Solid defensive performance can’t bail out silent offense

Allowing just one touchdown, the defense came to play.

What more can you ask for?

Sans one big play allowed in the third quarter, the Owls would have snapped their three-game losing streak and won their third consecutive Homecoming game.

Instead, that one big play cost them the game, as Temple fell 7-3 to Western Michigan Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

Members of the defensive line celebrate a sack during a MAC Conference football game against Western Michigan at Lincoln Financial Field on September 27, 2008. The Owls fell to Western Michigan by a score of 7-3 (John Birk/TTN).

“Rule No. 1 in coaching a defense in Division I football is to outplay the other team’s defense, and that means let up less points than the opposing team, and we didn’t do that,” coach Al Golden said. “We let up an explosive play and Western Michigan did not. That’s the difference in the game.”

That difference was a 30-yard touchdown pass from Western Michigan junior quarterback Tim Hiller to sophomore wide receiver Juan Nunez. The score gave the Broncos a 7-3 lead with 2:16 left in the third quarter. They never relinquished it.

“It just seemed to me like we got beat,” Golden said. “It was a great throw and catch. It’s a shame because if you eliminate that explosive play it’s a different game.”

Saturday’s performance by the defense was completely different from what it showed the week before at No. 16 Penn State. In a 45-3 loss to the Nittany Lions, the defense allowed 546 yards, 27 first downs and six touchdowns.

But the unit responded by allowing only 288 total yards to Western Michigan. It came up with a fumble and an interception and held Broncos’ junior running back Brandon West, who came into the game second in the Mid-American Conference in rushing yards per carry, to only 44 yards on 15 carries. The Owls forced seven plays for losses.

“It probably looked good to the fans, but obviously that one play was a letdown,” junior defensive end Junior Galette said.

“Their defensive line was really good,” Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit said. “Their defense will always be really good. They’ve got really strong kids, and they’re doing a nice job defensively.”

It was more than a nice job defensively.

Temple forced Western Michigan (4-1 overall, 2-0 MAC) to punt nine times, and the Broncos only converted 4 of their 16 third downs. The Owls took the slim lead into halftime thanks to a defense that was the best in the nation last year in the redzone.

The Owls’ (1-4, 0-2) defense bent but didn’t break, as it allowed the Broncos to march down the field to the 5-yard line on a 13-play, 73-yard drive. However, the defense stood tall, as Broncos’ freshman kicker John Potter missed a 24-yard field goal attempt.

“It hurts, it hurts a lot,” said junior linebacker Alex Joseph, who finished with a team-high seven tackles. “But we just have to learn from it and work and build off it.”

It was all for naught, as Temple couldn’t build anything on the offensive side of the ball.

In the first start of his career, redshirt freshman quarterback Chester Stewart was 10 for 20 for only 60 yards. After rushing for 110 yards in the first half, the running game rushed for only 26 yards in the second half.

Despite the woes on offense, the Owls still could have been victorious if two kicks were converted by junior kicker Jake Brownell, who missed 39-yard and 28-yard field goal attempts.

“We didn’t capitalize on the field position that we had,” Golden said. “We had tremendous field position in the first half and in the third quarter, and we never capitalized on it.”

If there’s one thing the defense wants corrected, it’s the penalties.

“It’s really frustrating, but at the same time if we are going to hold them the whole game we put it on ourselves with the penalties,” said Galette, who recorded five tackles and a sack Saturday.
It was a roughing the passer penalty on junior defensive end Brian Sanford that kept the drive alive that led to the only touchdown of the game.

“I’m stuck as a coach on what to do about these penalties,” Golden said. “I’ve never seen this amount of penalties. It’s more than it was a year ago, and we are a year older, a year more mature, and it’s just been hard. The timing of the penalties has been destructive. Execution. It still comes down to execution.”

The execution is going to have to come on the road, as the Owls, who have played three of their first five games on the road, are away for their next two games.

For Galette, the location has no impact. All he and the Owls want is a win.

“Right now I’m just trying to get this win,” he said. “I don’t care if I get zero tackles or zero sacks. I just want this win really bad.”

Pete Dorchak can be reached at

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