The football team’s loss to Wisconsin resulted in some changes to the Temple history book. None of those changes reflected positive accomplishments for the Owls.
A 65-0 road drubbing by the Badgers probably left coach Bobby Wallace and the Owls scratching their heads in preparation for Saturday’s home opener against Toledo. The Rockets, last year’s Mid-American Conference champions, will make their first-ever visit to Lincoln Financial Field.
After the blowout loss to Wisconsin, Wallace said the Owls (0-2) are capable of competitive play against the Rockets (2-0), who beat the Owls 45-17 in Toledo last year. On the Wisconsin Athletics Department Web site, www.uwbadgers.com, Wallace said he remembered the Owls getting blown out last season by Bowling Green, 70-16, then recovering with a near-win against Pittsburgh. The Owls could do the same against the Rockets on Saturday, Wallace said.
“Last year we got beat by Bowling Green 70-something to whatever, and we came back and almost beat Pitt, who was the Big East champion last year,” Wallace said. “We bounce back from these sort of situations, and tend to play well. I just want to make sure that we do that, and bounce back.”
In order to “bounce back” against the Rockets, the Owls will need to be more productive on offense.
The Badgers handed the Owls the second-worst defeat in the program’s modern history; Pittsburgh shut out Temple, 76-0, in 1977. The Badgers’ 51 first-half points were the most the Owls have ever surrendered in a single half.
Scoring on their first eight possessions, the Badgers (2-0) held their own on the defensive end, too.
They held the Owls to a measly seven yards of total offense in the game’s first 56 minutes. The Owls scrounged just 45 yards of offense in the entire game, a record low. Running the ball against the Badgers proved to be most difficult. Six rushers combined for -11 yards on the ground.
The Owls failed to start a substantial drive against the Badgers, converting just 3 of 15 third down attempts. The Owls had fewer completed passes (six) than punts (11).
Penalties erased the Owls’ best opportunities to put points on the board. A holding call erased senior defensive end Mike Mendenhall’s 30-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Two lengthy kickoff returns also were brought back because of Temple fouls. In the postgame press conference, Wallace said penalties “killed” the Owls’ chances of keeping the game competitive.
Similar penalties against Toledo could mean an 0-3 start for the Owls. Toledo’s explosive offense could pose some problems for a beleaguered and fatigued Owl defense that was on the field far too long against Wisconsin.
Because the Owls’ offense has had difficulty converting third downs, the defense has suffered, staying on the field for close to 75 percent of the game.
Even with a comfortable 50-plus point lead, the Badgers sustained several decent drives late Saturday, keeping the Owls defense on the field longer than they should have been. That trend could eventually wear on a defensive unit that doesn’t have much depth.
Toledo’s offense, spearheaded by senior quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, thrives with the ball.
The Rockets boast primarily an air attack, averaging 506 yards of total offense and 59 points per game. They score fast and often. In their previous two contests, the Rockets have outscored their opponents in the first half, 76-6.
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.