The fourth quarter had just begun and Temple was down 18 to Pittsburgh. Last week they were in a similar spot against Virginia Tech and were able to force overtime. This time, there would be no game-tying comeback.
For the Owls, it was a case of too much Larry Fitzgerald, as the Heisman candidate ultimately spoiled Temple’s final home game of the season on Senior Day. Despite another Temple rally, Pittsburgh won, 30-16, at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday in front of 22,934.
It was the second straight week the Owls (1-10, 0-6) faced a Heisman hopeful in Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. In turn, it was also the second straight week the Owls mounted a fourth quarter rally.
Down 21-3 going into the fourth, Owls coach Bobby Wallace elected to go for it on fourth and one in Pittsburgh territory. Sophomore quarterback Walter Washington found junior wide receiver Phil Goodman in man coverage for a huge 25-yard touchdown catch, cutting the deficit to 21-10 with 14 minutes to go.
Wallace said his Owls have taken a while to get settled during games. It showed, as Washington completed 15 of 21 passes for 177 yards and one TD in the second half to lead the comeback.
“As the game progresses, we get better,” Wallace said, “and the reason that I see that is I honestly believe deep down inside as a team, that they think they can’t win against a team like Pitt or Virginia Tech.”
After a quick three-and-out for the Panthers, the Owls got the ball back and drove downfield as Washington connected on 21- and 18-yard passing plays. After an apparent 13-yard scoring pass to senior wideout Ikey Chuku was nullified by offsetting penalties, Washington ran for a 13-yard touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion would make it 21-16 with 7:14 left. Washington finished 24 of 40 for 278 yards and rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown.
It would be the closest Temple got.
In need of a stop, the Owls defense, which is last in the Big East in yards allowed, could not provide one. The Panthers chewed up more than six minutes and went 76 yards on their final drive, with senior QB Rod Rutherford hitting Fitzgerald for a 3-yard TD catch that put the Panthers up by 28-16. Fitzgerald ended the day with seven catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
The touchdown was Fitzgerald’s 21st of the season and an NCAA-record 17th consecutive game in which he has scored at least one.
“I do not want to say that you can’t stop him, but we sure didn’t,” Wallace said of Fitzgerald. “I have not seen anybody do it yet. He is the best receiver I have seen in college football in the 26 years that I have coached.”
While Fitzgerald made big plays, Pittsburgh’s senior running back Brandon Miree ran all over the Owls, finishing with 27 carries, 188 yards and two TDs. This was Miree’s first game back after being out the last eight weeks with a stress fracture. In six of the Owls’ last seven games, they’ve given up more than 200 yards rushing. The Panthers had 253.
Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris was asked if he ran Miree too much after coming back from injury.
“It was great to have Brandon Miree back. He is a big element that we have been missing,” he said. “Well, his legs are well rested. That’s what we call fresh legs. We tried to do the right thing all along with his health.”
With under three minutes left before halftime and Temple down 14-3, the Panthers were deep in their own territory. Miree ran up the middle for a 76-yard gain to the Temple 7. A play later, Rutherford hit Fitzgerald on a short slant for a 7-yard TD catch.
For Temple’s 17 seniors, it was bitter pill to swallow. In their first season at the Linc, they lost all five home games. Next week, the Owls travel to Morgantown to face the West Virginia Mountaineers in their season finale.
“I’m just pissed off because it was our last home game,” senior defensive tackle Taso Apostolidis said. “There’s so many close games that we lost and we should have won. It just stinks to finish my senior season with maybe one win.”
The Owls have lost six straight and played in three games that went into overtime.
Senior wide receiver Zamir Cobb ended the game with nine receptions and 97 yards. Early in the second quarter, Cobb grabbed his 64th reception of the season, setting a school record for catches in a season. He also set the mark for most catches in a career earlier this season.
Cobb didn’t find much satisfaction in the records. He was mainly concerned with the 13-32 record he had during his career.
“Is there any kind of salvation by it? Honestly, no,” Cobb said. “I’d rather have a great season and go to a bowl game, then get the record.”
Cobb said that he and other seniors were anxious to play well and pull out a win.
“The last home and the last time my family got to come up and see me play in Philly, that really meant a lot to me,” he said.