Those that have followed the 2014 Temple Owls football team know it’s been an emotional ride. A roller coaster doesn’t do the situation justice. After starting the season in a 180 from last year’s debacle of a campaign, the Owls fizzled late losing five of six.
Last week’s 14-6 loss at home to Cincinnati was almost a necessary evil. Though Temple showed little emotion on offense in order to make a comeback, seniors Kenny Harper and Jalen Fitzpatrick were amped up to conclude the regular season with a victory.
“I don’t think we need to worry about ourselves on offense. We just need to worry about correcting mistakes and that’s what we’ll do for next week,” said Fitzpatrick after last week’s defeat.
At 5-6 no one wanted to end their campaign as a losing team with a losing record. The chance to participate once again in a bowl game was on everyone’s mind. For head coach Matt Rhule, who has been brutally honest about his team’s play throughout the year, to take a 2-10 team into a contender is a feat for any second year head coach.
Every practice, offseason workout, drill and game would culminate to game 12.
Temple would open sluggish, as has been the case throughout the season. Out comes backup running back Hassan Dixon, who has one TD on the year against Delaware State, in for punting duties. Rhule rolls the dice and gets his desired result with a clean punt of 43 yards.
Freshman Alex Starszyk has underperformed in recent weeks and losing his job to an offensive player has to feel like a low point in his career.
Tulane, who has had solid running backs in the past and most notably Bears’ stud Matt Forte, got Dontrell Hilliard free to rumble for 37 yards. The drive would stall however as the Green Wave were forced to punt in Temple territory. The Owls shockingly couldn’t formulate a substantial drive giving the ball back to Tulane.
The home team was knocking on the door taking it down to the Temple one yard line but an illegal block crippled their chances for a touchdown as they settled for a field goal. After a P.J. Walker fumble, the quarterback hits sophomore RB Jahad Thomas on a screen pass as the shifty burner cuts through the defense for 75 yards.
Freshman kicker Austin Jones missed a game tying 35 yard field goal shortly after as the highlight reel play of Thomas was just for show. Jones, however, would nail a 37 harder to tie the game up at three despite having incredible starting field position at the opposing 33 yard line.
The Owls had another chance to put points on the board before the half but Jones once again missed a field goal in the Owls final drive to keep the game tied at three heading into the half. Maybe Dixon could take over field goal duties as well.
Tulane opened the third with freshman QB Tanner Lee connecting to wideout Devon Breaux on a 16 yard completion but the Green Wave couldn’t capitalize and missed a 39 yard field goal.
The Owls would put together a drive of their own midway through the third. After moving the ball with his legs, Walker was picked off in the red zone by arguably Tulane’s best player Lorenzo Doss in the end zone for a touchback.
Tulane inserted Nick Montana, son of Joe Montana the 49ers Hall of Famer, but was picked off by freshman corner Sean Chandler as the Owls retook the momentum. An offensive holding penalty deflated the Owls attempt to score on the following as they were forced to punt once again.
The two teams battled for field position, which was the determining factor in the game, and John Christopher assisted the Owls in the fourth. After multiple punts deep in their own territory, the senior took the punt from Peter Picerelli 14 yards to the 25 yard line of Tulane.
The play turned out to be crucial as Walker finally hooked up with WR Romond Deloatch after running for a first down. The Owls take the 10-3 lead needing a stop from their emerging defense. The Owls’ strength did just that forcing a three-and-out but would give the ball back on the next Tulane possession.
The Green Wave were about to come crashing down on the Owls. RB Lazedrick Johnson rumbled 48 yards down to the 34 yard line to set up the possible game tying score. Lee stepped up late after proving to be inept previously in the game.
He found freshman WR Terren Encalade twice on the drive for 32 yards but was sacked twice as well. After converting a fourth and one in Owls’ territory, standout pass rusher Prince Martin-Oguike got to Lee and two incompletions made it fourth and goal on the 16. Lee took it from the shotgun formation but corner Averee Williams flew into the backfield on a blitz sacking the quarterback and ending the close affair.
Temple pulled out the 10-3 victory and moved to (6-6, 4-4) on the season with a four game win increase from 2013. Walker, a sophomore, called the right shots in the fourth quarter and the connection to Deloatch would prove to be the equalizer.
The Owls’ defense could not have had a greater impact during the contest holding Tulane to just three points with only 266 yards total.
Temple did not gain admittance to a bowl game, despite gaining bowl eligibility with the win against Tulane.