When Temple University football’s defense intercepted Memphis redshirt-senior quarterback Brady White late in the fourth quarter, the offense had already been given two chances to score off of turnovers. This time, they were down by five and had a chance to score a go ahead touchdown.
Instead, the Owls’ (1-2, 1-2 The American) offense only mustered one yard and zero points, leading to their 41-29 loss against Memphis (3-1, 2-1 The American Athletic Conference) on Saturday.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the outcome of the game,” head coach Rod Carey said. “Just too many mistakes. It is plain and simple.”
In the first three games of the season, the story has been the same for the Owls’ offense: dogged by turnovers and poor offensive execution, they are consistently unable to score with the game on the line.
In week one against Navy (3-3, 3-1 The American), Temple needed to score a two-point conversion to win the game, and they couldn’t.
Against South Florida (1-5, 0-4 The American), Temple’s defense scored the go ahead touchdown after the offense dug themselves an 11 point hole in the third quarter.
On the surface, Temple’s offense appears to be having a good season. The Owls’ rank fifth in The American in both total yardage per game and passing yards per game while the offense is averaging 32.33 points per game.
However, the outcomes of games are frequently decided by one of two key plays, and in those situations, Temple isn’t executing.
Graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo’s six interceptions is the highest in the conference, even though Temple’s only played three games this season while other teams have played as many as six.
His passing efficiency ranks seventh out of nine in the conference as well. To put it bluntly, Russo’s errant throws and inefficient quarterback play is killing the Owls’ offensive production.
Russo’s need to improve his ball security and ability to read defenses isn’t new this season.
One of Russo’s interceptions against Memphis came on the first play of the third quarter when he overthrew redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue by a wide margin, leading to an easy catch for the Memphis defensive back.
Blue and Russo both tried to take responsibility for the play after the game, but ultimately, the blame should fall on Russo. Blue was trailing the defender, meaning if Russo threw a back shoulder pass instead of trying to lead Blue downfield, it would’ve likely been a completion.
After the game, Russo acknowledged he made a bad read on the play. Russo always acknowledges his mistakes after games, but he continues to make the same mistakes week in and week out.
Russo got his first start in the third game of the 2018 season, meaning this season is essentially his third as the Owls’ quarterback. The time for excuses is over.
“We are pretty ticked off we continue to hurt ourselves,” Russo said. “We see how good of an offense we are and how easy it is at times for us to just go up and down the field. If you look at the times we don’t go up and down the field it’s a turnover by me or fumble or a holding call.”
Temple needs to clean up their errors soon because their schedule isn’t getting any easier. After they play Tulane (2-4, 0-4 The American) on Oct. 31 they will face three of the top five scoring teams in The American in the following month.
Southern Methodist (5-1, 2-1 The American) ranks third averaging 37.7 points per game, Central Florida (3-2, 2-2 The American) ranks first averaging 45.2 points per game and Cincinnati (4-0, 2-0 The American) ranks fifth averaging 37.2 points per game.
The Owls have the offensive firepower to beat these teams, but if they can’t fix the unforced errors they’ve made so far, they will continue to tumble down the standings.
“It really sucks when you know you are leaving out points on the field like the way you are,” Blue said. “We just gotta get back in our film room and prepare for next week.”