When Temple took home the Mayor’s Cup in August by beating Villanova, the Owls probably didn’t expect to go 36 days without another win. The Owls, who defeated South Florida 37–28 on Saturday, Oct. 6, for Temple’s first win against a BCS team since the bowl win in December 2011, needed a victory so that they could get off to a good start in the Big East Conference.
“The taste in our mouth from all those losses, it just hurts,” redshirt-freshman linebacker Nate D. Smith said. “We just said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and we need to start playing Temple football.”
While the team has said all year that it defines Temple football as a power-running game that opens up play-action passes, the team failed to prove that on the field and establish any sort of identity after games against Villanova, Maryland and Penn State.
“We needed to get our run game going, that’s who we are,” coach Steve Addazio said. “We went for complete balance against Penn State and sometimes you just need to sit there and say, ‘This is who we are and this is what we are going to do.’”
The team’s success has hinged on its ability to establish its running game early and stick to it throughout the game. The Owls carried the ball 51 times and got their first meaningful contribution from transfer senior running back Montel Harris.
“That was in the back of my mind all day,” Harris said. “I did not get a chance to show Temple fans how well I could play. I really wanted to come out here and run the ball and get a win.”
Addazio preached all year that he wanted to run a two-back offense in which Harris and senior running back Matt Brown were featured. However, Harris went down with an injured hamstring in week one and didn’t eclipse 25 yards on the ground until he exploded for 133 yards against South Florida. With Brown rushing for 64 yards, the team was able to utilize the tandem effectively for the first time.
With Brown and Harris both starting to see significant time, it adds an element to Temple’s offense that teams must prepare for. The team becomes harder to defend, harder to anticipate and challenging to stop.
With 261 yards rushing, the team’s passing game opened up. Like in games against Penn State and Maryland, redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer used play action to air the ball out and take shots down the field. However, unlike in previous games, Coyer’s passes were on target, and his receivers caught them.
Seven players caught passes of 10 or more yards as Coyer distributed the ball evenly for his best passing day on the season. He completed 80 percent of his passes for a career-high 16 completions and a 166.6 quarterback rating.
While Coyer moved the ball efficiently on offense, the game ball went to Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw. The move to the Big East was not an easy one, and the school has shown that it is excited about the new era of college football in Philadelphia.
“Bill Bradshaw and the athletic administration brought this program back from the ashes,” Addazio said. “They scraped and they fought. It’s been a team effort by the university and the fan base to bring this thing back.”
While Saturday’s game was homecoming for Temple alumni, students and staff, the day marked a homecoming of its own for the school as the Owls returned to Big East play. Although the team will enjoy this win, players know that they have their work cut out for them as they compete in their inaugural season conference return. They can’t block game-winning kicks every week, and relying on timely game-changing plays won’t lead to consistent success. But for now, the team looks to be headed in the right direction.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.