With three minutes and 19 seconds remaining in the first half, Temple University football redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis dropped back and threw a pass across the middle of the field to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver/tight end Jordan Smith.
Smith stumbled forward and had the first down before the ball was poked out by University of Central Florida junior linebacker Tatum Bethune and recovered by the Knights.
Temple football (3-5, 1-3 The American Athletic Conference) was defeated 49-7 by the Knights (5-3, 3-2 The American) at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon.
“Penalties and turnovers and bad situational football certainly put the score where it was,” said head coach Rod Carey.
In what seemed like a must-win game for the Owls, their inability to convert in key situations and keep up with the Knights’ mixed-tempo offense led to an early deficit they were unable to overcome.
Temple went scoreless in the first half for the second time this season, the first coming against Boston College on Sept. 18.
Following Smith’s fumble, Knights’ freshman quarterback Mikey Keene threw a deep pass down the right sideline, which was picked off by redshirt-junior Jalen Ware. Ware proceeded to fumble on the return, setting up the Knights at the Owls’ 23rd yard line with the recovery by redshirt-senior wide receiver Brandon Johnson.
Keene found Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown several plays later, putting the Knights up 21-0 in a 14-point swing. This pass was one of the five touchdowns Keene threw during the game.
The Owls turned the ball over three times and were simply inefficient all game, averaging 4.3 yards per play.
The offensive line gave up four sacks on Mathis, though these were in part due to solid Knights secondary play keeping the receivers covered. On the first two drives of the game, Mathis used his feet and made great throws on the run.
Yet as the game progressed, these plays seemed few and far between, with very short carries and ineffective plays keeping the Owls offense off the field.
The Owls also remained undisciplined and were handed eight penalties today, an area Carey hoped to improve on. The Knights began to drop deep into coverage in the second half, givingTemple very little opportunities to create the necessary splash plays.
The Knights did not dominate the time of possession against Temple, but went six of 11 on third downs and 1-2 on fourth downs to keep drives alive. Their average of 6.6 yards per play, along with a red zone scoring percentage of 83.3 percent, opened the playbook for UCF head coach Gus Malzahn and Keene.
The Knights have been without standout junior quarterback Dillon Gabriel since he suffered a broken clavicle on Sept. 17 against the University of Louisville. Keene performed well with a balanced rushing attack featuring senior running back Isaiah Bowser, who rushed for 89 yards.
The Owls’ gave up more than 270 rushing yards against the University of Cincinnati and more than 420 yards against the University of South Florida. Today, the Owls’ battered defense allowed the Knights to put up 199 yards total on the ground, playing to their expectations without graduate student safety Amir Tyler, redshirt-freshman safety M.J. Griffin and junior cornerback Keyshawn Paul.
“We had one starting secondary guy out there today,” Carey said. “We aren’t going to use that as an excuse, though.”
For the Owls, freshman safety Alex Odom and redshirt-junior cornerback Cameron Ruiz led the team with eight tackles each. The Owls’ front seven was unable to create pressure, allowing Keene the time to set up six throws of more than 15 yards.
The Knights had three pass catches with more than 40 yards, with redshirt-junior tight end Alec Holler leading all receivers with 87 yards and two touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe had two touchdowns, while redshirt-senior receiver Brandon Johnson had one.
Temple will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to take on East Carolina University (4-4, 2-2 The American) on Nov. 6.