Loss dashes bowl hopes

The Villanova loss and an upcoming game vs. Penn State hurt Owls’ postseason chances.

Time of death: Thursday, Sept. 4, at 10:15 p.m. The deceased: the Owls’ chances of making a bowl game.

After Villanova redshirt freshman kicker Nick Yako split the uprights, as time expired in the fourth quarter to give the Wildcats a 27-24 win, Temple can forget about playing in a bowl game this year.

It turns out Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw’s fears about this game were validated, as his words last week proved prophetic:

“I know for a lot of our people, they have a fear of that game because they look at it like there’s nothing to gain and everything to lose,” Bradshaw said.

They were right.

Of all the games this season, this was the one the Owls could not afford to lose. No matter what happens this year, the opening loss to a Football Championship Subdivision team, even a good FCS team like Villanova, puts a black mark on the entire season.

A few weeks before the game, coach Al Golden said he chose Vaughn Charlton as the starting quarterback because of his ability to protect the football. Charlton threw three interceptions en route to leading an offense that produced a total of five turnovers.

“The bottom line is we turned the ball over five times,” Golden said. “That’s where it begins and where it ends.”

The turnovers ruined a good day for the defense. The loss notwithstanding, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s unit played well, as it totaled five sacks, including two from sophomore defensive end Morris Blueford Jr. for the first of his career.

The front seven did an excellent job containing junior running back Aaron Ball, allowing only 64 total rushing yards.

It would be fair to say that of the 27 points the Wildcats scored, 10 were not caused by anything the defense did.

They could only watch on the sidelines as senior defensive back Ross Ventrone took a Lamar McPherson fumble to the house and as Charlton’s fourth-quarter interception put the Wildcats in field-goal range to close out the game.

It also does not help that Villanova’s game plan seemed to hinge on keeping the game close until the fourth quarter.

“I really felt if we got into the fourth quarter or an overtime situation, we would figure out a way to win,” Villanova coach Andy Talley said. “They let us hang in the game, and that was critical for us.”
It’s difficult to get an assessment of the team’s psyche. During Golden’s press conference, most of the players left for the team bus and were unavailable for interviews.

Golden said his team will get over the loss, but time will tell whether he’s right.

“They’ve been together through so much,” he said. “I’m not worried about their psyche as long as they stay together.”

Now, the lede for this column may be too harsh – all is not completely lost. The Owls could salvage their bowl résumé one of two ways.

The first would be to upset No. 9 Penn State in Happy Valley. This very unlikely, though, as the Owls are going up against a team that dropped 31 points on fellow Mid-American Conference team Akron and did not allow a first down until the third quarter.

Another way would be to win about seven to eight games – something Temple has not accomplished since 1990 – and possibly get a spot as MAC champions. After a loss to a FCS team, seven games seem like a stretch.

Either way, the Owls have to break out the defibrillator quickly before their season becomes irrelevant.

Brian Dzenis can be reached at brian.dzenis@temple.edu.

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