Temple Owls

Temple-No. 15 UCF observations: Owls crushed by visiting Knights

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Temple-No. 15 UCF observations: Owls crushed by visiting Knights

BOX SCORE

For the first 18:35 of Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day game at the cloud-covered Lincoln Financial Field, Temple had a pulse that was beating proudly. Here were the underdog Owls, leading UCF, the No. 15 team in the nation, 10-7, and punching away at the Knights’ undefeated record.
 
Then the highest-scoring offense in the entire country caught fire and flatlined any pulse the Owls had.
 
UCF, which came into the contest averaging 48.6 points, reeled off 24 straight points at the end of the first-half and proceeded to blow away the Owls, 45-19.
 
The loss dropped Temple to 5-6 on the season and leaves bowl eligibility hanging in the balance with next week’s game at Tulsa. While bowls can select teams with less than six wins, they may be more inclined to select teams with more prominent names and from more prominent conferences.
 
Conference-leading UCF is now 10-0 on the season and has lined itself up as the likely “Group of 5” participant in this year’s New Year’s Six bowls.
 
And UCF asserted dominance quickly and surgically Saturday at Temple’s expense.
 
• The overwhelming theme of Temple’s lackluster season has been mediocre (some may say that’s even too polite a term) quarterback play. It started with redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, who had his moments, but ultimately couldn’t keep the job. The reins went to redshirt junior Frank Nutile, who stabilized the position for two weeks in wins over Navy and Cincinnati.

UCF crumpled up that stability and chucked it out onto I-95 Saturday. Nutile endured an ugly afternoon that saw him go 17 for 40 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. His two first-half picks deep in his own territory were backbreakers that enabled the high-powered Knights offense to get on the fast lane to the end zone against an overmatched Temple defense. His second-quarter pick into triple coverage to UCF’s Kyle Gibson was just ugly. There was nothing but white jerseys around.
 
Combine those picks with Ryquell Armstead’s fumble deep in his own territory in the first half and it was a recipe for disaster that buried Temple’s upset chances. You can’t turn the ball over three times that deep against the No. 15 team in the land and hope the defense can hold the levee together.
 
If the Owls wanted any chance of pulling the upset Saturday, they had to play as pristine a game as possible. Instead, the stains were aplenty. Hence the final score.

• UCF star linebacker Shaqueem Griffin is a fantastic player and an even more amazing story of human perseverance.

Born with a birth defect that caused severe, burning pain in his left hand, Griffin had that hand amputated when he was 4 years old. But his dream of playing football never wavered and he’s worked his way to being one of the premier defensive players in the country.

The 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Griffin was all over the field Saturday with three tackles, a forced fumble and his second career interception. The pick would have been an excellent play for someone with two hands, let alone a one-handed player as Griffin tracked a Temple receiver down the field and made an over-the-shoulder snag and then returned it for 22 yards.

Next stop: the NFL. What a story. What a player.

• While Temple’s offensive effort was ugly, the Owls’ defense, while having its back against the wall more often than it should have, didn’t have many answers Saturday.

Sure, it’s always going to be a monumental task against the most powerful offense in the country. But the Owls’ defense was battered by UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and crew. Milton went 16 for 23 for 208 yards and four TDs. He also rushed for 23 yards and a TD. At one point in the second quarter, Milton rushed untouched up the gut for 15 yards on 3rd-and-13. It signified the issues with the Owls’ defense as not a single Owl was in Milton’s zip code.  Milton dazzled while the Temple defense fizzled.

• Random take of the day: Temple’s black helmets, black jerseys and cherry pants look are sharp. Really sharp. Sorry, traditionalists.

• There were two bright spots for Temple on a figuratively and literally dark day.

Senior Adonis Jennings hauled in two balls for 88 yards, including a 74-yard TD pass in the third quarter. It was the Owls’ longest play from scrimmage this season.

Redshirt junior running back David Hood, who was awarded the No. 1 jersey this week by his teammates, a weekly rotating reward for toughness and leadership, carried the ball 12 times for 81 yards, including a hard-nosed 33-yard gain down the sideline in the second quarter when he shrugged off tacklers left and right. He made the most of his touches as the Owls’ featured back Saturday. Don’t be surprised to see him featured again next week.

• With a game that was basically over by halftime, a highlight of the second half was the fan “Flex Cam” that had Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” theme music playing in the background. That brought perhaps the biggest cheers from the announced crowd of 25,877.

• Next week’s season finale at 2-9 Tulsa is no gimmie, by any means, for Temple. It’s always tough for a young team like the Owls to travel halfway across the country, even more so with the pressure of bowl eligibility lingering overhead.  But the Golden Hurricane hung tough at South Florida this past Thursday, losing only by a 27-20 margin in the same environment Temple fell by 36 points earlier in the year. And Tulsa features senior running back D’Angelo Brewer, the conference’s leader in rush yards for a tailback with 126.2 yards per game (Navy QB Zach Abey leads the conference in rushing per game with 150.2 yards) and 1,262 total rushing yards. A challenge looms for a Temple defense that will still be licking its wounds.

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

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Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

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With five minutes and 22 seconds left in the first half and Temple trailing St. Joe’s, 26-24, De’Vondre Perry took a three-pointer that hit the back iron and missed long.

Out of nowhere, Quinton Rose streaked down the center of the free throw lane, leaped above everyone on the floor, corralled the offensive rebound and completed the two-handed slam to tie the game, prompting an eruption from the Liacouras Center crowd.

“That’s just how [Quinton] plays,” Shizz Alston Jr. said. “When guys start jawing at him he just turns it up a notch. I think some of their players were talking to him and he just got juiced up off of that.”

The play energized the Owls after a slow start, highlighting a 17-3 run to end the half and leading to an 81-78 Temple victory (see observations). Alston Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rose added a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double for the squad.

At the start of the game, St. Joe’s came out hot, hitting on three of their first five three-point attempts and jumping out to a 17-8 lead early in the game. After a Fran Dunphy timeout with just less than 13 minutes left in the half, the Owls seemed to tighten up defensively.

“He just told us we had to pick it up,” Rose said. “It’s simple as that.

"I think we had a lack of communication and the biggest thing is we don’t finish our possessions with rebounds. We give up a lot of second-chance points. We just have to straighten that up and I think we’ll be good.”

Obi Enechionyia and Rose came up with big blocks and Temple started forcing turnovers. This helped the offense get going, in particular, Alston, whose 15 first-half points kept Temple in the ball game despite the hot shooting start by St. Joe's.

Perry, a true freshman, provided a spark off the bench for the Owls, contributing nine points in the first half, including two threes and a tough finish at the rim.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Rose said. “I mean he’s young, but he showed a lot of toughness on the defensive end and rebounding. He made some big shots for us too.”

Perry attributed a lot of the open looks he got to his teammates.

“My teammates opened it up for me,” Perry said. “Either driving or kicking or just doing what they do best by penetrating and giving me the ball.”

Temple’s star big man, Enechionyia, struggled throughout the game, going 1 for 8 from the field and finishing with four points while being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Center Ernest Aflakpui came up big in his absence, putting up 12 points on 5 for 6 from the field and adding six rebounds.

“If we can count on a dozen points from Ern every game, that would be spectacular,” Dunphy said. “It’s obviously not his forte, but he did a terrific job. I thought he was poised at the rim and didn’t rush himself.”

In the last five minutes, the Hawks rallied from 16 down and cut the lead to four, but five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown sealed Temple’s first Big 5 and Atlantic-10 win of the year.

“I thought Josh Brown saved us at the foul line,” head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought he played great again. He played great against Wisconsin and played great again. I’m very, very proud of him.”

The Owls, now 6-2 on the season, will host the No. 4-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who could jump to No. 1 in the country after Duke’s loss Saturday, in another Big 5 showdown this Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” Rose said. “I hope they are No. 1 so we can knock them off.”

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

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Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

BOX SCORE

Temple on Saturday afternoon nabbed its first win against a Big 5 team and an Atlantic 10 team with an 81-78 victory over St. Joe’s at the Liacouras Center.

With five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown, the Owls held off a late rally by the Hawks. Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 20 points and four rebounds, while Quinton Rose added a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.

Temple moves to 6-2 on the season with the victory.

• St. Joe’s was on fire early on, making three of its first five three-point attempts, en route to a 17-8 lead just over seven minutes into the game.

• After a Fran Dunphy timeout with 12:44 left in the first half, Temple turned up its effort on defense. Big blocks by Rose and Obi Enechionyia allowed Temple to take the lead, 18-17, with 9:30 left in the half. The Owls forced a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

• Alston, Jr. dominated the first half and really kept the Owls in the game during St. Joe’s early run. He went 5 for 8 from the field in the first half, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, for 15 points. The junior guard has developed tremendously since last season, coming into this contest averaging 16.9 points, which is up from 13.9 points per game last year in his sophomore campaign.

• Enechionyia struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 from the field in 17 minutes of action. He missed multiple fadeaway jumpers on the baseline and didn’t make an impact in the post. He also picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and had to go to the bench. The senior power forward finished the afternoon with just four points and six rebounds.

• Junior center Ernest Aflakpui filled in tremendously with Enechionyia on the bench. He scored 12 points while shooting 83 percent from the field, added six rebounds and disrupted shots around the rim.

• De’Vondre Perry also played a big role for Temple, putting up nine points, 6.9 points more than his season average, in 21 minutes of action, which is up from his season average of 12.3 minutes per game. The true freshman did it in a variety of ways as well, driving and finishing at the basket, drawing fouls and adding two three-pointers. Perry was the only freshman to play in the game.

• Rose displayed his incredible athleticism with multiple big plays in the first half. The sophomore guard slashed through the lane and made a contested layup to put Temple up 18-17, and then followed a Perry missed three-pointer with a put-back dunk that caused the crowd to erupt. He also missed a few layups during the game, showing he still can refine his touch around the basket, but finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

• The student section was involved throughout the game, bringing out big-head posters during opponents’ free throws, making noise after airballs and erupting after multiple big Rose dunks. In Temple’s second Big 5 game of the year, the Owls fans needed to out-do the St. Joe’s fans who traveled to North Philly, and they certainly did.

• The win marks Temple’s first Big 5 victory of the year, almost two weeks after its 87-83 road loss to La Salle. It was a physical matchup that seemed like it would get chippy. Rose got into a St. Joe’s player’s face after a layup in the first half. Enechionyia was elbowed in the face while going up for a rebound at the end of the first half. Temple was the more physical, scrappy team Saturday, but will need to be better this Wednesday against another Big 5 team, No. 4 Villanova.

The Hawks return to action next Sunday when they host Maine.