Temple University football (2-1, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) had its chance to prove they should be a nationally ranked team when they traveled to Buffalo on Saturday.
Instead, the Owls turned in their worst performance of the season.
“This one is on me,” Coach Rod Carey said. “I didn’t have them ready enough.”
The Owls lost 38-22 to the University at Buffalo (2-2, 0-0 MAC) on Saturday, just one week after knocking off then nationally ranked the University of Maryland (2-1, 0-0 The Big Ten) at home. After their victory against the Terrapins, Temple received seven votes in the NCAA coaches poll, according to CBS Sports.
The Bulls came into the game Saturday with a 1-2 record after losing two straight games by double-digits. This game was supposed to be an easy win for the Owls and a chance to prove they deserved the votes they received after beating Maryland.
Temple got off to a hot start with a touchdown pass from redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo to senior wide receiver Isaiah Wright, putting the Owls ahead 7-0.
After that, the Owls made mistake after mistake leading to their 16-point loss.
Russo threw three interceptions and had a fumble. The defense allowed 217 rushing yards. Special teams had a second straight week with a bad snap leading to a fumble. The Bulls scored 21 points off the Owls turnovers, Carey said.
Temple’s passing game needs more variety. Most plays are either a deep pass down the sideline or a 10-yard out route. Buffalo took those plays away from the Owls and they struggled to adapt.
The Owls failed to play disciplined football on Saturday, too. Temple totaled seven penalties, resulting in 57 yards for the Bulls.
Senior linebacker Shaun Bradley was disqualified from the game because of a targeting penalty in the second quarter after he lowered his head and hit Bulls redshirt-freshman quarterback Matt Myers.
Bradley is one of Temple’s best run defenders, so losing him against a team who loves to run the ball limited the defense’s ability to stop what the Bulls do well.
“Obviously, Shaun is a tremendous player, and it was an unfortunate call,” Carey said. “He was making a football play, and unfortunately, he got his head down which you can’t do.”
This is the Owls’ first adversity in the Carey-era and the team’s response will be important.
But Carey restricted players from talking to the media after the game, saying the team needed to catch a flight.
Quickly after, Carey added that he wanted to “protect his players.”
While Carey has the right to keep players from speaking to the media, it sends a confusing message about accountability. Part of handling adversity is answering questions when you don’t perform well.
Temple plays in a difficult conference, and there will be a lot of adversity ahead. Shielding the players from talking to the media after a game against Buffalo sets a bad example for the rest of the season when the team has more difficult opponents ahead.
The Owls will face defending conference champion Central Florida, who has compiled a 28-2 record since 2017, on Oct. 26 at home.
Beating a single nationally ranked team doesn’t mean the Owls should be considered for a national ranking, and the game against Buffalo proved that.
Carey was right. The Owls weren’t ready, and they aren’t ready for what’s ahead.