Despite loss to Notre Dame, Temple proves it belongs

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Despite loss to Notre Dame, Temple proves it belongs


The nation learned a lot about Temple football on Saturday night.

Under the lights of Lincoln Financial Field, the No. 21 Owls fought, they scraped and nearly clawed out a win against No. 9 Notre Dame in a nationally televised game.

Moral victory?

No, but it’s a loss that showed TU’s top-25 ranking wasn’t a result of a weak schedule.

“We proved we’re a really good football team,” Owls head coach Matt Rhule said after Temple lost, 24-20 (see Instant Replay). “One of the better teams in the country.

“Notre Dame’s a great team, a lot of respect for them. They made some great, great plays. They made one more play than we did tonight.”

With 4:45 left in the fourth quarter and Temple leading, 20-17, the Owls were a defensive stand away from going back to North Broad Street 8-0.

A defense, which came through with two first-half red-zone interceptions that prevented ND from putting the game away, had the game in its hands.

Exactly where the Owls wanted it.

"We wanted this game to go to the fourth quarter," quarterback P.J. Walker said, "and they just made one more play than us."

Temple cornered Notre Dame into a 3rd-and-5 at its own 31-yard line, but Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer connected on a seven-yard pass to Roman Catholic product Will Fuller.

On the next play, Kizer hit tight end Alize Jones for a 45-yard gain, which put ND in the red zone. Two players later, Fuller made another big play that won ND the game.

Fuller beat the Owls' Cover 2 defense for his ninth TD of the season. Big plays are nothing new to Fuller, who reeled in a game-winning TD with 12 seconds left at Virginia on Sept. 12.

"We gave up a couple of big plays — that's unfortunate," Rhule said of his defense. "I thought they showed heart. We gave them the ball in plus territory and caused some turnovers.

"But the big play at the end and the big play on the long run (hurt us). Our defense hung in there, but gave up too many big plays."

For most of the night, TU played cornerback Tavon Young man-to-man on Fuller but switched to Cover 2 on the TD.

Young was flagged for two defensive pass interferences in the loss. Before ND's go-ahead drive, Young held Fuller to just three catches for 22 yards.

"Will Fuller is one of the most dominant receivers in college football," Rhule said. "He had no big plays until the last one.

"We tell Tavon to be physical. He just had some tough breaks. I thought he answered the call and I'm really proud of the way he played. We'll live with some of those things."

For a Temple football program, a lot of good came out of Saturday night's loss — more good than bad.

The Owls' defense held an Irish offense that entered averaging 38.3 points to 24 points and Walker had a strong game in the spotlight despite the final stat line.

Walker completed just 43.3 percent of his passes, but he threw the ball well against the Irish and also showed a running element of his game he's lacked this season.

The junior QB was also doomed by some drops. Ventell Bryant dropped a TD and Jahad Thomas had a drop on a 3rd-and-1 the play before TU took a 20-17 lead.

"He took hit after hit," Rhule said of Walker. "We struggled a little bit in the first half protecting him, but we did a good job in the second half getting the spread run game going.

"I thought he was fearless. If we make a couple more catches, he has a big-time game."

Against ND, Walker finished 13 of 30 for 188 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His INT came in the game's final moments, after the Irish had pulled ahead, 24-20, when KeiVarae Russell made a strong play on the ball.

Walker added 38 yards on six carries with a few double-digit second-half runs: a 10-yarder in the third quarter and a 15-yarder and 21-yarder in the fourth quarter.

"It's just a zone-read play," Walker said of the 21-yard run. "They were running over it. Jaylon (Smith) was actually overrunning it as well. I felt I could beat him off the edge and I did."

While TU kept running back C.J. Prosise from making an impact, the Owls struggled to contain Kizer in the run game.

The sophomore QB burned the Owls for 143 yards on 17 carries, including a 79-yard touchdown run on a read-option in the second quarter. He also threw for 299 yards and a TD but did have two INTs.

"You saw his speed," defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike, who had the Owls' first interception, said. "He is a fast player, and even with a pass rush you just have to contain him.

"You know any minute he can get away from you. … There seemed to be some sort of miscommunication. I don't know, I have to see it on film."

On film, the Owls are going to see some mistakes and missed opportunities, but the film will also show ...

"That we can play with anybody in the country," said Thomas, who had 82 yards and his 13th rushing touchdown of the season.

"We knew that — a lot of people had us as the underdog, but we loving having the chip on the shoulder, that's kind of the brand in Philly."

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.