A season defining win was on the horizon. With 38 seconds to play, and a 28-24 Owls lead, odds with were the Cherry and White.
Sixty yards and a Hail Mary changed all of that.
As time expired, the scoreboard read: Buffalo 30 Temple 24. But while the defense gave up the 35-yard touchdown to end the game, it was the offense that sputtered in the second half.
“No one knows what to say,” senior quarterback Adam DiMichele said. “That last drive they really took it to us. The offense, we had a lot of problems ourselves. The defense was on the field a lot, it’s frustrating.”
The Owls defense was on the field for close to 35 minutes. In the fourth quarter, they spent nine and a half minutes moving backwards. A debilitating seven minute drive that ended with a Buffalo field goal had the most damaging effects.
The Owls overcame an early first quarter setback to find the end zone three times in two quarters. In the offense’s first action, nine plays and 61 yards were erased courtesy of a stingy Buffalo defense. Four runs at the Bulls one-yard line resulted in four tackles, and the Owls were searching for answers. However, DiMichele and company found its rhythm soon enough with a string of gains on the ground and through the air.
At the half, the Owls had rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown. DiMichele connected on 13 of 15 attempts, including a 23 yard strike to senior wide receiver Bruce Francis, shortly before play paused.
However, the Owls offensive prowess disappeared in the second half. The first four drives resulted in three punts and a missed 43-yard field goal by junior kicker Jake Brownell.
“We had a lot of mental mistakes,” said freshman running back Joe Jones. “But we came out to play the game, they came out to play the game, obviously they ended up with the win.”
Jones ran for 20 yards and his first collegiate touchdown in the first half, but touches were limited in the midst of the second half offensive drought. The Owls only second half touchdown came on their last possession. With 2:22 to play, DiMichele lead the team 74 yards for the score. The drive ended with an 11-yard touchdown catch by senior Bruce Francis. The Bulls had no answer for Francis, who caught five balls for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
For the second straight week, the Owls couldn’t find sixty minutes of consistency. Overall the Owls could only muster 132 yards of total offense in the second half.
Missed opportunities and inconvenient field position contributed to the Owls lack of late game production.
“Your core values keep you in the game,” head coach Al Golden said. “Are you tough, do you finish, do you compete? All those things keep you in the game. They finished, we didn’t.”
While it’s a heartbreaking loss, the Owls must regroup and gear up for a date with Penn State next weekend. The team can either flounder, and dwell on the loss, or make the most of a tough lesson.
“It’s hard when you lose like that,” Francis said. “We got to realize that that’s not the last game of the season. It’s not one of those games where you got to lose your complete focus. We got to come back Monday.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org.