Football team aims to win more than 6 games

Temple needs to win at least three of its next five games to be bowl eligible.

Redshirt-freshman center Matt Hennessy throws his head back in frustration after Saturday’s 28-24 loss to UConn at Lincoln Financial Field. | KAIT MOORE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

David Hood spent his Friday night watching football.

The redshirt-junior running back saw defending College Football Playoff champion Clemson University, which was No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, lose to Syracuse University at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse was a 22.5-point underdog.

He also saw Washington State University, which was No. 8 in the AP poll, lose to the University of California, Berkeley. California was a 16.5-point underdog.

The Owls (3-4, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) faced a Connecticut team on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field that gave up 70 points, the most in program history, on Oct. 6 against Memphis. The Huskies had the worst pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision and had a 10-game losing streak against FBS teams. But Hood knew “anything could happen” after watching Friday’s upsets, he said.

Temple committed 12 penalties for 117 yards and had two turnovers in its 28-24 loss on Saturday. The Huskies were 10.5-point underdogs.

In order to reach the six-win mark and achieve bowl eligibility for the fourth season in a row, Temple has to win three of its last five games.

“We’re disappointed,” said redshirt-sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell, who had a team-high 12 tackles on Saturday. “This was a game we definitely should have won. We’re just ready to get back to work. This hurts, so we’re just going to take this hurt and ride with it and hopefully it turns out with positive results.”

With three conference losses and ranked South Florida and Central Florida teams ahead of them in the The American’s East Division standings, it’s unlikely the Owls will have a chance to defend their 2016 conference title.

For the fourth game in a row, Temple did not have a positive turnover margin. The Owls and Huskies each had two turnovers on Saturday. Temple caused more turnovers than its opponent on Sept. 9 against Villanova and Sept. 15 against UMass. The team won both games.

“I thought we did a good job of causing turnovers today,” coach Geoff Collins said. “We want to make sure we’re creating turnovers and win that turnover battle. Because in a one-score game, if you’re plus turnovers, you’re going to win the game and one of them was a pick six and one was [a fumble returned] down to the 7. That’s tough.”

“I’m hurt watching this Temple game [right now],” former quarterback Phillip Walker tweeted during the second half, and later deleted.

Despite being below .500 more than halfway through the season, Temple still has a shot at program history. The Owls have never played in three consecutive bowl games. Winning six games would give them a chance to do so.

Temple will face an Army West Point team on Saturday that is on a three-game winning streak. The Black Knights’ triple-option attack ran for 329 yards in the Owls’ 2016 season opener. Army has the second-best rushing offense in the FBS and averages the ninth-fewest penalty yards per game.

Temple will be without redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch for the first half of Saturday’s game. He committed a targeting foul in the second half against UConn and by rule was ejected from Saturday’s game and will serve a suspension in the first half against Army. Finch is second on the team with seven tackles for loss.

After their bye week, the Owls will face a Navy team that was ranked 25th in the AP poll before its first loss of the season to Memphis on Saturday. The Midshipmen lost to Temple in last year’s conference championship game and graduated quarterback Will Worth, who ran for a conference-best 25 touchdowns in 2016.

Even though Navy lost Worth, it has continued its success. Junior quarterback Zach Abey, who entered last year’s American Athletic Conference title game after Worth left with an injury, has 12 rushing touchdowns this season to lead The American.

Temple could play its third ranked team of the year on Nov. 18 against Central Florida, which is ranked 20th in the AP poll. The Knights’ 50.6 points per game leads the FBS, and their defense hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 25 points in a game.

Two of the Owls’ last three games, however, are against Cincinnati (2-5, 0-3 The American) and Tulsa (2-5, 1-2 The American). Temple’s best win probabilities in its remaining five games are against the Bearcats and Golden Hurricane, according to SportSource Analytics.

The Owls have a 52 percent chance of beating Cincinnati on Nov. 10 in Ohio and a 50 percent chance of beating Tulsa in the season finale on Nov. 25 in Oklahoma.

Junior running back Ryquell Armstead said Temple is “going to win more than six games.”

“We’re still going to go out here, we’re going to try to win football games every week,” he said. “We’re still going to fight, we’re still going to compete, we’re still going to give it our all. So at the end of the day, the season’s not done.”

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