On the first play of the second half, University of Cincinnati junior running back Jerome Ford took a hand off and cut back right, beating out Temple University’s entire defense in a 75-yard touchdown sprint.
Temple football (3-3, 1-1 The American Athletic Conference) lost to the Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 The American) 52-3 at Nippert Stadium in a Friday night primetime matchup.
The Bearcats, proving to be Temple’s most formidable opponent all season, held the Owls to 226 yards of offense —their lowest total all season — while producing 542 yards of their own.
Cincinnati senior quarterback Desmond Ridder spread the ball around the field all game, completing passes to 10 different receivers while throwing for 259 yards and three touchdowns. The Bearcats also rushed for 279 yards as a team, with Ford recording 149 yards on his own.
Ridder is in the hunt for college football’s Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the best college football player in the nation each year. He has thrown for 1,304 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, guiding the Bearcats to No. 5 in the Associated Press NCAA football ranking, their highest ranking since 2009.
Cincinnati’s defense flew around the field all game, with senior defensive lineman Myjai Sanders and junior cornerback Ahmad Gardner making plays for the Bearcat defense, who entered the week number one in the AAC in points allowed. Temple redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis was under constant duress throughout the game, getting sacked six times and throwing 16 completions on 27 attempts.
“The protection certainly wasn’t good,” said Temple head coach Rod Carey. “He wasn’t the only fault there.”
Temple’s passing attack looked much worse against Cincinnati than in their conference opener last week against the University of Memphis (3-2, 0-1 The American), when Mathis threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 victory against the Tigers.
Mathis’ inexperience against talented defenses was on display as passing plays out of the shotgun were continuously shut down by the Bearcats’ coverage specialists, like graduate student cornerback Coby Bryant, who recorded his first interception of the year.
On special teams, Cincinnati’s first two punts were fumbled by Temple receivers. Redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue lost the ball after a punt by freshman punter Mason Fletcher was recovered by Cincinnati senior safety Ja’von Hicks. Two quarters later, Temple redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Amad Anderson Jr. fumbled Fletcher’s second punt of the game, which was recovered by Bearcats’ junior receiver Tre Tucker.
“They’re just taking their eyes off of it,” Carey said. “We have to coach better and they have to play better.”
These two vital special teams turnovers gave Cincinnati a 14-point swing that ultimately decided the Owls’ fate. Bearcats’ senior wide receiver Alec Pierce caught a nine-yard Ridder fade pass for one of the touchdowns, while sophomore wide receiver Tyler Scott caught a pass out right 38 yards for a touchdown of his own.
One of Temple’s scarce positives can be found in redshirt-freshman running back Edward Saydee, who had 26 yards rushing to go along with 33 yards receiving, including a 20-yard catch where he broke three consecutive tackles. And freshman kicker Rory Bell hit a 55-yard field goal, his career-best as well.
Splash plays by opponents have been a weak point for Temple all year as teams have exploited them with big plays that turn games around quickly. Cincinnati took advantage of Owl turnovers and had three touchdowns of over 35 yards, the third coming from sophomore running back Ethan Wright on a 58-yard rush.
The Owls have a bye week next week, but take on the University of South Florida (1-4, 0-1 The American) in Tampa, Florida on Oct. 23.