Sometimes, it comes down to one play.
Western Michigan junior quarterback Tim Hiller hit sophomore wide receiver Juan Nunez for a 30-yard touchdown pass at the end of the third quarter, as the football team fell 7-3 Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in homecoming game.
It was Temple’s (1-4 overall, 0-2 Mid-American Conference) third heartbreaking loss of the season, as the defense played perhaps their best game of the year, dominating the Broncos offense shutting down junior running back Brandon West.
But the focus was on the game’s deciding play, as Owls’ sophomore defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett was beaten down along the left sideline by Nunez, who caught the ball and walked into the endzone.
After the game, Jarrett didn’t shy away from admitting that the play was his fault.
“[Nunez] hit me with a double move,” he said. “It was a great call, great play and great route by the receiver. And I just wasn’t able to make a play, recover from the first move, and [he] just got me.”
However, it was not all on him.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Chester Stewart, who was making his first career start, looked lost on the field, throwing for just 60 yards in the contest. The ground game wasn’t much better, as redshirt freshman running back Joe Jones carried 15 times for just 50 yards, and Stewart added another 38 yards on 12 attempts.
In addition, redshirt junior kicker Jake Brownell missed two field goals, one from 39 yards and the other from 28 yards, to compound the offensive woes.
Yet, despite that, the ire of coach Al Golden was the team’s 10 penalties for 76 yards, including many at key spots in the contest.
“I’m stuck as a coach in terms of 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’re a year older, a year mature. It’s been hard, the timing of the penalties have been destructive.”
Junior defensive end Junior Galette, who finished with five tackles, including two and a half for a loss, one sack and one pass break-up, was also frustrated by the team’s lack of discipline.
“Penalties overall just killed us, offense and defense,” he said. “Defense had a couple penalties, early and late in the game, that just really killed us. [They] didn’t do any good for us. It’s really frustrating.”
But while the penalties certainly hurt, the offense’s inability to do much of anything with the football potentially hurt the team even more.
All the Owls offense could manage was the one field goal, even though they routinely began possessions inside Western Michigan (4-1, 2-0 MAC) territory. Paramount to that that was the play of Stewart, who overthrow, underthrew and widely missed many of his receivers.
However, his coach still believers in his play.
“I think he did alright,” Golden said. “It’s his first time out there…I think he’s a good talent. I think early in the first quarter he managed the game extremely well.”
As for Stewart, the Cherry and White’s young signal caller was fairly pleased with his performance, but aware that he left a lot on the field.
“I think I did alright,” he said. “I made a few plays, but I missed a lot of plays. I missed a touchdown opportunity to Bruce [Francis] down there in the redzone, so I got a lot of things I need to work on.”
Golden also refused to pin the game on Stewart’s inability to lead the offense down the field, instead singling out the defense for simply not out-playing their Bronco counterparts.
“Rule No. 1 in coaching Division I football is to outplay the other team’s defense…and we didn’t do that,” he said. “We let up an explosive play and Western Michigan did not. That’s the difference in the game.”
The Owls will try to make up that difference next week in Oxford, Ohio as they travel west to take on the Redhawks. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
At halftime, Temple welcomed the 2008 inductees of the schools’ Hall of Fame, including football player Mark Bright and baseball star Jesse Hodges…Freshman wide James Nixon receiver finished with 58 yards on three carries, including a long touchdown run called back due to a hold on senior wide receiver Bruce Francis…This is the first homecoming loss under Golden…The Owls next opponent, Miami (OH), had the week off this week.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.