Thirteen years of Temple football in the Big East Conference came to a characteristically uninspiring end on Saturday as the Owls lost, 34-17, to No. 19 Boston College. One week after beating Syracuse for their first Big East win in two years, the Owls (2-9, 1-5) returned to the inconsistent play that motivated the decision three years ago to remove the school from the conference.
“It hurts,” junior linebacker Rian Wallace said. “It’s our last game in the Big East. The future is very uncertain for Temple football right now.”
Junior quarterback Walter Washington had another superb day statistically, but Eagles running back L.V. Whitworth had a field day against the worst run defense in the Big East. Whitworth rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns with a gaudy 8.9 yards-per-carry average.
Washington became the first player in school history to top 3,000 yards in a season. He passed for 283 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards to end the season with 3,086 yards of total offense.
“[Boston College] came off a good win, came in here with a lot of confidence, and they beat us,” said Washington, who was responsible for Temple’s last 16 touchdowns. “BC is a very good team. They’re strong up front and have a very good overall defense, and they showed it today.”
Coach Bobby Wallace said Washington was even more effective than it appeared.
“I felt they contained him better than most teams,” Wallace said. “But he still had 350 yards.”
Boston College got on the board early, as Whitworth rumbled 29 yards for a touchdown on the Eagles’ first drive. The Owls responded with a 16-play, 69-yard drive that ended in a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Lux. The Eagles added a touchdown and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 17-3 lead into halftime.
The second half didn’t open any easier for the Owls. Eagles redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Ryan, who had entered the game in the second quarter when starter Paul Peterson left with an injured hand, found wide receiver Larry Lester early in the third quarter for his first career touchdown pass.
Following a BC field goal, Washington engineered two drives that ended with touchdown passes to senior wide receivers Buchie Ibeh and Phil Goodman, respectively. Goodman’s catch cut the deficit to 10 points, but he was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing the ball into the stands. The penalty was assessed on the ensuing kickoff, and Whitworth made the Owls pay with a 39-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage to ice the game.
“The unsportsmanlike conduct killed the comeback,” said Wallace, who subsequently benched Goodman. “That hurt us. If we kick it off from the 20 [yard line], we could be back in the game.”
Attitudes after the game ranged from emptiness to optimism, but none expressed overwhelming dejection.
Rian Wallace said he will meet with coach Wallace to weigh whether he should opt for the NFL draft. Senior linebacker Troy Bennett, who played every game in his four years as an Owl, said he will now focus on graduating and spending time with his daughter.
Senior wide receiver Ikey Chuku, who moves on after six adversity-filled years at Temple, was one of the few players willing to address the program’s future.
“I’d like for the program to be in a conference, competing on a high level continually,” he said. “We have the players that can compete with anybody and against any team, so I’d like to see this program flourish in Division I-A.”
Boston College joins the Owls as schools leaving the Big East, but under far different circumstances. The Eagles (8-2, 4-1) will join former Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech in the ACC next season, and are in the driver’s seat for a BCS Bowl bid after their victory over frontrunner West Virginia two weeks ago. The Owls will play an independent schedule in 2005.
The seniors fared well in their final game. The trio of wideouts-Goodman, Ibeh and Chuku-combined for 14 catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns. Bennett, starting his 23rd consecutive game, had nine tackles, two quarterback hurries and a pass defensed, while departing safety Sadeke Konte led the team with 11 tackles.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.