OwlSports Update Staff Reporter
The Temple Owls defeated the South Florida Bulls in a 39-37 homecoming victory this past weekend. Anthony Russo passed for 270 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver Randall Jones caught eight passes for 81 yards and one touchdown. Head Coach Rod Carey had a lot to say regarding his team’s performance and the team’s agenda for this week. He noted linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley and offensive linemen Adam Klein as very questionable ahead of their matchup at Memphis this week, with Wednesday being the determining day for their status. In terms of a critique in play, defensive improvements are made a priority for this week:
“Our angles were bad. Part of that was the USF's speed. Part of it was us. If we can continue to improve, we’ll have the opportunity to execute at a high level,” Carey said.
While Carey is emphasizing areas where the defensive unit can improve, it might be hard to find any parts of Arnold Ebiketie’s performance that could be much better. The AAC Defensive Player of the Week had a field day against the Bulls, racking up 5 tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown that gave Temple a 4th quarter lead.
“His practice habits are exactly what you’re seeing on the field,” Carey said. “With his god-given ability, when you put those two things together, you’ll get a good performance. We’re looking for more from him.”
The junior defensive end will play a pivotal role in Temple’s next game on Saturday at Memphis (2-1, 1-1).
“They do so much offensively and on defense. They have some really good personnel upfront defensively.”
This is the same Memphis squad that put 50 points on the board in a one-point win over UCF over the weekend. Tiger quarterback, Brady White, has thrown for 1,062 yards and 13 touchdowns in just three games this season. Six of those touchdowns came in the UCF game.
Saturday’s game starts at 12pm on ESPN+.
Inside the Nest Host
It’s the season of the two-point conversion attempts. And so far, its failures.
One week after losing to Navy on a failed two-point conversion, the Owls (1-1, 1-0) walked away from the Linc with their first win, 39-37, after stuffing South Florida on its own two-point attempt in the game’s final seconds.
“Winning is hard. Period,” Head Coach Rod Carey said after the game.
“I think I didn’t play as well as I could,” Graduate quarterback Anthony Russo said. “But a win’s a win.”
Russo showed some struggles in his decision making again Saturday, just like he did last week against Navy. He threw two interceptions, but he also had four touchdown passes. And one of those interceptions went under review for what Carey thought should’ve been a pass interference call on USF.
“(USF) tackled Blue and (the refs) did not call it,” Carey said. “That was amazing they didn’t call it.”
Even after the interceptions, Russo remained the leader Temple needed him to be.
“Anthony is way more composed (this season),” Redshirt Junior Jadan Blue said. “He’s always positive in the huddle.”
Much like the season opener versus Navy last Saturday, the Owls found themselves playing catch up most of the afternoon. Temple was trailing 31-26 in the fourth quarter, and USF had possession of the ball with a chance to potentially put the game out of reach. But Redshirt Junior Arnold Ebiketie had other ideas when he recovered a Kelly Joiner 11-yard fumble for a touchdown and a lead Temple never lost.
“I was just trying to do my job at a high level,” Ebiketie said. “Those are the same plays we run in practice. I was just trying to execute.”
“He’s just a freak athlete,” Russo said. “I don’t know if anyone has seen his high school basketball highlights, but they’re just ridiculous.”
“He can do almost anything,” Blue said. “We always believe in AK.”
Injuries were a problem for the Owls. In the third quarter, Jadan Blue took a helmet-to-helmet hit, but later returned. USF’s Antonio Grier was ejected on the play after it was ruled a targeting penalty.
“That one hurt,” Blue said. “That probably hurt the most of any hits in my career.”
Graduate linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley wasn’t as lucky, after he suffered an ankle injury before the game even started.
“Right in pregame,” Carey said, shaking his head. “He twisted his ankle.”
Junior Adam Klein also suffered an injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Even with the notable injuries and sloppy play throughout, the Owls found a way to piece it all together in the fourth quarter when it mattered most.
“I feel like we were just out of it (in the beginning),” Redshirt Senior Amir Tyler said. “We weren’t playing like Temple defense.”
“This team hangs in there,” Carey said. “They don’t flinch.”
“The defense was feeding off the offense,” Russo said. “The offense was feeding off the defense (in the fourth quarter).”
Saturday’s game marked Philadelphia’s first major sporting event with fans in attendance since the city shutdown last spring thanks to Covid-19. Almost 800 fans were in attendance, as Temple limited ticket sales to family members of players, coaches and staff.
Temple is back in action next Saturday at Memphis. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00pm on ESPN+. The Owls next two games will be on the road before they return home in November.
OwlSports Update Staff Reporter
The idea of having a home opener in October might have been a crazy one when Temple’s 2020 schedule came out last spring. But one thing COVID has taught us, expect the unexpected.
On Saturday, Temple will welcome the University of South Florida to the Lincoln Financial Field for not only the Owls home opener, but also for homecoming. Of course, it will feel very different this year with only family members of players and coaches in the stands.
Regardless who and how many people are in the stands, Saturday’s game is an important one in this eight-game season. The Owls are looking to bounce back after a nail-biting loss to the Naval Academy, as they will face the challenging three safety look the Bulls will present them. In previous years USF was a traditional man coverage defense, pressing receivers at the line often, while bringing a lot of pressure by stacking the tackle box.
Preparing for his upcoming assignment, Quarterback Anthony Russo describes USF as bringing, “Funky different looks in the back ends of coverages.” The goal is to disguise their defensive coverages and pressures to keep the offensive line on its toes.
On the defensive side, Temple has the assignment of containing Quarterback Jordan McCloud. Running away with the starting job last week, McCloud is a threat on the ground as much as he is in the air. Coach Rod Carey calls him a dynamic athlete who can throw the ball effectively.
It will be interesting to see how Temple’s game plan will try to contain McCloud and running backs Johnny Ford and Kelley Joiner after having struggled to stop the run game in last week's loss to Navy.
Coach Carey is excited for the challenge and looks forward to the team getting into their normal rhythm. Having four months to prepare for the season opener and now only have seven days to prepare for the upcoming game has everything moving at “warp speed,” as the head coach puts it.
Saturday’s kickoff is set for 12pm and can be seen on ESPN+. Also follow us @owlsportsupdate for live in-game updates.
OwlSports Update Staff Reporter
Sports venues across the City of Philadelphia have been empty for months, collecting dust instead of ticket stubs. But following the state’s approval allowing for venues to open its gates, the City of Philadelphia announced on Tuesday that Lincoln Financial Field is now open for business as well.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley announced that the city will follow Governor Wolf’s newest restrictions. These guidelines allow for up to 7,500 fans at the Linc, which includes players, coaches, stadium staff and media members. Masks will be required and seats will be sectioned off to maintain proper social distancing.
Saturday’s game against USF will provide a test run for the Owls. Temple is giving free tickets to the families of the players and coaches, and if all goes well, the stadium will open up to the public for the rest of the season. The plan is to offer a three-game season pass for the rest of the Owls’ home games this year. Student tickets will be limited but available to those with school identification.
Temple players were grateful to hear the news, especially offensive lineman Joseph Hooper, who hails from Kea'au, Hawaii. His parents still live on the island and have only seen him play one time at Temple.
"I’m excited,” said the senior linebacker. “Them being in Hawaii of course it’s hard and I would like them to be here.”
Quarterback Anthony Russo echoed the excitement of his teammate, saying on Tuesday, “It’s huge for us, we kind of thrive off the energy they bring. I know anytime we hear the fight song going and the fans cheering and dancing along. It gives me goosebumps right now just thinking about it.”
Last season, Temple averaged almost 30,000 fans per game. This cap of 7,500 will allow for fan engagement, but even in a best-case 2020 scenario, it will leave many fans watching Temple home games from their own home.
Inside the Nest Host
It took about six weeks longer than expected to start the 2020 season. And then it took almost
the entire 60-minute game to find a winner down in Annapolis, Maryland.
“We’re a two-point conversion away from tying it and going to overtime,” Head Coach Rod
Carey said following a disappointing 31-29 loss to Navy on Saturday night.
Navy led for just about the entire game. But with 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, down by
eight, sophomore running back Re’mahn Davis cut the Navy lead to just two with a one-yard
touchdown run up the middle. Temple, with no timeouts remaining, had to go for the two-point
conversion to tie the game.
But the two-point attempt never had a chance. Quarterback Anthony Russo went with a short
pass to his right to Davis, who was coming out of the backfield. Davis was picked up
immediately, the ball was batted away thus leaving Temple with another empty trip to
According to Carey, Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Uremovich had a different play called that
“Mike had a different call, and we should’ve gone with his in retrospect,” Carey said postgame.
“I thought mine was a good one, but they covered it.”
“We’re going to do whatever our coaches want to do,” Davis said. “We’re going to ride and die
with that play and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Much of the blame seemed to be put on Russo’s decision making to try and execute a pass that
looked like it had no chance to reach the goal line.
Carey and Russo had different views on how the play went.
“(Russo) didn’t really have anywhere to go with the ball,” Carey said. “It wasn’t Anthony, it was
my call, so I’ll eat that one.”
“That play was more of a zone play. For me, I got to have the football IQ there. Even if Ray
(Davis) caught the ball there he’s getting tackled at the two-yard line, and that’s a must throw
into the end zone,” Russo said. “The coaches are going to say it’s their fault, but at the end of
the day I got to be a smart football player and adapt. No matter what I got to fight and scratch
and claw and either run that thing in myself, or give somebody a chance to make a play in the
The game itself may not have come down to a two-point conversion attempt had the Owls not
allowed Navy to run for a season-high 253 rushing yards. Coming into the game, the triple
option was a talking point, but Temple didn’t really have an answer. The Owls had five new
starters in their front seven coming into this year with single-digit defensive tackles Dan
Archibong and Ifeanyi Maijeh as the only two returning starters.
And Navy took advantage. Two of the biggest plays of the game came from senior running back
Nelson Smith who rushed for a career high 120 yards and two touchdowns. Smith’s second
touchdown run gave Navy a 28-17 lead after three quarters.
“Our pad level was just too high,” Carey said. “This isn’t an x-and-o thing, this isn’t a personnel
thing. This is a really fundamental thing. Our pad level was just too damn high.”
“Playing Navy, they start low to the ground, so you want your pad level to be low the whole
time,” graduate linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley said. “Triple option is a very different offense.
We probably won’t be seeing it for the rest of the year.”
That may be a good thing for the Owls, but you can’t help but look at the fact that Navy only
threw the ball two times Saturday, and they were both screen plays. That means the Owls
secondary really hasn’t even been tested yet in 2020.
Temple will be at the Linc for its home opener against USF next Saturday, October 17. Kickoff is
scheduled for 12:00 noon.