Temple played so well in its win against USF, it got Bulls coach fired

In the first year of a rebuild, Temple continued a trend of beating the teams they’re supposed to.

Temple football player Edward Saydee carrying the ball across the field in Temple's conquer against USF. ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Football (3-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) defeated the University of South Florida (1-8, 0-5 The American) 54-28 on Nov. 5. It was Temple’s first 50-point performance since a 2019 season-opening victory against Bucknell University in 2019, further cementing USF’s low-level opponent status.

The loser of the game dropped to last place in the AAC. With a win, head coach Stan Drayton avoided that seeding, tied Temple’s win total from 2022 and came one win shy of now-fired USF head coach Jeff Scott’s total during his four years in Tampa. 

However, Temple shouldn’t be celebrating this victory too much. If the Owls want something to be proud of, they need to take advantage of a University of Houston defense that ranks seventh in the AAC in rushing defense and lead redshirt sophomore running back Edward Saydee to his second-ever 100-yard rushing performance. If they can do that, the offense will open up again and give the Owls a chance in a shootout with the Cougars.

Saydee carried the load last Saturday, rushing for 265 yards – the fifth-most all-time at Temple – on 11 yards per carry. Saydee took advantage of rushing lanes, identified where the gaps were and ran through them. An even worse look for USF, Temple started its ninth different offensive line combination in nine games. Before last Saturday, Saydee had 290 yards and one touchdown on 85 carries in eight games. Now, he is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season because of an abysmal Bulls defense.  

“They were doing a hell of a job the whole time,” Saydee said about his offensive line. “I just believe them and trust them and stayed patient. And when it opened up, hit it.”

Saydee’s performance was good enough for him to share Doak Walker Running Back of the Week honors with University of Kansas’ Devin Neal. Saydee was also named to the AAC honor roll for his performance. If senior Southern Methodist University quarterback Tanner Mordecai had not thrown for 379 yards and scored 10 total touchdowns against Houston last Saturday, Saydee would’ve won Offensive Player of the Week honors. 

Saydee wasn’t the only Owl to earn conference honors this week as graduate transfer kicker Camden Price was named Special Teams Player of the Week. Price scored 18 points against USF, passing Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus for the most ever by a Temple kicker.

Freshman quarterback E.J. Warner threw for a career-high 344 passing yards, two touchdowns and a career-high 75 percent completion percentage. 

For the first time, since a 2020 loss at the University of Memphis, Temple had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard receiver – graduate wide receiver Jose Barbon finished with 103 yards and a touchdown –  and 100-yard rusher. It was also the first time in at least 50 years that Temple did not punt or turn the ball over the entire game. 

“I’m just so proud of those guys,” Warner said about his offensive line. “Those five guys came in and executed and did what they had to do. I was proud of them for bouncing back after other weeks.”

All of this shows what Temple can be when its offensive line performs well. Good blocking allows the Owls to run the ball and prevent a 19-year-old quarterback from dropping back and taking hits all day. If Temple starts putting together performances like this against tougher opponents like Houston, the Owls can be successful. 

Defensively, Temple held USF sophomore quarterback Katravis Marsh to 176 passing yards with three touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble. Temple also forced another fumble, ending the day with three total takeaways. 

“We pride ourselves on [getting] turnovers,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Magee after the game. “If you don’t get a turnover, it really changes the momentum of the game.”

However, Temple was still vulnerable to big plays against USF. The Bulls averaged less than seven yards per carry and totaled 281 rushing yards. Despite low passing numbers overall, junior wide receiver Xavier Weaver totalled 119 yards and two touchdowns on 19.8 yards per catch. Temple’s secondary will face another test against Houston’s Nathaniel Dell, who is currently first in the AAC in receiving touchdowns with 12.

Temple travels to the University of Houston (5-4, 3-2 The American) today for a 3 p.m. kickoff. The Owls cannot lose another game this season if they want to be bowl eligible. The Cougars allowed 77 points last week, so there’s hope for Temple this weekend if they can exploit Houston’s defense.

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