Owls look stagnant in loss against Pirates

The Temple Owls were unable to move the ball or create defensive pressure in a 45-3 loss to East Carolina University.

Temple's football defense lines up for a play during an Owls' game against Boston College at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 18. The Owls would go on to lose 28-3. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In the second quarter, junior quarterback Holton Ahlers scrambled left and found graduate student receiver Audie Omotosho for a 16-yard catch down the sideline on a fourth down with 15 yards to gain. 

Temple University football (3-6, 1-4 The American Athletic Conference) lost to East Carolina University (5-4, 3-2 The American) 45-3 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina late Saturday afternoon.

The Pirates scored their third touchdown just three plays later, with Ahlers finding freshman tight end Shane Calhoun for a nine-yard touchdown. Ahlers threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns this game after entering the contest with only 11 touchdowns across eight games. He also rushed for 33 yards and scored another touchdown with his feet. 

East Carolina’s offense out-gained the Owls 444 to 168 in total yards while going four of four in the red zone. The Pirates converted good field position into scores while Temple went without a red zone appearance and missed two field goals in the second quarter, which would’ve put Temple down by only one point early on. 

“Three really bad kicks,” said head coach Rod Carey. “Two field goals and a kickoff.”

Temple held the Pirates on the run, which led to ECU throwing the ball more in the first half, but as the game progressed, the Pirates offensive line began creating holes that freshmen running backs Rahjai Harris and Keaton Mitchell exploited. The duo combined for 189 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Mitchell had 146 yards on his own. 

Mitchell has averaged 7.7 yards-per-carry this season, good for fifth in the FBS entering the week. 

For Temple, the rushing attack mustered 111 yards on the ground, with 54 coming from freshman quarterback Justin Lynch. Lynch has entered eight games this season, replacing redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis in the second quarter today after Mathis went down holding his ankle. 

The Temple offensive line continued to struggle, forcing quick throws from their quarterbacks and giving up seven tackles for a loss to the Pirates. 

East Carolina’s freshman defensive lineman Elijah Morris, sophomore safety Julius Wood and junior inside linebacker Xavier Smith wreaked havoc all game, flying around the field and rushing both Temple quarterbacks while blowing up the run game as well. 

The Temple defensive line fared even worse against the Pirates’ offensive line. The Pirates’ play calling opened up space for Mitchell and Harris every few plays, and Ahlers’ options expanded their offense. 

Temple felt graduate student safety Amir Tyler’s impact when he returned today after missing a few games to injury. However, his six tackles and three pass breakups were not enough to help the rest of the defense. 

Ahlers had a lot of time in the pocket to find open receivers down the field. At times, Temple’s pass defense was able to hold up, forcing six pass breakups and two interceptions.

Ahlers’ experience allowed him to settle into the game, though, finding players like junior tight end Ryan Jones and Calhoun for two scores. 

Ryan Jones had six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns throughout the game. 

For Temple, graduate student wide receiver Randle Jones returned to action today after missing three games to injury this season. He had seven catches for 32 yards, which amounted to more than half of the Owls’ total receiving yards. Even with an injury to the Pirates’ star sophomore cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian early in the game, the rest of the secondary hounded the Owls’ receivers. 

Temple is now on a four-game losing streak, scoring a combined 27 points while giving up 180 across those games. This is the third game this season where the Owls have only put up three points. 

The Owls return home to face off against the University of Houston (7-1, 5-0 The American) at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 13. 

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