The Owls improved to second place in the MAC East with a win over Miami (Ohio).
The football team was able to fight through internal health issues and outstanding play from the opposing quarterback in an in-conference win over Miami (Ohio).
Despite a 300-yard performance by Redhawks’ junior quarterback Zac Dysert and playing without junior running back Bernard Pierce, the Owls forced three turnovers in route to a 24-21 win.
“At some point in every season, there’s times when you have to find a way to win games,” coach Steve Addazio said. “That’s what we did, found a way to win the football game.”
The win improved the Owls to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Mid-American Conference, good for second place in the MAC East. The Owls need to win their next two contests and hope Ohio loses two out of three of its remaining matchups in order for Temple to gain the MAC East bid for a bowl game.
“We know that we need to win out for the rest of the season to accomplish some of the goals that we have left,” redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer said. “It was a huge win for us.”
Coyer made the first start of his career at the head of the offense. He finished the game 10 for 19 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown while adding 97 yards and a score rushing. Addazio said that while Coyer guided his team to a win, he would’ve liked to see him open up the passing game more.
“We were trying to throw the ball and we missed on some plays that would’ve popped the game open,” Addazio said.
On the contrary, the Miami (Ohio) offense centered on the outstanding play of Dysert and sophomore wide receiver Nick Harwell. Dysert passed for 364 yards and three touchdowns, while Harwell had 15 catches for 229 yards (both school records) and two touchdowns.
“We have the most respect for [Dysert],” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. “He’s a great quarterback and I know he’s going to have a great career.”
Owls’ junior running back Matt Brown started in place of Pierce, who was a late scratch with a concussion. Brown rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, 22 of which came on the Owls final drive late in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.
Brown, who has seen action in every game this year, said it felt like any other game.
“The whole week we prepared for [Pierce] not to be in the game,” Brown said. “It was just another game.”
In the face of Dysert and Brown, neither team was able to establish its defense in the first quarter.
A Redhawks turnover on their opening drive enabled the Owls’ offense to work on a short field on the ensuing drive that gave the Owls an early lead. Junior placekicker Brandon McManus hit a 32-yard field goal with a little more than nine minutes left in the first quarter for the game’s first score.
Miami (Ohio) came right back after the Owls took the early lead. Dysert went a perfect five-for-five passing for 65 yards on the ensuing drive, capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Harwell.
“I’m proud of the way kids battled,” Addazio said. “We overcame a lot of adversity and foolishness to give us an opportunity to win the football game.”
Facing a deficit, the Owls responded with a scoring drive of their own. Coyer led the Owls on a 10-play, 66-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Deon Miller that retook the lead.
The Owls forced a key turnover that enabled them to add to their lead before halftime. After a Temple punt, Dysert was intercepted by Robinson on the Redhawks’ first play of their third drive of the second quarter.
Coyer rushed for a nine-yard touchdown on the very next snap. In two plays, the Owls forced a turnover and added to their lead. Temple led by 10 points going into halftime.
“That was a big moment for me,” Robinson said. “This is going to be a memorable game.”
“That was a huge momentum swing for us,” Coyer added. “We really needed that.”
The Owls’ defense stiffened in the second quarter The Owls sacked Dysert four times and added Robinson’s crucial interception.
“We knew the sacks were going to come,” Robinson said. “We just had to be patient.”
“We looked like Temple’s defense again,” Addazio added. “We’re a team that has to get after the quarterback. When we did, we threw off [Dysert’s] rhythm and we switched momentum.”
The Owls’ offense stalled in the third quarter, allowing Miami (Ohio) to mount a comeback. Two out of three third-quarter drives were three and outs and Coyer was unable to get anything going in the passing game.
“There were some plays that I left on the field,” Coyer said. “But that will all come. I’ve got to keep preparing more each week.”
Dysert went 11-14 with 123 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, but committed a game-changing turnover just before the fourth quarter.
After driving the ball into Owls’ territory, Dysert was picked by sophomore defensive back Zamel Johnson, his first career interception. Johnson’s play stalled the Redhawks’ drive and shifted the game’s momentum.
“I was just trying to be as close to the receiver as possible,” Johnson said. “When I saw he tipped the ball, I was there and I grabbed it.”
“That pick was a big turning point in the game,” Addazio added. “It took them out of a momentum drive and flipped the field position.”
Facing a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter the Redhawks were given help from a costly penalty by Robinson.
After the Owls forced the Redhawks to punt, Robinson went offside on fourth down, giving Miami (Ohio) an automatic first down, which they wouldn’t let go to waste. Dysert drove the Redhawks down the field and hit Harwell for his second touchdown, a 19-yard score, to bring Miami (Ohio) to within three points with a little more than four minutes remaining.
It was the last time the Redhawks would touch the ball.
Coyer and Brown each rushed for first downs on the Owls’ final drive, which chewed up the remaining four minutes of the game and sealed the Owls’ 24-21 victory.
“That was probably the best we’ve run the four-minute offense all year,” Coyer said. “Between [Brown] and the [offensive line], it was outstanding.”
The Owls will have a bye week before taking on Army at home on Nov. 19. The Owls know that their next game is a must win if they want to have a shot at playing in the postseason.
“We’ve got our sixth win of the year and next week we have a chance to go for seven,” Addazio said. “That’s where our focus is.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.