He is averaging 38.7 yards per punt. … Mendenhall leads a senior-laden defensive line, which features Adam Fichter, Rodney Wormley and Antwon Burton, with 51 tackles and 7.0 sacks. … Another team leader in tackles is Dunbar, who has spent time at defensive end, strong safety, linebacker, and tight end in his career. Dunbar has tallied 55 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and three fumble recoveries this season, and leads the team with 13 tackles for a loss. … Offensive tackle John Gross, a Big East all-academic player for three years, is a candidate for the Draddy Trophy, noted as the “Academic Heisman.” … McGann will conclude his career at Temple in second place for total offense.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.