Even receiving the first few favorable bounces of the football couldn’t keep the football team competitive very long in its home opener against No. 13 Louisville Saturday.
The 62-0 loss at Lincoln Financial Field dropped the Owls’ record to 0-2 as they lost their 14th consecutive game, the longest losing streak in Division I-A football.
“The moment was too big for us,” coach Al Golden said. “It was too much too fast.”
After the Owls held Louisville scoreless on its first two drives, the Cardinals scored points on 10 consecutive possessions and racked up nearly 700 yards of total offense.
The Owls forced Louisville to punt on the Cardinals’ first possession. The Owls caught a break when Louisville botched its punt coverage and missed downing the ball on the Temple one-yard line. The ball bounced by a Louisville player and into the end zone for a touchback.
After a three-and-out, the Owls gave the ball back to Louisville on its own 43-yard line.
Temple defensive back Dominique Harris immediately intercepted Cardinals quarterback Brian Brohm’s first pass and returned it 20 yards to the Cardinals’ 40-yard line.
Despite good field position, the Owls failed to cash in as quarterback Vaughn Charlton underthrew an open Bruce Francis
in the end zone on fourth down.
Upon gaining possession of the ball, the Cardinals scored in four plays and never looked back. They scored touchdowns on their next six possessions to end the half. They tacked on two more touchdowns and two field goals in the second half.
Tempers flared as the clock approached halftime when the Cardinals, already up 35-0, took over on their 33-yardline
with just under a minute remaining.
The Cardinals passed on their first three downs, two of which fell incomplete. They then went for it on fourth-and-four from their own 39-yard line. Brohm found George Stripling for 43 yards and a first down inside Temple’s red-zone.
Two plays later, the score was 42-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Temple’s Jamal Harris committed the team’s third personal foul in under a minute. Two other personal fouls committed during Louisville’s final drive were offset.
“People were kind of upset,” Dominique Harris said. “But we handled it.”
The Owls again struggled to move the ball on offense, completing just three of 14 third-down conversions and failing to convert on two red-zone opportunities.
The offensive inconsistencies that have plagued the Owls thus far this season have forced the defense to see a significant amount of time on the field.
“We’re not converting,” Golden said. “We have too many problems on offense and we need some guys to step up.”
Quarterbacks Adam DiMichele and Charlton split time leading the offense. DiMichele started again, but Charlton was inserted into the game on the team’s second drive, which followed Harris’s interception.
Golden was adamant in explaining his plan to play both guys throughout the season although neither player knows exactly when their number will be called.
“There’s going to be a day when we protect them better, and you will see those two flourish,” Golden said.
“I go one series and then Vaughn goes one series,” DiMichele said. “It’s just one of those things….I play until Coach takes me out.”
Both players displayed flashes of their potential in the second half.
DiMichele hooked up with running back Jason Harper on a 67-yard play action pass for the Owls’ longest play of the day. Harper was tripped up at the Louisville two-yard line.
With the Owls poised to put something on the scoreboard, Harper fumbled on the next play. Louisville recovered to keep its shutout intact.
On the offense’s final possession, Charlton led the Owls 60 yards down the field and completed 5-of-8 passes on the drive. He narrowly missed connecting with wideout Nick Santa Cruz in the end zone on fourth-and-two from the Louisville 20.
DiMichele totaled 165 yards on 9-of-17 passing while Charlton finished with 49 yards on 5-of-12.
Running back Tim Brown, who carried the offense last week against Buffalo, ran for 32 yards on 14 carries.
“We will play better,” Golden said. “I’m coming to work [this week]. The offensive staff and defensive staff are coming
to work. The strength coach is coming to work. This is a long process here. …We’ve got to put this behind us and move forward.”
The Cardinals, even without Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Bush, who suffered a season-ending broken leg last week, appeared to be clicking on all cylinders.
Three Louisville running backs each gained over 70 rushing yards. They tallied five touchdowns between them. Brohm, also a Heisman Trophy candidate, finished the day with 307 yards and a touchdown.
The Owls start a three-game road trip Saturday against Minnesota.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at email@example.com.