As Temple watched its team squander away a 10-point second half lead against conference foe Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 20, the fans, players and coaching staff, seemed to be searching for answers.
How would Temple survive this game and make it dramatic? How would it come back from a 23-point first half deficit and make it a two-point game with three minutes left like they did against Maryland? When would it get a game-saving blocked kick with a minute left like it did against South Florida? When would it drive the field and score with 19 seconds left to force overtime against a Connecticut team that missed four field goals? The answer is that the Owls simply couldn’t. And they can learn something from it.
After jumping out to a 10-point lead against the conference’s top team and posting a shutout in the first half, everything seemed to be going right for Temple, until the second half started and everything went wrong. After being held scoreless in the game’s first 30 minutes, the Scarlett Knights would pounce on the Owls for 35 points in the second half. Temple responded with 49 total yards.
“That was one of the worst third quarters I have seen in a long time,” coach Steve Addazio said. “You are talking about taking a game where you have complete control of a football game in the first half and we came out in the third quarter and I don’t know how many points we gave up in quick fashion but we totally blew the third quarter out.”
The Owls might have been blown out on the scoreboard in the third quarter, giving up 21 points, but the fourth quarter was worse. Temple gained one net yard of offense and had a fumble returned for a touchdown, prompting Addazio to turn to junior quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger to replace an ineffective redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer. The Owls didn’t need Granger at quarterback as much as they simply needed juice in their tanks.
“We looked like we were fatigued,” Addazio said. “It looked to me like we just ran out of gas.”
Conditioning isn’t a problem for the team. In two games this season, the Owls have come out in the second half and blown teams away. Temple simply has a problem stringing together two halves of good football. The issue is that in half of the games they will show up with a dismal first half, only to respond with stellar second half performances. In the other games, Temple seems to fall asleep in the second half after turning in admirable first halves, and it cost them against Rutgers.
“It was a sad day in the locker room,” senior running back Montel Harris said. “Coming out and letting them come back with 35 unanswered points, that is unacceptable.”
Temple was a second-half team in its loss against Maryland, it was a first half team when it beat South Florida, it was a second half team when it beat Connecticut and it was a first half team in what would have been a monumental win against Rutgers. The inability to have a uniform performance in any game can’t lead to consistent success when your team has less talent, experience and size than any other team in the Big East Conference. Rutgers exposed that, and when you play top-tier talent, you need to be on the ball for 60 minutes. Turning in sub-par performances, even in half of a game, won’t be overshadowed by previous success.
Temple will eventually begin to recruit Big East-worthy talent to its program and its ability to contend with strong conference opponents will increase. The Owls will develop talent and progressively add the experience the team needs. But for now the Owls cannot expect to win unless they prove they can string together 60 minutes of consistent football.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.