It wasn’t pretty and it was much closer than Temple probably would have wanted, but the Owls dispatched UMass, 29-21, Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Owls badly needed to gain momentum ahead of a critical matchup against the American Athletic Conference favorite — No. 22 South Florida — and after a sloppy start, they did.
After UMass took a 7-3 lead with 2:23 left in the second quarter, Temple sprung off 16 unanswered points and grinded out a gritty win in front of an announced “22,911” fans.
Temple quarterback Logan Marchi connected on two quick touchdown passes to close out the first half — a 30-yard TD toss to Adonis Jennings and then an 11-yarder to Keith Kirkwood with 10 seconds left in the second quarter. After Marchi’s TD pass to Jennings, redshirt freshman defensive end Quincy Roche forced and recovered a fumble.
Roche’s turnover allowed the Owls to take a 16-7 lead into halftime. Despite UMass keeping it close in the second half, TU was able to escape because of that momentum.
It’s Temple’s second straight win and Geoff Collins’ second win as coach. UMass is 0-4.
• It was quite the first half for Roche, who had three tackles for loss and two sacks in the first quarter, and then the forced fumble and recovery in the second quarter. He had three sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery at the half.
• Temple sacked UMass QB Andrew Ford nine times. Roche had three, Sam Franklin and Sharif Finch had two, while Jacob Martin and Isaiah Graham-Mobley had one.
• While the Temple defense had a solid night stopping the run — allowed just 81 yards on the ground — and creating pressure, its pass defense left much to be desired. Ford threw for over 377 yards and UMass picked up 25 first downs against Temple. But credit goes to defensive back Derrek Thomas for coming through in a big moment.
On a 4th-and-10 on the Temple 28-yard line in the fourth quarter, Ford went deep intended for Brennon Dingle, and if it weren’t for a heady play by Thomas, UMass could have tied the game with a two-point conversion. Thomas turned his head around and defended the ball. A flag was thrown but then picked up for no foul.
• Temple needs to find a way to get Isaiah Wright the ball more. He’s dynamic. Wright put the game away with a beautiful one-handed TD grab in the corner of the end zone with 3:48 left. Wright’s touchdown gave Temple a 29-14 lead. It was gorgeous.
Wright had four catches for 69 yards and a TD.
• We got our first glimpse at freshman quarterback Todd Centeio on the first drive of the second quarter. Centeio completed his first two passes for 20 yards, picked up a first down and the offense appeared to have more life with him under center than Marchi. But then Collins put Marchi back in on a 3rd-and-3 on the UMass 24-yard line. Temple failed to convert, which led to an Aaron Boumerhi 43-yard blocked field goal attempt. But the decision to take Centeio out was questionable. The Owls’ offense finally had some flow, some positive plays, some momentum. Then the switch at QB.
It didn’t make much sense, and it potentially cost TU seven points. Collins is a rookie coach, and these type of decisions are something he’ll learn along the way. Temple rotated QBs from Marchi to Centeio in the second quarter. Marchi got the brunt of the workload Friday. It was a grisly start for the redshirt sophomore, but he settled down.
• Marchi made his third start and was underwhelming before heating up in the second half of the second quarter. He finished the half on a high note, with two TDs — the 30-yarder to Jennings and 11-yarder to Kirkwood. He was better in the second half. Final line: 22 of 37 for 248 yards, three TDs. He has yet to throw an INT.
• I think it’s time to throw the option play out of the playbook as long as Marchi is the quarterback. It’s not working and it’s a momentum-killer.
• Ryquell Armstead, who entered the game averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, finally gained some traction on the ground. While it was as a result of a few big runs — including a 56-yard scamper — Armstead, a junior, had 91 yards on 17 carries.
• It was a rough night to be a kicker. UMass kicker Michael Schreiner missed two field goals in the first half. For Temple, Austin Jones missed an extra point and Boumerhi had a field goal blocked. All of those came in the first half, which featured largely bad football.
• Just kidding. Boumerhi redeemed himself with a 52-yarder in the third quarter. It barely cleared the goal post. It was a career-long kick for Boumerhi, and the longest by a Temple kicker since Brandon McManus’ 53-yarder Sept. 3, 2010, against Villanova.
• Schreiner missed another FG in the second half. He is 0 for 4 so far in his career.
• Temple has a short week. The Owls move on and head to Tampa for a Thursday night game against conference favorite, No. 22 South Florida, easily their stiffest challenge of the season. Sure, Temple began the Collins era in South Bend, Indiana, against Notre Dame, a storied program with NFL talent but one that has lost 11 of its last 16 matches, including bowl games, under Brian Kelly’s guidance. USF offers a healthy challenge.
The Bulls, led by Charlie Strong, the former University of Texas head coach, feature dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers that should provide the Owls’ defense with nightmares. Collins came to Temple regarded as a defensive guru, and the defense is going through growing pains having to replace seven starters. The USF game will be the measuring stick to see where this Owls team is. I wouldn’t expect a pretty outcome.
But, hey, Temple won Friday night. The Owls are 2-1. There is no reason for Temple fans to come down to earth yet. The Owls can enjoy this one for a couple of days.