After 10 matches played this fall, the Owls have yet to win a game on the road.
Temple lost its seventh match of the season Saturday night by a tally of 3-0 against No. 22 ranked South Florida. Bulls senior forward Tyler Blackwood scored a hat trick in a span of 10 minutes in the first half, accomplishing the feat for the third time in his collegiate career.
Like much of the season thus far, coach David MacWilliams said his players “shot themselves in the foot with mistakes.” The crucial one came in the 21st minute of the match, when Temple’s defense failed to clear the ball out of their penalty box. Blackwood made the Owls pay by sending a shot into the bottom right corner of the goal, past senior goalie Dan Scheck.
The product out of London, England, is no stranger to success. He scored 24 goals in his past two seasons at the University of Tampa. Once Blackwood scored his first of the night, the floodgates opened on the Owls, as he found the back of the net twice more in the 29th minute. Each of the latter two goals came off crosses in the span of 23 seconds.
MacWilliams was not happy with his team’s performance, and commented on the mental state of his squad after its opening 10 matches.
Once the first [goal] went in, I think we lost our composure,” MacWilliams said. “[USF] is a very good team, give them a lot of credit, but we’re a very fragile team right now.”
In the first 20 minutes of the match, the Owls contained the Bulls and actually lead in shots by a total of two to one. But after Blackwood got USF on the board, the home team dominated play, outshooting Temple 21-5 and edging them in corners 6-0.
Much of the Bulls’ success on Saturday could be in part due to the fans at Corbett Stadium, who have seen their team make the NCAA tournament the last seven years.
MacWilliams said the environment was tough, but it’s the kind of place a team should want to play at.
“It was a great atmosphere to play in,” MacWilliams said. “Obviously, you didn’t want to go down, and going down early put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t respond.”
One unique move MacWilliams made on Saturday was inserting redshirt freshman goalie Alex Cagle at the start of the second half. He said the decision was not because of how Scheck played, but rather to try and spark something in the Owls’ offensive end.
“[Cagle] can punch or [hit] goal kicks a lot further,” MacWilliams said. “We wanted to use that to get [the ball] down in their half of the field, and just try to shake things up.”
Another highlight of the match was junior midfielder/forward Jared Martinelli hitting the crossbar in the closing five minutes of the first half. The goal would have made the score 3-1 and given Temple something positive to latch onto before the halftime whistle.
But MacWilliams feels his team hasn’t played well enough in order to get those kinds of breaks.
“I don’t know if we do enough to create enough breaks for us,” MacWilliams said. “I thought we had two quality chances before they scored … one with the keeper out and we shot it 20 yards over the net.”
MacWilliams added it was a rough day across the board for his squad. He did see some good play out of redshirt freshman midfielder Miguel Polley, but otherwise was upset with his team’s effort on Saturday.
The Owls return home to Ambler on Wednesday afternoon to face the University of Central Florida, another American Athletic Conference team that has struggled, posting a 1-5-3 record up to this point.
MacWilliams said it’s time to move on, and get a result once Wednesday rolls around.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” MacWilliams said. “We put ourselves in this situation, and we need to go out, grind it, and get a result on Wednesday.”
Free kicks …
Saturday’s contest marked the most action Cagle has seen in a match this year, totaling 45 minutes … Blackwood’s hat trick brought his goal total to four on the season, all of which have come in his last two matches … The Bulls tallied five assists in the match from five different players, compared to Temple’s zero … The Owls failed to record a shot on target all match … Kickoff for Wednesday against Central Florida is set for 3 p.m.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.