For the second year in a row, a loss to Ohio ended coach Al Golden and the football team’s hopes of advancing to their first Mid-American Conference championship game. The Owls fell to the Bobcats, 31-23.
The loss dropped the Owls to 8-3 and 5-2 in the MAC. With the win, the Bobcats improved to 6-1 in the conference. Due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Owls were eliminated from contention with the loss.
“I’m terribly disappointed in the way we played,” Golden said. “We didn’t play as well as we should… [The Bobcats] didn’t beat themselves today. They ran the ball effectively. They played disciplined football. They just made the plays when you have to make them. They made the plays and we didn’t. No excuse.”
Last season, Temple lost to the Bobcats, 35-17, in a game that determined the MAC East champion.
This year’s game remained close until the fourth quarter while both teams dealt with inclement weather. After Ohio scored first on a five-yard run by senior tailback Vince Davidson, Temple answered back with a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Matt Brown. Ohio redshirt-junior wide receiver Riley Dunlop would score next off of a 17-yard pass from redshirt-senior quarterback Boo Jackson. Sophomore placekicker Brandon McManus kicked a 45-yard field goal to account for Temple’s additional first-half points as the Owls trailed at halftime, 17-10.
Ohio would go on to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give itself a 21-point lead. Temple would show signs of life in the dwindling minutes of the fourth quarter as senior wide receiver Michael Campbell would reel in two touchdown receptions to bring the Owls within one score. McManus would miss the ensuing extra-point attempt before failing to convert the onside kick. Ohio would then run out the clock to seal the victory.
Sophomore running back Bernard Pierce left with an injury following the first play from scrimmage. On the play, Pierce broke free on a 67-yard rush that was called back on an illegal procedure penalty. In his place, sophomore running back Matt Brown rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
On the team’s first drive of the second half, Golden chose to use a two-quarterback system. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Chris Coyer split snaps with redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mike Gerardi. In one series, Coyer completed his one pass attempt for 10 yards and also scrambled for a three-yard rush.
“It was something we had put in in the beginning of the week,” Coyer said “Something that we felt they hadn’t prepared for. Something that we felt could make an impact in the game.”
Gerardi completed 28-of-48 passes for 311 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both of Gerardi’s picks came in the fourth quarter, including a Ohio sophomore defensive tackle Carl Jones’ which led to the Bobcats starting their drive on Temple’s 11-yard line.
“I knew there was pressure coming from my right side so I just looked over and threw it,” Gerardi said. “The guy made a great play. What are you going to do?”
The game marked the final home game of the season for the Owls. All seniors, including Campbell, tight end Vaughn Charlton and linebackers Elijah Joseph and Amara Kamara, were honored before the game.
Campbell caught 11 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Kamara finished with 12 tackles. Joseph’s game came to an abrupt halt in the second quarter when he was carted off the field with an undisclosed injury. Before leaving, Joseph recorded six tackles, including one for a loss.
Senior tailback Vince Davidson rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns for the Bobcats. Redshirt-junior quarterback Phil Gates rushed for 54 yards on nine carries.
Despite being out of the MAC Championship picture, the Owls will likely play two more games this season – next week’s matchup with Miami-Ohio and a possible bowl game.
“We’re going to keep moving the program forward,” Golden said. “We have a big one next week against Miami and then we’ll see where we play in the postseason.”
The Owls will travel out west to face the RedHawks next Tuesday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org