In order to make its first bowl game since 2019, Temple (3-7, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) needed to win its final three games of the season.
Unfortunately for the Owls, they lost to USF (5-5, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) 27-23 on Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Florida.
Temple made several mistakes down the stretch and it cost the Owls their bowl game hopes. Temple has now gone four straight seasons without a bowl game.
Temple could not contain the USF offense, as the Bulls racked up 451 total yards. The Bulls had a 17-0 lead through the first 15 minutes, and offensive sparks throughout the game held off the Owls. USF quarterback Byrum Brown torched the Owls’ defense, finishing with 316 yards on 18 of 26 passing.
The Owls’ offense gave the team a chance late to complete a 17-point comeback, but big defensive penalties cost them the win.
The nail in the coffin came from a costly late hit by defensive lineman Zymir Cobbs. On third down with a little more than five minutes remaining, he shoved Brown when he was already out of bounds, allowing USF to extend its final drive and escape with the win.
The Owls’ offense gained 389 total yards, including 296 yards from quarterback E.J. Warner. However, Warner’s explosives weren’t enough to overcome his three interceptions.
The first half was a tale of two quarters. Brown got his offense rolling in the first quarter with a seven-yard rushing touchdown on the opening drive. After a field goal on the second drive, Brown connected with wide receiver Khafre Brown on a 32-yard touchdown to open up an early 17-0 lead after their first three drives.
Brown totaled 160 passing yards in the first quarter alone and 256 in the first half. Wide receiver Sean Atkins was Brown’s top target with six catches for 115 yards.
Warner needed to bounce back in a big way after a disastrous first quarter that featured 37 total yards and an interception by USF defensive back Aamaris Brown.
Warner led a nine-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to start the second quarter. Tight end Jordan Smith was on the receiving end of a 16-yard throw from Warner to get the Owls on the board.
Temple’s defense forced a three-and-out for USF’s first punt of the day and the offense repaid them with a field goal to bring the Owls within one score. Temple’s offense struggled for the rest of the half, but their second-quarter success got the offense going.
USF extended the lead to two possessions after a 44-yard field goal by kicker John Cannon.
The third quarter featured several mishaps for both teams’ offenses. Temple got the ball to start the half and made a respectable 14-play drive to set up a 44-yard field goal, but Temple kicker Camden Price, who struggled Saturday, was wide-left.
Both teams traded possessions, but a Temple turnover put the Bulls in a prime position to extend their lead. USF didn’t capitalize on the turnover, as Cannon put a 40-yard attempt wide-right.
USF’s defense picked up Cannon with a pick-six to extend the lead to 27-10. Defensive end Tramel Logan intercepted Warner at the line of scrimmage and returned it 22 yards for the score.
Warner’s third interception happened the next drive after USF cornerback Aamaris Brown baited Warner by playing the flat and dropping back to intercept the corner route.
Temple’s offense responded quickly with a six-play drive ending in a 20-yard touchdown from Warner to wide receiver Zae Baines with just more than 13 minutes remaining in the game.
After the Temple defense forced a USF punt, Warner led the Owls on a 13-play touchdown drive that started on their 17-yard line. Wide receiver Dante Wright caught the 12-yard touchdown pass from Warner to bring the score to 27-23.
Temple did not get the ball back, as the Owls’ defense committed three penalties on the Bulls’ final possession, forcing Temple to burn through their timeouts. On third and 14 with a little more than three minutes left, Brown found Atkins for 16 yards and inevitably iced the game.
Temple will cap off its two-game road trip in Birmingham, Alabama against UAB (3-6, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.