As Temple University quarterback Anthony Russo hit wide receiver Isaiah Wright for the 25-yard touchdown on the third play in overtime, roughly half of the what should have been 33,026 in attendance cheered.
But other half was nowhere to be found — the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday left after the redshirt-sophomore threw his third interception of the game with four minutes and 12 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and second in as many drives.
Two minutes earlier, Russo threw an interception targeting redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Branden Mack on third-and-goal. He threw the interception because of miscommunication between him and the receiver, Mack said.
Russo bounced back after those two interceptions to lead Temple (5-3, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) to a 24-17 win over Cincinnati (6-1, 2-1 The American), which was ranked No. 20 in the Associated Press poll.
The Owls’ defense came up big and stopped the Cincinnati attack after both of Russo’s interceptions, which gave the offense the ball back with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter. Back in possession, Temple went on a seven-play 75-yard drive ending in a 20-yard touchdown from redshirt sophomore wide receiver Branden Mack to send the game into overtime.
“That’s just what comes with playing for Temple,” Russo said following the game. “That’s the Temple TUFF, never quit no matter the circumstances, you just go out and play your game. We had some mistakes at the end that were my fault but we just went out there and kept competing and kept playing.”
Before the game-tying touchdown, Temple struggled to get anything going against the Cincinnati defense, which ranks fourth in the nation. After a 16-yard touchdown between Jones and Russo in the first quarter, the Bearcats had three interceptions and forced the Owls to punt seven times, including five three-and-outs.
“We didn’t quit,” Russo said. “A bunch of mistakes towards the end that can’t happen on my part at any point in the game, especially at crunch time like that. It took a little while to get into our groove, especially in the second half.”
During those last three drives in regulation, the Owls recorded 162 of their 292 total yards. Long receptions from Mack and wide receivers freshman Sean Ryan, graduate student Ventell Bryant, and junior Randle Jones brought life into the crowd that remained.
On the game-tying touchdown drive, Russo found Jones over the middle for a 29-yard completion and Bryant for a short gain of nine before floating a perfect pass to Mack, who was wide open in the end zone.
“[Russo is] a mentally strong guy and resilient,” coach Geoff Collins said. “Just to get through our offseason program and spring ball, you develop mental toughness. Anthony Russo is one of those guys who doesn’t just do the workouts, he attacks them so he can block things out, stay in the moment, find his receivers.”
On Nov 1 the Owls now have next weekend off before they travel to Central Florida, which went into Saturday as the No. 10 team in the nation.