Owls’ sloppy starts is a concerning weakness going up against the Bearcats

After Temple University football’s impressive 34-31 win against the University of Memphis, the Owls overcame a 17-point deficit, but University of Cincinnati won’t let that happen on Friday night.

Amad Anderson Jr., a redshirt sophomore wide reciever, catches the ball at Temple's homecoming game against the University of Memphis at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 2. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Tigers were 10.5 favorites against the Owls on Saturday afternoon, but in a surprise result, Temple University beat the University of Memphis 34-31. 

Although Temple football secured its first conference win against the Tigers, how will the Owls fare on the road against the University of Cincinnati on Friday night?

Cincinnati is ranked No. 5 in college football, and they have put up 38.25 points per game this season. The Owls will need to capitalize on every red zone opportunity and break their pattern of falling behind in the first half. 

“Looking at [Cincinnati], they’re a good football team, obviously really good on defense, really good on offense and really good on special teams,” said head coach Rod Carey. “So they force you into mistakes and are well coached, so it’ll be a challenge on the road in a Friday night environment.”

The Owls collectively looked the best they had all season against the Tigers for homecoming weekend at Lincoln Financial Field. 

Temple’s offensive line gave redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis time in the pocket to make plays, which led Mathis to throw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception against Memphis. 

But the offense’s four touchdowns is only half of the Owls’ success. Temple’s defense recorded three sacks and forced two fumbles, including a recovery from junior cornerback Keyshawn Paul. 

However, the Owls got off to a late start and gave up 17 unanswered points early in the game, after the Tigers put up a field goal in the first quarter and two touchdowns in the second. 

“I approach that situation just to keep my head up and understand that we have a whole game to go,” said graduate student defensive end Manny Walker on overcoming the deficit. “They’re going to have to see us every down.” 

In Temple’s last four games before Memphis, they’ve trailed by at least a touchdown after the first quarter. 

It sounds like an overstated problem with Temple, but the Owls have yet to start a game looking the way they finish — it looks like a different team is on the field during the second half.

Whether the defense cannot properly tackle or lacks communication in coverage, Temple has looked sloppy in the first quarter, especially because their offense struggles to convert first downs.

The only time the Bearcats have gone into halftime with just seven points on the board was against Indiana University and Murray State University. Every other game, Cincinnati has put up at least 14 points before the half.

Temple will need to find the endzone early and convert for a touchdown, not settle for field goals, if they want to stay in this game. A slow start could lead to Owls getting blown out.

“Every week we get a game plan,” Mathis said. “It’s up to me to figure out what coverage they’re gonna run versus our kind of plays.” 

In the second half against the Tigers, Carey proved he has what it takes to call the right plays for the offense to execute and ultimately win the game. Conquering Memphis is a step in the right direction.

Forget who the winner or loser is on Friday night. If the Owls can compete with Cincinnati, it’ll show the potential Temple football has for the future. 

“It’s about the journey and that’s our attitude going into this week,” Carey said.

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