Houston football

Sluggish start dooms Temple, but was an offensive identity discovered?

Sluggish start dooms Temple, but was an offensive identity discovered?

BOX SCORE

The whole “tale of two halves” idiom has existed in football since even before the days of the forward pass.
 
It’s an old cliché that can be bandied about easily to describe the flow of the game and even the ultimate ending.
 
Sometimes that ending is a happy one with jubilant players jumping into each other’s arms on the sideline. Other times, it’s a somber ending that sees dejected players walk off the field with their heads down in disappointment at a lost opportunity.
 
And there was a time late Saturday afternoon when Temple, after clawing back, looked like it would write a final chapter flush with jubilation. But not all stories have happy endings.
 
Instead, when the ink dried, the final chapter of Saturday’s game against Houston was filled with the dejection and disappointment of falling short and downed heads walking to the locker room.
 
After falling behind 20-0 in large part to a miserable offensive first half, Temple’s second-half surge fell short in a 20-13 loss to Houston at seasonably brisk Lincoln Financial Field (see observations).
 
Temple fell to 2-3 on the season and dug itself a 0-2 hole in conference play. Houston improved to 3-1 on the year and 1-0 in the AAC.
 
After getting outgained 232 yards to 114 in the first half, including 130-21 in the first quarter alone, the Owls finally found a running game and offensive rhythm and outgained the Cougars by a 210-156 margin in the second half. But it was too little, too late.
 
“That team that played in the second half is really, really good,” Temple head coach Geoff Collins said of his Owls. “That first half, I thought we had some self-inflicted penalties. We were moving the ball and something would happen. We just have to make sure to clean those things up.
 
“We cannot hurt ourselves. When you’re playing a quality opponent like Houston, who’s one of the top teams in this league, you’ve got to make sure you’re executing everything cleanly, playing as hard as you can and you can’t beat yourselves. They’re too good and we beat ourselves on some silly things.”
 
That first half included nine penalties for 68 yards, two Logan Marchi interceptions and a mind-boggling series that saw Temple have a 1st-and-goal at the Houston 7-yard line only to wind up punting from the Houston 36 on 4th-and-goal after a run that was stuffed for a five-yard loss, an incomplete pass and a third-down play that saw Marchi run for his life backward and take an inconceivable intentional grounding penalty.
 
“I was initially just trying to make a play there,” Marchi, said of his costly intentional grounding decision that made sure the Owls didn’t open the scoring. “I just tried to make a play with my feet and, toward the end, just tried to throw the ball away. It’s not the best decision. You’re in field-goal range. Take the field goal, take the sack if you have to and get the points.”
 
It was another disjointed effort for redshirt sophomore Marchi, who finished the afternoon 20 for 41 for 182 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, the last of which came on a Hail Mary at the end of the game. Afterward, he lamented on his poor start, which saw him go 13 of 23 for 122 yards and those two picks in the first half.
 
“I was slow,” said Marchi, sporting the battle scar of a black left eye. “It’s obviously not how I wanted to start the game. … First half, we have to start off fast.”
 
“The intensity was there to start the game,” said Temple sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Wright, who finished the day as the Owls’ leading receiver with five grabs for 53 yards. “But you have certain plays that kind of happen that go the way you don’t expect them to. And it takes away from the momentum.”
 
For as poorly as the Owls played in the first half and for as much as they continued to woefully miss an offensive identity, they were still within striking distance, down just 13-0 at the break. But Houston scored on a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Postma to wideout Linell Bonner to make it a 20-0 game on the first drive of the third quarter.
 
That’s when the Owls decided to punch back, fueled by a power run game headed by Ryquell Armstead’s team-high 63 yards on 14 carries and the willingness to stick to it and trust in it.
 
With offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude observing upstairs in the booth for the first time this season, the Owls adjusted in the second half and decided to run it right at the Cougars, who were without superstar All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who injured his left knee in the first quarter and did not return.
 
After rushing for just three yards in the first half, the Owls scooted through the Cougars’ defense for 150 rushing yards in the second half.
 
“It all came together in the second half for us in the run game,” Collins said. “Some of the IDs were just a little cleaner. They just willed themselves. We said we’re going to pound the run.”
 
Down 20-3 heading into the fourth, Temple started the quarter with a one-yard TD pitch pass to running back David Hood to pull within 20-10 and liven a pulse. Then with 8:47 left, Aaron Boumerhi drilled his second field goal of the game and the Owls were suddenly alive and kicking.
 
With 5:15 left, Marchi and the Owls started at their own 8-yard line and slowly but surely pushed the ball almost to midfield with just under two minutes left. A questionable rush with Hood on 3rd-and-10 from the Temple 42 went nowhere, setting up the decisive fourth down. But a Marchi pass sailed over Armstead’s head on fourth down, sending Temple’s comeback chances away in the South Philly breeze.
 
Temple did get the ball back with 30 seconds left and no timeouts, but a Hail Mary from its own 30 fell way short and didn’t receive an answer from the football heavens.
 
The Owls don’t believe in moral victories. A loss is a loss and it hurts, but was something found in the second half?
 
“First half, we didn’t move the ball the way we wanted to. Second half, we picked up the running game and we executed the way we wanted to,” Marchi said. “We run the ball well, we throw the ball well and that’s our offense. That second half — that’s how we're going to look.”
 
Hello, much-needed offensive identity?
 
Notes
Temple starting middle linebacker sophomore Shaun Bradley was ejected late in the first quarter for a questionable targeting penalty when he hit Bonner high as Bonner crouched during an incompletion. It was a tough play as Bradley, the Owls’ fourth-leading tackler on the year entering the game, went in for a form tackle but hit Bonner high because of the receiver’s positioning. Officials reviewed the play and still deemed it to be targeting, leading to Bradley’s ejection. Fellow sophomore William Kwenkeu took over for Bradley and finished with a team-high eight tackles.
 
Temple junior running back Jager Gardner (knee) and senior kicker Austin Jones (knee issues stemming from last season’s torn ACL) are expected to miss the rest of the season.

Temple-Houston observations: Owls' offense gets off to sluggish start in loss

Temple-Houston observations: Owls' offense gets off to sluggish start in loss

BOX SCORE

In the end, it was just too little, too late for Temple.

Despite a second-half surge, a 20-point hole was too deep to dig out of for Geoff Collins’ Owls as Houston quarterback Kyle Postma went 25 of 36 for 226 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 81 more yards as the Cougars left Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon with a 20-13 victory.

Temple dropped to 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in AAC conference play. Houston improved to 3-1 on the year and 1-0 in the conference.

The Temple offense was sluggish yet again, especially early on, which played a big role in the 20-point deficit they faced. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi had another uneven showing, going 20 for 41 for 182 yards, a touchdown and a three picks. And he could have thrown more picks if tipped balls went other directions.

Ryquell Armstead led the charge on the ground with 63 yards on 14 carries.

But still, with all the issues, the Owls were in a position to strike late and tie the game in the waning minutes after a second-half comeback that included a pair of Aaron Boumerhi field goals and a 1-yard David Hood TD reception on 4th-and-goal.

Temple took over at its own 8-yard line with 5:15 left and slowly but surely pushed the ball to midfield and faced a 3rd-and-10 with just under two minutes left. A very questionable pitch call that went nowhere left Temple with 4th-and-10 and the game on the line. Marchi’s pass sailed over the head of Armstead and so, too, did Temple’s chance at pulling the victory cheese away from the Cougars’ claws.

• Let’s get this straight: Could Marchi be better? Yeah, a lot better. But this Temple offense woefully lacks an identity right now. Is it power running up the gut? Is it stretching the field horizontally with jet sweeps and screens? Is it throwing it down the field? Is it uptempo? There’s no answer, and that’s not a good thing. It’s all over the place. Stick to something, at least for a little bit and let your team know what it is. While Marchi could be better, he isn’t necessarily being put in a position to succeed and he’s not getting much help. That said, the running game started to establish itself some in the second half, which led to digging out of the 20-point hole.

• The opening drive of the game was a microcosm of everything that ails the Temple offense right now. It’s all so disjointed. Forward movement washed away unforced mistakes. Marchi hit Isaiah Wright for 17 yards on an out route to get the Owls in business at the Houston 7-yard line. A stuffed run for a five-yard loss, an incomplete pass and a completely unnecessary intentional grounding where Marchi had all the time in the world to throw the ball away later and the Owls were out of field-goal range at the Houston 36. Let’s break this down: 1st-and-goal at the 7-yard-line to a 4th-and-goal punt at the Houston 36. One step forward, so many steps backward. It’s the theme that anchors this Temple offense.

• Ten penalties for 83 yards for Temple sure as heck isn’t helping the cause, now is it?

• I get the point behind college football’s targeting rule. And, for the most part, do I think it’s a rule that works? Yes, I do. But I’m not sold at all on the one called at the end of the first quarter on Temple LB Shaun Bradley, who entered the game with four sacks and 23 tackles on the year, fourth-most on the team. Houston WR Linell Bonner crouched down across the middle to catch a low pass from Postma. As he crouched and dropped the ball, Bradley came across and hit him high in that split second. Yes, it was a high hit. No doubt. But Bradley came in for a form tackle and it was impossible for him to shift his body in that split second. Thus the high hit. There was no intentional target and the hit was high because of the positioning of the receiver. Tough call that cost the Owls one of their leading tacklers for the rest of the afternoon.

• Two series of plays perfectly illustrated just how tough a day at the office it was for Temple. In the first, Owls corner Mike Jones picked off a Postma past in the end zone, giving Temple a touchback and the ball. But not so fast as he was flagged for a very ticky-tack pass interference call where both players were jockeying for the ball and position. On the next play, Houston’s D’Eriq King took a reverse 13 yards for the game’s opening TD. Momentum taken away and sent the other way. In the second, Temple’s Keith Kirkwood made a great adjustment and hauled in a 30-yard pass while falling down near the sideline at the Houston 6-yard line. After a review, it was ruled Kirkwood’s knee was on the sideline as he caught the ball and thus the pass was ruled incomplete. On the next play, Marchi was obliterated on a blitz while throwing and the ball was picked by Houston’s Garrett Davis. More momentum was taken away and sent the other way. But, hey, the good teams make and earn their own breaks, right?

• Shame we didn’t get to see much of Houston superstar All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound sophomore left the game in the first quarter with an injury and did not return to the contest. He was seen on the Houston sideline with ice wrapped around his left knee. Get used to hearing that guy’s name in the coming year. Hello, top of the 2019 NFL draft.

• Temple returns to the unfriendly road next week for a noon kickoff at East Carolina. The Pirates are not a great team, but the same can be said right now for Temple, which obviously still has plenty of knots to unravel in the coming week.

College football wrap: Navy stuns No. 6 Houston, 46-40

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College football wrap: Navy stuns No. 6 Houston, 46-40

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- With every Navy touchdown, No. 6 Houston saw its hope of playing for the national championship become a little more distant.

After the Cougars had their quest for an unbeaten season dashed in a 46-40 loss Saturday, all they could do is shrug.

"This one hurts but we still have everything in front of us," Houston coach Tom Herman said. "Our goal, as it is each and every year, is to win our conference championship and go to a New Year's Six bowl game. We have an opportunity to continue that journey."

Will Worth ran for 115 yards and threw for two touchdowns to help the Midshipmen (4-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) pull off the upset. Navy hadn't defeated a Top 10 team since 1984, when it topped No. 2 South Carolina in Annapolis.

When it was over, streams of the Navy Brigade stormed the field to surround the players, most of them jumping for joy (see full recap).

On a blocked PAT, No. 23 FSU beats No. 10 Miami 20-19
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- DeMarcus Walker blocked Miami kicker Michael Badgley's point-after attempt with 1:38 remaining, and No. 23 Florida State escaped with a 20-19 victory over the 10th-ranked Hurricanes on Saturday night.

The Hurricanes were in position to tie it after Brad Kaaya connected with Stacy Coley on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Badgley had made 72 consecutive extra points, but the 6-foot-3 Walker got his arm outstretched just enough to knock away what would have been the tying point.

And just like that, in a series decided so many times over the years by Florida State field goals in critical moments sailing wide right and wide left, there's now a block to add to the lore.

Dalvin Cook and Kermit Whitfield had touchdown catches in the third quarter to help the Seminoles beat Miami for the seventh straight time. Deondre Francois, who left n the first half after being shaken up, came back and ended up with 234 yards passing for Florida State (4-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) (see full recap).

Knight's TD run in double OT gives No. 8 A&M 45-38 win
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- No. 8 Texas A&M outlasted ninth-ranked Tennessee 45-38 in double overtime Saturday to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1994 after starting the previous two seasons with five wins before losing.

"It's great," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "We finally got over the hump, the little 5-0 hill that we've been facing every year."

Trevor Knight bulled in for a 1-yard touchdown in the second overtime, and Armani Watts intercepted Joshua Dobbs' pass on the next play for Tennessee's seventh turnover to end the game.

"The big takeaway from this was we were able to withstand some things, not play great but make enough plays to win the game without some of our better players being 100 percent," coach Kevin Sumlin said.

The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime (see full recap).

No. 25 Virginia Tech beats No. 17 North Carolina 34-3
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The rain from Hurricane Matthew kept coming. So too did Virginia Tech's aggressive defense, along with an offense that kept chipping away through its own mistakes.

Consider it proof that the No. 25 Hokies are catching on to what their new coach is preaching.

Jerod Evans accounted for three touchdowns while the defense shut down No. 17 North Carolina in a 34-3 road win Saturday played in heavy rain the hurricane brought as it made its trek north.

"What I do like is I do think they're good listeners," Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. "I do think they're listening to our process."

Since a Week 2 loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech has won three straight blowouts - this one against the reigning Coastal Division champion Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1), who had beaten Pittsburgh and Florida State on last-second scores in the past two weeks (see full recap).