While the football team outgained an offense that ranked 22nd-best in offense among Division I prior to Saturday’s American Athletic Conference matchup with the University of Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial Field, the Owls failed to reach the end zone in a 14-6 loss that marked the team’s third consecutive defeat.
Though the Owls hit the scoreboard first with a 30-yard field goal from freshman Austin Jones, the offense struggled to do so again for the remainder of the first half, totaling 151 yards, 116 of which were picked up in the first quarter.
Coming off a 30-13 loss to Penn State in which quarterback P.J. Walker accounted for five turnovers in the second half, the sophomore fumbled the ball on the Owls’ 4-yard line, setting up a three-yard touchdown reception for junior Mekale McKay.
“We tried to get a little more aggressive,” coach Matt Rhule said. “We called [a post play] and we just kind of turned two guys loose. Two guys came at P.J., and he was trying to throw the ball away. He was trying to learn from his mistakes and as he was trying to throw the ball away, he fumbles. It changes everything.”
The Bearcats ran a wildcat formation for their next score seconds before halftime, as Mike Boone took the snap and punched in the one-yard touchdown for a two-possession lead with 28 seconds left before the half.
“I was hoping we would not repeat Penn State,” Rhule said of allowing points just before halftime, “that we would get the ball back, that we’d be able to run the clock out, maybe score or maybe not. They got those two touchdowns and that was it.”
After the Owls (5-6, 3-4 The American) cut the Bearcats’ deficit to an eight-point margin after a second field goal, Temple failed to capitalize on Boye Aromire’s fumble recovery on the ensuing kick off early in the third quarter. An incomplete pass on 3rd-and-1 set up a 26-yard field-goal attempt for Jones, which he booted wide right.
The teams traded punts from there, until Cincinnati (8-3, 6-1 The American) ran 6 minutes, 53 seconds off the clock in its last possession. With an eventual Bearcats pooch punt and a running-into-the-kicker penalty, Temple was left with 14 seconds to manage an eight-point, 99-yard drive, an effort that ultimately fell flat with an incomplete pass and a final lateral play.
The Owls had exhausted two of its three second-half timeouts through the first 10 minutes of the second half, which Rhule said hurt his team during Cincinnati’s final drive.
“If you had told me we outgained them, but lost the football game, I’d would’ve been shocked,” Rhule said. I put this game squarely on me. [We had] mismanagement of the clock, mismanagement of timeouts, timeouts down the stretch that we had to use early on for ridiculous things that the head coach is responsible for, and it hurt us. We didn’t have a chance to stop the clock or keep that game going despite the, really, heroic effort by those guys on defense.”
In a game that featured 17 punts between the two sides, Temple’s defense held Cincinnati to 255 total yards, 81 of which came on the ground. Freshman running back Mike Boone led Cincinnati with 65 rushing yards, while senior running back Rod Moore followed with 22 of them.
Sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel finished the game having completed 19 of 31 passes for 174 yards and the scoring pass to McKay.
Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker finished on 19-of-35 passing with 196 yards, and led the team with 65 yards on the ground. His primary target Saturday, senior Jalen Fitzpatrick, finished his final regular-season home game with nine receptions for 77 yards.
With the Owls still vying for a sixth win that would give them automatic bowl eligibility, the team will face the University of Tulane next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in its regular-season finale.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.