For the second straight week, the Temple football team faced an opponent that would have been chalked up as an easy ‘W’ just a few short years ago. But the Owls fell to Connecticut on Saturday, 45-31, in just as frustrating a fashion as they did in their loss to former also-ran Rutgers last week.
Seven days after limiting the Scarlet Knights to 16 points, the Owl defense surrendered 45 points to the Huskies. Temple quarterback Walter Washington carried the offensive load for the Owls, compiling 360 yards of total offense and four touchdowns.
The game was ugly for the Owls from the outset. UConn freshman Larry Taylor returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Huskies’ next possession lasted only 16 seconds, as Orlovsky found wide receiver Jason Williams for a 90-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
The player of the day was Huskies sophomore running back Cornell Brockington, who rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 15 carries. Entering the game, coach Bobby Wallace feared Brockington would do serious damage to the Owl defense. His nightmares were realized when the running back took a first quarter handoff 61 yards for a touchdown.
Four of the Owls’ six first-quarter possessions advanced into UConn territory. The Owl offense penetrated as deep as the Connecticut 11-yard-line, where Washington was intercepted. They also made it to the Huskies’ 25-yard-line, but kicker Ryan Lux missed the field goal attempt. It was his sixth missed field goal of the season.
Temple finally found the end zone in the second quarter on Washington’s 5-yard touchdown carry, but Connecticut added a field goal and a touchdown to make the halftime score 31-7.
That lead was stretched to 38-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, when the Owls finally showed some signs of life. Washington ran for his second touchdown of the game and hooked up with senior slot receiver Ikey Chuku for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
The effort was too little, too late, and not even a 6-yard touchdown toss to senior wideout Phil Goodman could prevent the Owls from suffering another multiple-touchdown loss.
Connecticut linebackers Maurice Lloyd and Alfred Fincher may have forced the Big East to think twice before giving away any awards prematurely. Owl linebackers Rian Wallace and Troy Bennett were preseason favorites as the best defensive tandem in the conference, but the Huskies put together an impressive show in the victory. Lloyd finished with 16 tackles, eight solo, and Fincher registered 13 tackles and three passes defended.
Wallace and Bennett were the leading tacklers for their team as well. Wallace tallied nine tackles while Bennett finished with eight total and two tackles for losses.
“People say we have the best pair of linebackers in the Big East,” Bobby Wallace said before Saturday’s game. “But [UConn’s] got two pretty good ones, too.”
Fincher, Rian Wallace, Bennett and Lloyd are the top four tacklers in the Big East, respectively.
The Owls triumphed in two statistical areas that usually translate into a victory: time of possession and opportunities in the opponent’s territory.
They held a possession advantage of almost seven minutes, 33:46-26:14, and kept the Huskies from starting a play within the Owls’ 50-yard-line until 6:10 remained in the first half. The Owls made it into UConn territory 11 times, but six of those opportunities ended in turnovers, missed field goals, or punts.
The Huskies, meanwhile, did not need long to score on any of their drives. Of UConn’s six possessions that resulted in a touchdown, four required less than one minute for the Huskies to find the end zone. UConn had three touchdown plays of 60 yards or more, including a rush by Brockington, a pass by Orlovsky, and a kickoff return by Taylor.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.