Despite sloppy play on special teams, on Saturday, Temple University Football (1-1, 1-1 The American Athletic Conference) beat South Florida (1-4, 0-3 The American) 39-37 on the back of an offense that scored four touchdowns and recorded 416 total yards at Lincoln Financial Field for the Owls’ first home opener.
Temple’s offense is off to a good start, averaging 34 points per game this season, and should continue their success against their next opponent Memphis (2-1, 1-1 The American), who are allowing 34.33 points per game this season.
Graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo entered the game after a poor showing against Navy in which he threw for just 206 yards and one touchdown. Russo threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulls but also threw two interceptions.
“I thought our pass game was good,” Russo said. “The two [interceptions] were the right reads, it’s a matter of getting the ball into the right spot. But that’s better than me forcing, like last week against Navy.”
Russo’s first interception came with three minutes and 55 seconds left in the first half at the 38 yard line by South Florida defensive back Mekhi LaPointe. The pass was intended for graduate student wide receiver Branden Mack, who failed to corral the ball with both hands, instead only using one hand and deflecting the ball right to LaPointe.
“Mack reached back and tipped it,” said head football coach Rod Carey. “That’s a rough one because it’s not the best throw, and Mack needs to go up with two hands.”
In the second half, Russo threw a second interception intended for redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue that was picked off by South Florida sophomore defensive back Daquan Evans, who after the interception returned the ball 56 yards. Evans was extremely physical with Blue, which upset Carey, who believed the contact should have constituted a penalty.
“The other interception should have never happened,” Carey said. “They tackled Blue and they did not call it. That’s amazing they missed that call.”
Russo and the Owls found a new gear and were able to mount an 11-point comeback during the last quarter and a half of action.
The comeback began near the end of the third quarter when Russo drove the Owls down the field and into the end zone in a seven-play, 57-yard drive that lasted just more than two minutes. The drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Russo to Mack.
After a defensive touchdown gave the Owls the lead in the fourth quarter, Russo and the offense gained possession with about eight minutes left and a one-point lead. They led an 11-play, 81-yard drive, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Russo to graduate student wide receiver Randle Jones, giving the Owls an eight-point lead the Bulls never recovered from.
“[Jones] is a stud,” Carey said. “He’s a flat-out stud. The way he practices, the way he plays and the way he attacks his life in general on and off the field, he is a stud.”
Jones finished the game with eight catches, 81 yards and one touchdown.
Carey was happy with the way the Owls’ offensive responded to adversity on Saturday, he said.
“This team hangs in there and they don’t flinch,” Carey added. “They hung in there and found a way.”