In a game that didn’t mean anything, the football team brought its offense.
And just enough defense.
The Owls defeated Eastern Michigan, 55-52, Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, behind record-setting days from redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele and senior wide receiver Bruce Francis.
DiMichele threw for 370 yards and six touchdowns while running for 28 yards and a touchdown, and Francis caught 9 passes for 125 yards and four touchdowns.
DiMichele’s six touchdown passes in the game were the most ever in school history, and Francis also broke the school record for touchdowns receptions in a game with his 10-yard haul in the fourth quarter.
All told, the Owls’ offensive stars had superb games.
And when told of their performances, the two were their normally humble selves.
“The records? I don’t know, it’s just one of those things,” Francis said. “It’s just one of those things were you’ve been working so hard for so long, it’s just a good way to get paid off.”
“It was fun,” DiMichele added. “It was nice. The guys just made some plays for me…everyone on offense did their part today. It was good to see.”
DiMichele also had a hand in all seven of the Owls’ touchdowns.
“It was a good game plan,” he said. “Obviously, we scored 55 points [and] that hasn’t occurred too many times around here.”
The game itself came down to the Owls recovering an onside kick with 37 seconds remaining in the contest after the Eagles cut the lead to three on a 2-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Andy Schmitt.
But sophomore Marquise Liverpool, now listed as a wide receiver, handled the bouncing ball, and a few kneel-downs later, the Owls had their fourth win of the season.
That opportunity was set up by a 45-yard touchdown pass from DiMichele to junior wide receiver Jason Harper with 2:50 to go in the fourth quarter that put the Owls up by 10.
The victory also puts Temple in reach of winning its most games in the last two decades if the team can beat Akron next Friday.
“[It’s] very significant in terms of this program and building because we have six seniors that are starting for us,” coach Al Golden said. “We have a chance to have a team that knows how to compete. The next step for our guys is to win more of these games.”
But today, even though they found themselves down 14-3 early, the Owls battled back to take a 17-14 lead thanks to two DiMichele to Francis touchdowns passes.
The teams then answered each others’ scores for the duration of the game, with Eastern Michigan simply running out of time in the end.
The normally stout Temple defense wound up giving up 552 yards of total offense, a far cry from what it has done in the past.
“I don’t think we really broke on the ball underneath. We weren’t as physical as we needed to be,” Golden said. “But we have to get healed up on defense. I know this is not the way we want to finish the season on defense.”
Schmitt threw for 484 yards and three touchdowns on 76 pass attempts. The Eagles only ran the ball 19 times all game, but four of those rushing attempts went for scores: two from Schmitt and two from sophomore running back Dwayne Priest.
“I didn’t know it was going to be like that, but I knew it was going to be something,” Golden said of the Eagles’ offense. “I had no idea they would do what they did.”
The Owls had a more balanced attack, with 37 pass attempts from DiMichele and 34 rushing attempts from a variety of players, with redshirt freshman running back Joe Jones, who also caught a late first half touchdown, accounting for 16 of them, as he has appeared to re-leapfrog freshman running back Kee-ayre Griffin on the depth chart.
Temple’s final game of the season and the final games of DiMichele’s and Francis’ careers takes place Friday at 1 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Phillie Phanatic, along with former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil and his wife, Carol, participated in the coin toss…The Phillies’ 2008 World Series trophy was in the Lincoln Financial Field headhouse before the game, as fans were allowed to take pictures of it and pose with it…In what was perhaps a cost-efficient move, the lights were not on at the stadium, even when things got darker towards the end of the fourth quarter.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.