After losing 49-7 against the University of Central Florida (5-3,3-2, The American Athletic Conference) on Oct. 30, Temple University football’s (3-5,1-3, The American) chances for a winning season are slim.
With just four games remaining this season, the Owls are still struggling to find an offensive spark. They must win all of their upcoming matchups, all of which are against conference opponents, to finish with a winning record.
Temple’s lack of rhythm on offense stems from slow starts in the first half and multiple three and outs, which conference opponents have capitalized on by scoring with their extended time of possession in the last three games.
Head coach Rod Carey plans to use backup freshman quarterback Justin Lynch in 10 to 15 snaps per game in the team’s remaining matchups due to his running ability, and to avoid starting redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis taking additional hits, Carey said.
In Saturday’s game against the Knights, Temple failed to score until the fourth quarter for the second time this season. The first came in their 28-3 loss against Boston College on Sept. 18, when the Owls converted a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter.
Temple was nearly shut out by UCF before Lynch managed to throw a 27-yard touchdown pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Jose Barbon with 28 seconds left on the clock.
The Owls have also failed to score during the first quarter in seven of the eight games they’ve played. The only time Temple scored in the first quarter came against the University of Akron on Sept. 11, when graduate student wide receiver Randle Jones scored off a 70-yard touchdown pass from Mathis.
“We’re constantly trying to fix that issue between penalties,” Carey added. “Different things that set us back on opening drives that we’re overcoming at times but not to a point we have gotten in the endzone consistently enough yet in the first quarter this season.”
Though injuries have contributed to the lack of consistency on both sides of the ball, the Owls currently average 5.3 yards per play and 3.7 rushing yards per attempt.
The Owls converted on seven of their 18 third downs and one of their three fourth downs against the Knights, bringing drives to a halt and preventing the offense from generating any scoring plays.
“When you go out there, if you don’t execute each and every play then how do you expect to stay on the field,” Mathis said. “You get three guaranteed plays and if you don’t execute in those first three plays you’ve got to get off the field.”
Part of the Owls’ self-inflicted wounds included an accumulation of penalties and turnovers throughout the game, both of which have been persistent issues the team has struggled with this season.
Temple has lost nine fumbles and thrown six interceptions this season, and the Owls are averaging 47.75 yards per game in penalties.
“We were moving the ball on the first drive like we did, you know, at other times like the Memphis game,” Carey said. “Then just ended up with a critical penalty that moved us back and put us in a situation where we couldn’t stay on the field with the first drive because we were trying to make that up.”
Temple will take on East Carolina University (4-4, 2-2 The American) on Nov. 6, who are holding opponents to 26.6 points per game this season and have recorded a total of 19 sacks and six forced fumbles.
ECU has scored 63 points off of turnovers this season. Temple’s offense will need to avoid detrimental turnovers to come out on top in this contest.
“We’ve just got to stay together as a team,” said graduate student linebacker George Reid. “We only have each other, so we just have to stick together, keep working every week like we do, put our head down and just work.”