After Temple’s 35–10 loss to Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 20, in which all of the Scarlet Knights’ points came in the second half, the Owls said they didn’t know how the game slipped so suddenly out of their hands.
“We’ve got to go back and look at the tape and see just what happened in the third period,” coach Steve Addazio said. “It’s hard to watch the team you watched in the first two periods and watch the team in the third period and ask, ‘What happened there? What was that?’”
Temple (3–3, 2–1 Big East Conference) gave up 35 unanswered points to No. 17 Rutgers (7–0, 4–0) and was outgained 261 yards to 49 yards in the second half. After building a 10-point lead in the first half, the Owls had their lead erased 10 minutes into the third quarter, and went scoreless in the second half.
“I’d say it’s one of the worst third quarters I’ve seen in a long time,” Addazio said. “We had complete, utter control of the football game in the first half and [when we] came out in the third quarter, we just totally blew it up. It was fairly disappointing.”
Rutgers got the ball at halftime and the Scarlet Knights made the most of their initial second-half possession. Rutgers’ sophomore quarterback Gary Nova led his team on a six play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a 32-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tim Wright.
On Rutgers’ next possession, Nova executed a 10-play, 89–yard drive, ending on another 32-yard touchdown pass, this time to sophomore running back Jawan Jamison.
In two drives totaling seven minutes, Rutgers took the lead and didn’t look back.
“I thought they played like a big-time team,” Addazio said. “They had to come alive in the third quarter and make some plays and they made plays in the third quarter. That’s a good football team that, to their credit, did that.”
Rutgers made it four touchdowns in a row after scoring on the two consecutive drives that followed. Nova led drives of 49 and 26 yards that concluded with touchdown passes of five and 10 yards to senior wide receiver Mark Harrison and senior tight end D.C. Jefferson, respectively.
On the ensuing possession, Temple’s second of the fourth quarter, Rutgers’ junior defensive tackle Jamil Merrell forced Owls’ redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer to fumble, which was picked up by Rutgers’ senior linebacker Khaseem Greene and returned 20 yards for a touchdown.
With a little less than 11 minutes remaining, the game that Temple led for the first 30 minutes was over.
“I had three turnovers and we aren’t going to win a game like that,” Coyer said. “We have to give credit to them. They turned the momentum on us and we weren’t able to get it back.”
Compounding the Owls’ lack of defensive capability in the second half was their offensive inefficiency against the No. 3 scoring defense in the country.
In Temple’s six drives in the second half, the Owls averaged seven yards. The Owls crossed midfield twice during their 11 minutes and 14 seconds of possession time in the second half, and didn’t make it past the Rutgers’ 44-yard line. In the entire fourth quarter, the Owls gained one yard.
Coyer passed for four yards and an interception in the second half, in addition to his fumble. Senior running back Montel Harris rushed six times in the second half for 31 yards.
The Scarlet Knights, with their No. 2 rushing defense in the country, haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 straight games, dating back to November 2011. Harris finished with 81 yards on 19 carries.
Harris said he doesn’t know why the offense was so unsuccessful in the second half. When asked if it was more due to Rutgers’ success or Temple’s failures, Harris said it was a “little bit of both.”
“We just didn’t make enough plays in the second half,” Harris said. “We had a good game plan, we just didn’t execute the plays.”
Coming into the contest against Temple, Rutgers was allowing 256 passing yards per game. Coyer went 7-for-14 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown. Temple’s 191 yards of total offense was a season low.
Temple was on track for almost 300 yards of total offense at halftime, but the Rutgers’ defense suffocated the Owls in the second half.
“At the half we talked about keep doing what we were doing,” Coyer said. “We talked about not getting complacent. It’s a [scoreless] game. That was the mindset we wanted to take into the second half.”
Addazio said Rutgers didn’t do anything differently schematically in the second half. His halftime adjustments for his team was to keep plugging along.
“We were going to go out there and keep playing like we were in the first half, but we didn’t do that,” Addazio said. “We let up a couple of long drives and didn’t sustain any drives.”
“We did not play well,” Addazio added. “We had penalties, dropped balls, missed blocks, turned the ball over. We played like crap in the third quarter and the game got away from us.”
Temple continues its Big East grind with a road trip to face Pittsburgh on Saturday, Oct. 27, at noon. The Owls haven’t beaten the Panthers since a 34–33 Big East Conference win in November 1998.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @joey_cranney.