It was an up-and-down, momentum-shifting game for Temple against West Virginia last Thursday at Franklin Field. In the end, however, it was a downer, and the Owls lost to the Mountaineers, 29-24.
Temple started the game with a 10-0 lead before West Virginia answered with two touchdowns. The Mountaineers then hit the Owls for a safety and another touchdown. The game see-sawed back to Temple’s favor with two touchdown passes from backup quarterback Mike Frost.
With a 24-23 lead, and time elapsing, Temple gave up a one-yard touchdown run from West Virginia’s Cooper Rego. With 5:22 left on the clock, West Virginia climbed back on top and led, 29-24.
Temple prevented the two-point conversion and seemed to gain back some momentum and maybe get on top once again. Then the Owls went down, and stayed down, on the ensuing drive.
Starting from the 40-yard line after a 28-yard kickoff return from Lawrence Wade, Frost came in to conduct the offense. After an incomplete pass, tailback Tanardo Sharps picked up one yard on only his fourth touch of the second half.
On third down Frost completed a pass to Chalres Cobb for eight yards. With the play clock winding down, Frost was forced to call the Owls’ final timeout. When play resumed, Frost, under pressure, threw an incompletion, leaving Temple down for the count and with a 29-24 loss.
“We ran a play action where we had a quick flat route by our fullback and (had) their corner(back) with our tight end,” Frost said of the play. “They jumped (to) man coverage and their defense stopped it.
“They made a good stop. That won the game for them pretty much.”
At first the play was going to be a handoff, but the Temple coaching staff changed it to a play-action pass.
“We were going to run it,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “Then we went back to a play-action pass, we felt like it would be there. They (West Virginia) did a good job of covering it and it wasn’t.
“After that the ball game was basically over.”
Temple let up four first downs to West Virginia on its last drive of the game, relying on the pounding rush of Rego.
With a fourth down and one yard to go deep in Temple territory, the Owls were called for an offsides penalty and West Virginia pulled out the victory.
“I believe we were the better team, we just didn’t come out on top,” Sharps said. “We’re not going to hold our heads down. We’ll be back next week.”
Sharps, coming off a 203-yard performance against Eastern Michigan, averaged 8.7 yards on only 13 carries. He had 113 yards in the game, including a 66-yard touchdown run.
The run, which gave Temple a 10-0 lead, was the longest of his career. Against Eastern Michigan he had two 65-yard touchdown runs, which were his career high at that point. Those runs beat out his previous career high 64-yard touchdown run in the season opener against Navy.
Rego opened West Virginia’s scoring with a one-yard touchdown run.
After halftime, Mountaineers quarterback Brad Lewis threw to Khori Ivy for an 11-yard touchdown. Ivy had 155 yards of receiving on seven receptions and set the pace for West Virginia’s passing attack.
“We did a good job in the first half (defensively),” Wallace said. “I think (in) the second half (we weren’t) as good, but we had to loosen up because they were doing such a good job at throwing the football.”
Temple had to punt on its next possession. Punter Garvin Ringwelski fumbled the snap and West Virginia kicked the ball out of the endzone for a safety and a 16-10 lead.
Lewis put the Mountaineers even further ahead with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tim Frost.
After West Virginia took the lead in the second half, Temple was forced to play catch-up. Instead of handing the ball off to Sharps, the Owls were forced to rely on the passing game.
“Obviously the offensive coordinator had a plan and he wanted to throw the ball, so we went along with it,” Sharps said. “I had 13 carries. I guess that’s what he saw fit for tonight, so it’s fine with me.”
Owls’ starting quarterback Devin Scott, already with one interception, came out after Lewis’ touchdown pass and nearly threw another. Temple was forced to punt.
When the Owls got the ball back, Scott recovered his own fumble on his own four-yard run. Then he threw two incomplete passes. Temple punted once again but West Virginia fumbled on the special teams play and Temple got it back at the nine-yard line.
Scott was pulled at that point for Frost who came in to throw two touchdown passes and give Temple a one-point lead.
“I think we have a situation where we have two good quarterbacks,” Wallace said. “Devin was doing really well, he had a great first half, then in the third quarter things didn’t go very good. We just wanted a different spark and Mike came in and made some real good plays.”
Frost has been nursing a leg injury he suffered against Maryland.
It was a short week between the games against Eastern Michigan and West Virginia. According to Wallace, if it had been full week, Frost would have gone in during the first half.
“We’ve got a good situation to have two of them,” Wallace said. “If one of them is not playing well the other can come in. We were stalled there and I think Mike came off the bench and did a real good job. If (he) took us to a win it would have been kind of storybook.”
Unfortunately for Frost and the Owls, the book was closed and they dropped their first Big East game of the year. West Virginia improved to 2-1 in the Big East with wins against Boston College and Temple. The Mountaineers’ loss came to Miami.
Temple travels to Blacksburg, Va., to play Heisman-hopeful quarterback Michael Vick and Virginia Tech on Saturday at 1 p.m.