Robby Anderson isn’t taking solace in the fact that the Owls came close to defeating a ranked team for the first time since 1998.
“We feel we had that game,” the sophomore wide receiver said. “[There were] things we didn’t continue to do that we were supposed to do, so things fell apart in the end. We’ve just got to finish. That’s been our problem the whole entire season.”
Temple (1-9, 0-6 American Athletic Conference) was defeated by Central Florida (8-1, 5-0 The American) 39-36. Temple led by a touchdown with 2:04 to go after freshman quarterback P.J. Walker completed both a touchdown and two-point conversion pass to redshirt-senior tight end Chris Parthemore. However, the Knights got the ball and went 70 yards in four plays, capped by a one-handed diving catch by junior wide receiver J.J. Worton in the endzone. The extra point tied the game at 36. Temple took over with 1:00 remaining but ended up punting.
With 19 seconds left, UCF junior quarterback Blake Bortles completed a 64-yard pass to junior wide receiver Rannell Hall, putting the Knights in field goal range for the last play, a 23-yard field goal by junior Shawn Moffitt that sealed the victory.
“Obviously, I’m extremely disappointed,” coach Matt Rhule said. “It’s just a shame how that game ended. I thought we did a great job on third down early. That allowed us to be in the game. I thought P.J. made some fantastic plays. Robby Anderson was tremendous. I thought our defense made some stops in the third quarter. At the end of the game, we couldn’t stop in the two-minute, which has obviously been a struggle for us all year long.”
Walker threw for 382 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Bortles threw for 404 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Bortles mostly targeted Worton – who had 10 receptions for 179 yards and three touchdowns – and Hall – who caught nine passes foe 159 yards.
“We each had to stop them,” sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith said. “We had to stop [junior running back Storm Johnson], and that’s going to lead to [UCF] throwing the ball. We trust our DBs to make plays.”
Anderson led Temple with eight receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He has amassed 480 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns over the past three games. Both of those numbers would have led the team in 2011 and 2012 seasons.
“Me and P.J. actually have a very good relationship,” Anderson said. “Every night, me and him are in there watching film. Every night, for a decent hour and thirty minutes. It’s showing on the field, that chemistry. He has trust in me and I have trust in him, so it’s translating.”
“It was by far the toughest [loss],” Walker said. “We knew we had this game, and for them to be a top-ranked team, we felt that we were better than them.”
The Owls received the kickoff to start the game. They couldn’t score, but were able to pin the Knights at the 2-yard line. UCF drove down the field and returned the favor with a punt downed at Temple’s 1-yard line.
On the second play of the drive, freshman running back Zaire Williams was tackled in the end zone for a UCF safety. The safety punt went out of bounds, starting the UCF drive at midfield. The Knights got a 20-yard field goal out of the drive, giving them a 5-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Owls went 82 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 32-yard pass from Walker to sophomore running back Jamie Gilmore. The Knights responded with a four-play, 61-yard drive culminating in a 49-yard pass from Bortles to freshman running back William Stanback, making the score 12-7 Central Florida.
Temple scored again on the next drive, keyed by a 46-yard pass from Walker to sophomore wide receiver Robby Anderson. Walker scored four plays later on a three-yard run.
UCF responded again with a quick touchdown drive, beginning with a 73-yard run by junior running back Storm Johnson and ending with a four-yard pass from Bortles to junior wide receiver J.J. Worton. The drive took 2:19 off the clock.
The Owls came back with an even quicker drive, going 80 yards in 1:36. The possession was capped by a 30-yard pass from Walker to Anderson. The Knights closed out the half with a 35-yard field goal from junior Shawn Moffitt.
To start the second half, both teams punted away after their first possession. UCF drove down the field, but could not punch the ball in from the one-yard line, turning the ball over on downs. Temple then tied for the longest drive in team history, a 99-yard, five-play possession that culminated in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Anderson, making the score 28-22 Temple.
After a series of punts, the Knights took over with 8:20 to go in the game. They strung together a five-play, 84-yard touchdown drive culminating in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to Worton. On the ensuing possession, Walker threw an interception to junior safety Brandon Alexander, but UCF went three-and-out on the possession, forcing the Knights to punt it away.
The Owls took over with 4:51 remaining. This touchdown drive was keyed by junior running back Kenny Harper, who racked up 68 yards on the drive. The touchdown came on a play where Walker ran to the right, doubled back to the left and found Parthemore for Parthemore’s first career touchdown.
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.