Temple football struggles to stop up-tempo UCF offense

The Owls allowed nine touchdowns and 614 yards of offense against the Knights.

Temple football coach Rod Carey watches his team during the Owls' 63-21 loss to the University of Central Florida at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 26, 2019. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Central Florida freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel found junior wide receiver Marlon Williams for a 73-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Williams’ touchdown was the start of a 35-0 scoring run for the Knights. Central Florida (6-2, 3-1 The American Athletic Conference) used a second-half outburst to beat Temple (5-3, 2-2 The AAC) 63-21 on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls were only down 28-21 at halftime.

“It’s crickets right now,” graduate linebacker Chapelle Russell said. “We expected a lot more from ourselves. We’re gonna come together, correct the mistakes, watch the film tomorrow and see what it’s looking like.”

The Owls struggled to stop the Knights’ up-tempo offense. The Knights totaled 614 yards of offense. The Owls held the ball for 33 minutes and 19 seconds, while the Knights only possessed the ball for 26 minutes and 41 seconds.

Gabriel finished with 218 passing yards and three touchdowns. Gabriel only completed 10 passes on 21 attempts.

The Knights did not have to pass the ball often and their running game was effective. 

Knights leading rusher, junior Greg McCrae, missed the game due to a right knee injury, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Despite McCrae’s injury, the Knights finished with 385 rushing yards. 

Junior running back Otis Anderson led the Knights with 205 yards. Anderson also scored a 37-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Redshirt-sophomore Bentavious Thompson added 87 rushing yards and a pair of scores in the third quarter. Senior running back Adrian Killins, Jr. finished with 52 rushing yards, and 48 of those yards came on a touchdown-run in the first quarter.

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Darriel Mack, Jr. also had a six-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

“They’re obviously explosive backs,” coach Rod Carey said. “At times, we did a nice job versus it. If you give them a crease, they’re gonna go. They certainly did and we couldn’t get them down enough times.”

The Owls’ offense was not as effective as the Knights’. Temple only accumulated 266 yards of offense. 221 of those yards came from the passing game.

Redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo finished with 199 passing yards and two touchdowns. Russo also threw two interceptions to redshirt-junior defensive back Aaron Robinson.

Russo’s first touchdown was a 32-yard pass to senior wide receiver Randle Jones to put the Owls up 7-0 in the early stages of the first quarter. The touchdown was Jones’ first catch of the season.

Russo’s second touchdown was a pass to redshirt-junior wide receiver Branden Mack, who stiff armed his defender and took it 75 yards for a touchdown. Mack finished the game with 104 receiving yards. Mack eclipsed 100 yards for the fourth game this season, which ties a school-record.

The Owls only compiled 45 rushing yards. Freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis led the Owls with just 26 yards. Davis left the game twice due to injuries and came back into the game both times.

“I don’t know if much of it worked at all, so I guess you can classify it as all of it,” Carey said. “I thought we certainly had some holes in there. At times, [we] missed some. At times, [we] didn’t get a block. At times, they adjusted too. I think it was a combination.”

The Owls will have a bye week before heading to Tampa to take on South Florida (4-4, 2-2 The AAC) Thursday Nov. 7 at 8 p.m.

The team will need the extended time off to regroup and recover injured players, Russo said.

“First and foremost, we’re beat up, so we need a lot of guys to recover, get some rest, get some treatment and get their bodies back to where it needs to be,” Russo said. “All we know here at Temple is when things don’t go our way, all we know to do is just work. We’re gonna regroup as a team. We’re not gonna point fingers. We’re gonna look at what we have to do as a team.”

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