BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – As he sat at a table in the visitor’s locker room, Al Golden said it would be hard to evaluate how well the defense performed after the football team lost to Bowling Green, 48-35, at Doyt L. Perry Stadium Saturday.
That’s because Temple’s offense gave up 14 points to Bowling Green in the third quarter.
Not the defense.
Two third-quarter offensive fumbles – and one costly fumble from the special teams unit in the second quarter – ultimately accounted for 21 of the 48 points that the Falcons put up. It was the most points Temple has surrendered this season.
“It’s hard to win games when you have so many turnovers in such key situations,” said sophomore cornerback Anthony Ferla, who led the team with eight total tackles.
After heading to intermission tied at 21-21, the Falcons outscored Temple 27-14 in the second half. The Owls defense only allowed 13 of those points. The offense coughed up the rest.
“It’s unfortunate that we kind of sold [the defense] out today,” Golden said. “There’s 24 points [including kicker Jake Brownell’s 44-yard missed field goal attempt in the first quarter] that are unrelated to the defense and you can’t do that on the road. You cannot turn the ball over three times on the road, because, obviously, all three of those [turnovers] resulted in scores.”
The mistakes nullified the effort of the Owls’ defense, which forced three turnovers in the first half.
“The defense has been working hard, studying film and studying tendencies,” Ferla said. “Our job is to create turnovers. In the first half, we had three turnovers, so that put us in a good position to win the game, [but] we came up a little short.”
Bowling Green entered Saturday’s game averaging 353.5 passing yards per game, leading the Mid American Conference. But big plays from the Owls’ secondary made the Falcons offense look shaky at the outset.
Junior defensive back Georg Coleman intercepted a pass from quarterback Tyler Sheehan on the Falcons’ first possession of the game. Coleman leads the team with two interceptions.
“We’re all progressing,” Coleman said. “We’re all working together to become a better defense and as a secondary, we have to do our part. I feel we did OK today.”
On the Falcons’ next possession, running back Willie Geter fumbled. Temple freshman defensive back Jamal Schulters recovered the loose ball at Bowling Green’s 40-yard line. The Owls capitalized, taking a 7-0 lead when sophomore tight end Steve Maneri scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass from red-shirt junior quarterback Adam DiMichele.
The Falcons quickly responded, driving down the field on their next two possessions to establish a 14-7 advantage with 11:23 remaining in the second quarter.
Sheehan completed 30 of 47 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns. Sheehan threw the second of his two interceptions to strong safety Dominique Harris in the second quarter.
But he was efficient when it counted.
Eighteen of the Falcons’ 24 first down conversions were a result of the passing game.
“It just goes to show you that you can’t take plays off,” Ferla said. “Coach always says, ‘You can’t take one play off,’ because the moment you take one play off, they’ll hit you for a big one.”
In the second half, the Owls’ defense could only watch as Bowling Green took control of the game by forcing turnovers.
On 3rd-and-1 from the Temple 30-yard line, Owls’ fullback Josh Bundy was stripped on a rushing attempt by defensive back Kenny Lewis. With nothing but daylight in front of him, Lewis scored on a 35-yard fumble recovery to give the Falcons a 28-21 lead with 13:25 left in the third quarter.
Almost six minutes later, the Owls were backed up against their own goal when DiMichele fumbled after he was sacked in the end zone by defensive lineman Jacob Hardwick. Defensive lineman Orlando Barrow scooped up the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown, increasing the Falcons’ lead to 35-21 midway through the third quarter.
“That’s the difference between a good team and a bad team,” sophomore running back Jason Harper said about the Owls’ turnovers. “We take pride in protecting the ball and we didn’t do a very good job of that today, in the second half especially.”
The Owls trailed 14-7 in the second quarter, when red-shirt junior Travis Shelton fumbled after failing to shake off several defenders during a kickoff return. The Falcons recovered the ball at the Owls’ 13-yard line.
The Falcons scored immediately on Sheehan’s 13-yard strike to wide receiver Marques Parks.
Golden called Shelton’s fumble “ridiculous.”
“I don’t know what Travis is doing on that play,” he said. “He made bad decisions a couple of times today and I need to evaluate where he’s at right now as a returner.”
And, after Saturday’s game, the defense will have to evaluate its own progress on an individual basis – separate from the offense and special teams.
“All of these losses that we’re getting right now,” Coleman said, “are just making us tougher and stronger.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.