Owls commit four turnovers in their loss against the Toledo Rockets.
Toledo, coming off three tough losses early in the season, took its anger out on the Owls, who were coming off a big win at Maryland, by winning 36-13.
Temple had previously won 11 of its last 13 home games before Toledo forced four turnovers and racked up 36 points on the Owls’ defense.
“I think the tale of the game is the turnovers, which caused us to play on a long field and them on a short field,” coach Steve Addazio said. “It forced the momentum to swing hard on us. You can’t turn the ball over. We turned it over four times.”
“I want to give a lot of credit to Toledo,” Addazio added. “They came in here ready to play. They played hard. I give credit to their team and staff. They were ready to play today.”
The turnovers started as early as the first quarter when junior punt returner Matt Brown muffed a punt return inside the Owls’10-yard line that was recovered by the Rockets. Three plays later the Rockets were celebrating in the end zone.
About two minutes later, redshirt-senior quarterback Chester Stewart threw an interception intended for Brown.
“Mechanics, it’s not finishing throws,” Stewart said. “The one to [Brown] was a miscommunication. As leaders we try to keep our guys up, but it is definitely a momentum swing for them to get a short field and quick score.”
“That hurts a team and is hard to come back from,” Stewart added.
Toledo capitalized on the turnover and short field again, scoring a touchdown only two minutes later. Stewart did throw a 55-yard touchdown to senior Evan Rodriguez early in the second quarter and McManus added a field goal in the same period, but that would be the last time Temple would score on Toledo’s defense. The Rockets were up nine points at the half and 15 of their 22 first-half points came off turnovers.
The second half didn’t provide much relief for the 21,705 fans in attendance donning mostly pink for breast cancer awareness. Junior running back Bernard Pierce managed only four yards rushing in the second half and when it looked like the Owls had finally got the big play they needed to swing momentum, Pierce had a costly fumble at the end of a 35-yard screen pass in Toledo territory.
It was the third turnover of the afternoon and the defense was unable to bail out the offense. The defense was ranked first in the country in scoring defense coming into the contest, but the quick-paced Toledo offense seemed to fluster the defense and moved the ball seemingly at will while lighting the scoreboard up for 36 points.
“We didn’t stop them. It’s as plain and simple as that,” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. “I know that we will get this fixed. We didn’t come out and play like we usually play.”
“I keep hearing questions about them, but it’s us that messed up,” Robinson added. “We didn’t do what we needed to do and that’s why they beat us.”
Stewart would throw another interception later in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand for the fourth turnover. Pierce finished with 75 yards on 24 carries and was held scoreless after scoring five times against Maryland a week before. The offensive line seemed to have trouble opening holes for Pierce and the run game was abandoned altogether in the second half as the offense was forced to play catch up unlike last week when they led the entire game against Maryland.
“To have a big win like we did against Maryland, you worry about guys getting big heads and taking teams lightly,” Owls’ senior offensive lineman John Palumbo said. “We definitely didn’t adjust the way I hoped.
“I didn’t see a demeanor in everybody,” Palumbo added. “It was kind of flat.”
Addazio emphasized after that game that as tough as it was, it wasn’t a game that makes or break the season.
“You have to learn how to play out front,” Addazio said. “That’s something I think we still have work to do on.”
“College football is fragile,” Addazio added. “I tell the team that all the time. Every week you have to prepare with a chip on your shoulder and with an edge. If you don’t it can be very humbling.”
Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at email@example.com.