Temple Owls

Temple commits 6 turnovers in blowout loss to No. 21 South Florida

ap-south-florida-temple.jpg
AP Images

Temple commits 6 turnovers in blowout loss to No. 21 South Florida

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- An improved defense is setting up No. 21 South Florida for a potentially big season.

The Bulls forced six turnovers and held defending American Athletic Conference champion Temple to minus-4 yards rushing Thursday night in a 43-7 victory that extends the team's winning streak to a school-record nine straight games.

Darius Tice rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, and USF (4-0) scored at least 30 points in a nation-leading 21st consecutive game.

Dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers and an explosive offense usually keys the team's success, however that's beginning to change.

The team had four interceptions Thursday night, boosting its season total to 12 in four games. The Bulls had eight all last season, when USF prospered despite having a leaky defense.

In part because of the strides made on defense, the Bulls have not lost since falling by 16 points to Temple last October in Philadelphia -- a setback that wound up costing them a berth in the AAC championship game.

Coach Charlie Strong said rather than dwell on what transpired last year, he and his players focused on the importance of setting a tone for this season's conference race.

"When you play with passion and enthusiasm, that's the kind of performance you'll get," Strong said.

Tice scored on runs of 47 and 3 yards. Flowers, coming off accounting for 386 yards and five TDs in a 24-point blowout of Illinois , also ran for two touchdowns to take sole possession of first place on the Bulls' career rushing TD list with 34.

USF's defense, meanwhile, dominated from the start, pressuring Temple's Logan Marchi and coming up with the first three interceptions of the season thrown by the Owls quarterback.

Backup quarterback Frank Nutile was intercepted once, and the Owls also lost two fumbles.

"You're not going to lead very many games when you turn the ball over six times," Temple coach Geoff Collins said.

"The thing that we talked about all week was being plus-three in the turnover margin," Collins added. "They're way too good of a team to be negative, especially negative six."

The Owls (2-2) were held to minus-4 yards net rushing and were outgained 408 yards to 85. Marchi threw for 767 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in his first three starts for Temple, but was just 3 of 13 for 32 yards on Thursday night.

"We've got to get better. We've got to protect the ball, which has been a trademark for us for three entire games," Collins said. "We let that slip a little bit tonight, but we'll get that corrected."

Defensive end Jacob Martin scored Temple's only touchdown, sacking Flowers and forcing a fumble that the defensive end returned 44 yards in the second quarter.

The teams have developed a little bit of a rivalry over the past three seasons. USF knocked off the then-No. 21 Owls 44-23 in Tampa two years ago and Ryquell Armstead rushed for 210 yards and two TDs to key Temple's 46-30 victory in Philadelphia last October.

Both teams finished 7-1 in league play, with the Owls representing the Eastern Division in the AAC championship game for the second straight year under former coach Matt Rhule, who left for Baylor in December.

Less than a week later, Strong -- fired at Texas after three seven-loss seasons -- landed at USF, which lost former coach Willie Taggart to Oregon.

Strong inherited a team that won a school-record 11 games and has the Bulls off to their best start since 2011.

The takeaway
Temple: The Owls have lopsided losses to Notre Dame and USF wrapped around close wins over Villanova and Massachusetts. The defense has been vulnerable to both the run and pass. Offensively, first-year coach Geoff Collins has to get Marchi and Armstead, who gained 3 yards on 11 carries Thursday night, back on track.

South Florida: Flowers is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, however the Bulls are hardly a one-man show on offense. What's becoming clear as the season progresses, though, is a much-improved defense has a chance to make this a truly special year for USF, which has never won a conference championship.

Poll implications
Playing two consecutive week-night games on national television has given USF some much appreciated attention, however it remains to be seen how much of a difference it makes in the next AP poll. The Bulls climbed one spot after last week's dominant performance against Illinois, and it's difficult to imagine them climbing much higher solely on their rout of Temple.

Up next
Temple: Conference home opener against Houston a week from Saturday.

South Florida: Play a Saturday game for the first time in four weeks, traveling to East Carolina for conference road opener on Sept. 30.

Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow

usa-fran-dunphy-temple-owls-loss.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple's NCAA tourney hopes take a crushing blow

BOX SCORE 

Whether it was simply coachspeak or the dawning realization that his team now has only one entry point into the NCAA Tournament, Fran Dunphy made a short but forceful declaration following Temple’s 80-59 loss to Houston on Sunday.

“We’ve got to win every game we play from here on in,” the Owls head coach said. “That’s the only thing we can do.”

Indeed, at this point, anything short of a perfect run through the American Athletic Conference tournament — which begins on March 8th following the Owls’ final three regular-season games — will likely relegate Temple to the NIT or worse.

The Cougars (21-5, 11-3 American) made sure of that by completely dominating the Owls (15-12 7-8) on their home court to suck the life out of the Liacouras Center — and Temple’s fading NCAA hopes.

“We never let them breathe,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. 

Houston has now won five straight to join nationally ranked Wichita State and Cincinnati atop the conference, making it increasingly likely that only those three squads will represent the American at the Big Dance. 

Temple, despite a conference record hovering around .500, had been making a nice push to join the party thanks to a potent strength of schedule, a couple of impressive November non-conference wins over Auburn and Clemson, and a recent five-game winning streak that included an overtime upset of Wichita State.

But after losing to the Shockers in a rematch on Thursday, the Owls likely needed to win out and then win at least a couple of more games in the AAC tournament to have a realistic shot of an at-large NCAA berth.

Houston ruined that by scoring the game’s first 15 points and never taking its foot off the gas from there en route to Sunday’s lopsided win.

“I think we came out really flat,” said Nate Pierre-Louis, who led the Owls with 13 points after watching the poor start from the bench. “I think we came out underestimating them. And they came out guns blazing, making everything. If we want to push forward, we can’t start out like that at all.”

Dunphy, who could be feeling some heat if Temple misses the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years, had a hard time explaining what went wrong. But he didn’t make excuses, whether it was the team having trouble with its charter flight leaving Wichita (“You figure it out, suck it up and do a better job”) or bouncing back in general from an emotionally draining game there (“[Houston] had a great win at home against Cincinnati, so they were probably more susceptible to a letdown than we were”).

He also didn’t hide from the fact that there wasn’t enough effort from his players.

“We were a step slow all day long,” Dunphy said. “We had decent rest, we worked hard enough, [assistant coach] Chris Clark had us very well prepared for the x-and-o piece. We were just slow all day.”

In no way was that more magnified than in Houston’s 53-22 rebounding advantage, including a 17-5 edge on the offensive end. The Cougars' 53 rebounds matched a Liacouras Center record.

When asked about that, Sampson pointed out that he recently learned his team was among the shortest in the nation. Clearly, though, their hunger makes up for that fact.

“I guess we’re short but it never crossed my mind that it mattered,” the Houston coach said. “What’s that old saying? If size were important, what happened to the dinosaurs?”

Dunphy had a less philosophical (and probably more scientifically accurate) approach to the rebounding discrepancy.

“We were just not disciplined enough on the rebounding side,” the Temple coach said. “They played very well, and obviously we didn’t play very well at all.”

Sadly for Temple fans, the Owls have had a few games this year when they didn’t play well. They’ve also had games where they’ve looked like world-beaters, making this a particularly maddening season.

So whether the Owls close the regular season strong and make a run in the conference tournament or crash out in the first round is anyone’s guess, really. But even after Sunday’s brutal loss, sophomore Quinton Rose forecasted some optimism as the up-and-down 2017-18 campaign winds down.

“I think we’re at our best when we have our backs against the wall,” said Rose, who scored 13 on Sunday. “So I have no doubt we can make a good run."

Temple flops in biggest game of season

usa-shizz-alston-temple-owls.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple flops in biggest game of season

BOX SCORE 

In its biggest game of the season, Temple had its biggest flop.

With their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes dangling over a precipice, the Owls were smoked by visiting Houston, 80-59, on Sunday at the Liacouras Center.

Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis scored 13 points apiece for Temple (15-12, 7-8 American), which had won seven of its last nine coming in with the only losses in that stretch to nationally ranked teams (Wichita State, Cincinnati) on the road.

Corey Davis Jr. had a game-high 20 points for Houston (21-5, 11-3), which has now won five straight, including a massive win over No. 5 Cincinnati on Thursday, and is challenging the Bearcats and Shockers for the league title.

• It sounds cliché but Houston just seemed to want it more, outhustling Temple to loose balls and dominating on the glass by a ridiculous 53-22 margin. Not surprisingly, there were smatterings of boos from Temple fans when the final horn sounded.

• Considering the urgency of the game, Temple was very flat from the start with Houston’s Davis hitting two tough three-pointers to spark an 8-0 start for the visitors.

• The Cougars built their lead to 15-0 as Temple fans, standing until the Owls scored their first basket, grew impatient and implored head coach Fran Dunphy to change the lineup.

• Finally, Temple got on the scoreboard when Obi Enechionyia threw down a big dunk with 13:36 left in the first half. But fittingly, Davis hit a jumper just moments later and the red-hot Cougars kept their foot on the gas to increase their lead to 34-11 with 7:30 left.

• Houston led by a staggering 24 points at the final media timeout of the first half and took a 21-point lead into halftime after an Enechionyia three-pointer in the final seconds.

• Temple shot 31 percent in the first half, and it seemed even uglier with several of the Owls’ shots missing the rim entirely.

• The biggest first-half difference was rebounding as Houston held a 31-9 advantage and an 11-1 edge on the offensive boards. On one especially excruciating possession for Temple, Houston got a couple of offensive rebounds before Davis drilled a three right in front of the Temple bench.

• With Temple showing a little more life to start the second half, the Cougars promptly sucked it back out of them with star senior Rob Gray hitting a big three to put them up 47-24 with 16 minutes left.

• With 13 minutes left, the Cougars had doubled up Temple’s score (54-27), and then went ahead 59-27 on Davis’ sixth three-pointer of the game. Temple fans had very little cheer for from there. Houston’s a good team but it’s not easy to explain how the surging Owls could lose a game this badly to anyone at home.

• Houston actually had far more turnovers than Temple, 17-10.

• Temple lost at Houston, 76-73, back in December, and is now 2-7 all-time vs. the Cougars, including a 1-4 mark in Philadelphia.

• Houston is chasing just its second NCAA Tournament berth since 1992 and its first since 2010. The Owls, meanwhile, are in danger of missing two straight Big Dances for just the second time since Fran Dunphy took over in 2006. Thanks in large part to a great strength of schedule and their recent hot streak, the Owls were on Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out” in ESPN’s bracketology but this loss — and a sub-.500 conference mark — will certainly drop them even further off the bubble.

• The best celebration of the day came in honor of Hooter the Owl’s birthday, with mascots from around the city coming to the Liacouras Center to pay their respects. But those vibes didn’t extend to the game as Temple dropped to 12-1 all-time on its mascot’s birthday.

• Temple plays its final home game next Sunday vs. UCF before closing the regular season with road games at UConn and Tulsa. But even if they win out, the Owls still likely need to win the American Athletic Conference tournament to get into the NCAAs.