Temple University football (1-4 The American Athletic Conference) lost their third straight overall game and second straight by at least 20 points to Southern Methodist (7-1, 4-1 The American) on Saturday.
The Owls now sit in ninth place in the conference with just three games remaining in the season.
In all likelihood, there’s no chance for the Owls to play in the American Conference championship this season.
“In the first half, we won the line of scrimmage. We were doing what we wanted to do on both sides of the ball,” head coach Rod Carey said of Saturday’s game “Then in the third quarter that slipped and went the other way.”
Despite the game slipping away, Temple’s quarterbacks improved their play, and the defensive line created pressure during the first three quarters. These are two positives the Owls can use to build momentum for the rest of the season.
Temple’s offense, led by two backup quarterbacks, bounced back from not scoring a touchdown against Tulane by scoring 23 points this week, and its defense kept SMU in check until the flood gates opened in the fourth quarter.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Trad Beatty started the game and played much better than he did against Tulane (4-4, 2-4 The American). Beatty looked more composed in the pocket by not panicking under pressure allowing him to make a couple accurate throws down the field with defenders in his face.
He finished the game completing six of nine passing attempts for 108 yards and one touchdown. Beatty got hurt at the end of the first half and didn’t play in the second half.
Redshirt-sophomore Re-al Mitchell replaced Beatty, and he also looked more comfortable running the offense against SMU than against Tulane. Against the Green Wave, Mitchell completed just eight passes for 28 yards and zero touchdowns.
“I think getting my feet wet last week was really beneficial to this week,” Mitchell said.
On Saturday, Mitchell completed 11 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown. Mitchell also recorded 66 rushing yards on 17 carries, showing off his speed and elusiveness in the open field.
Mitchell’s improvement is especially important for the Owls because it’s unclear if Beatty or Russo will be healthy enough to play in the Owls’ next game against Central Florida on Nov. 14.
Although the defense gave up 47 points in the end, they held SMU to just 10 points at the half and just 20 through three quarters, which is impressive given The Mustangs average 40.50 points per game.
The defense was shorthanded on Saturday, missing redshirt-freshman linebacker Jordan Magee due to COVID-19 protocols and graduate student Isaiah Graham-Mobley due to an undisclosed injury.
The Owls held SMU’s redshirt-freshman running back Ulysses Bentley IV to just 79 total yards and zero touchdowns. Bentley averages 96.8 rushing yards per game, and he’s scored 10 rushing touchdowns this season.
Carey challenged his defensive line after the game against Tulane saying they “lost the line of scrimmage” and for three quarters against SMU, the defensive line responded well.
The defensive line created consistent pressure against SMU senior quarterback Shane Buechele in the first half. The Owls were able to generate most of their pressure using just four defensive lineman, allowing them to drop every other defender into coverage.
This made throwing the ball down the field difficult on Buechele and allowed the Owls to record five tackles for loss and two sacks.
However, three quarters of good defense isn’t enough to win games against teams like the Mustangs. Temple found out the hard way, giving up 27 points in the fourth quarter.
“The past few games we’ve shown we are starting well and then in the second half we gotta make sure we finish it with the same intensity,” graduate student linebacker Will Kwenkeu said.
It doesn’t get any easier for Temple in their next game against the Knights. The Owls are 28.5 point underdogs for the game, according to National Football Post.
UCF’s offense averages 45.0 points per game which ranks first in The American and their defense is giving up 31.3 points per game which ranks fifth in The American.
Even if Temple gets some players back next week, they will still be at a large disadvantage.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Central Florida’s football team as the Golden Knights. The team’s name is the Knights.