For the sixth straight game, Temple allowed its opponent to score more than 30 points against them.
Unlike last week, senior running back Montel Harris couldn’t put up a record rushing performance to combat that.
The Owls (4-7, 2-5 Big East Conference) fell to Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) by a score of 38-20 in the final regular season game for both teams. The Orange will now wait and see if they make a bowl game, and Temple will move right into the offseason.
“It was a hard fought game today,” coach Steve Addazio said. “I am proud of our football team. This is something we can really build off of, and that’s a really exciting thing.”
Junior quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger threw for 173 yards and one touchdown, and rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown, the first rushing touchdown in his career. However, he also threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Granger said he feels more comfortable playing now that he knows he is the starter.
“I feel like I can advance,” Granger said. “I feel more comfortable with my offense. It’s a good experience, and I’ll just continue to grow.”
Addazio said Temple has trouble with preventing back-to-back touchdown drives by the opposition. Syracuse had two 75-yard touchdown drives in the late third and early fourth quarter.
“We have a hard time sometimes with the responding of that,” Addazio said. “I thought we really maintained our poise through the game quite well until that point. If you could look at our season, that’s what’s happened to us. It hasn’t been a competition thing. We get those quick back-to-back drives and we have to respond better.”
“We were just trying to do everything we possibly could to keep them out of the end zone,” freshman linebacker Tyler Matakevich said.
As it was the final home game of the season, it was Senior Day for Temple. The team will be losing multiple crucial players, including Harris. Harris ran for 106 yards on 21 carries, and finished the season with 1,054 yards on the ground. He is the ninth player in Temple history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
Harris said plans to train for the NFL draft in Atlanta with fellow senior running back Matt Brown. Harris is confident about his future in football.
“I think I’ve proved I’m back to the scouts,” Harris said. “Some people think I have knee problems, but it’s only one knee injury.”
Brown missed what would have been his final collegiate game with a hamstring injury. Despite this, he said he’s keeping a positive outlook.
“I can’t change what happened,” Brown said. “It’s going to make me better eventually, somewhere down the line if it hasn’t already. Just take the good with the bad.”
Brown and Harris both battled injuries this season. The only game that they both had double digit carries was the homecoming game vs. South Florida.
“They had a lot of packages for [both of] us throughout the year but they were never able to put them on the field,” Harris said. “That was real frustrating.”
Senior kicker and punter Brandon McManus also played his last game as an Owl. McManus leaves Temple as the career leader in points, with 338.
“It was definitely emotional running out onto the field and see my parents at the 50 yard line for the last time,” McManus said. “I thank Temple, and all the coaches that I’ve had for giving me this opportunity.”
Temple went 43 yards in eight plays on the opening drive, culminating in a 47-yard McManus field goal. Montel Harris rushed for 26 yards on the drive.
After the next two Syracuse drives ended in fumbles, freshman wide receiver John Christopher scored his first career TD on a 12-yard pass from Granger with seven seconds to go in the first quarter. The drive was keyed by a 30 yard Granger run.
Syracuse fought back in the second quarter, scoring two touchdowns. Temple responded with another McManus field goal, this time a 22 yarder with 3:16 to go in the half. On the next drive, Syracuse had to punt it away, but Harris muffed the punt and Syracuse recovered the fumble. The Orange kicked a field goal just before halftime.
After the half, Syracuse drove down the field but turned it over on downs. Temple responded with a touchdown drive, going 67 yards in just four plays and 1:56 of game time. The highlight was a 45 yard pass from Granger to C.J. Hammond. On the next play, Granger got his first career rushing touchdown, running it in from 10 yards out.
Syracuse scored touchdowns on each of their next two drives. Temple could not counter, punting on three straight drives. With 4:38 to go in the game, Temple got the ball down 11. Granger threw an interception to Syracuse CB Keon Lyn, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown, effectively sealing the game. Granger threw another pick on the ensuing drive, after which Syracuse kneeled to end the game.
Temple opens the 2013 season on Saturday, August 31, 2013.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.