Inside the Nest Host
An undermanned Temple team (1-3, 1-3) played perhaps its worst game under Head Coach Rod Carey Saturday in New Orleans falling to the Green Wave, 38-3.
“We did not play anywhere near to our capabilities today,” Carey said postgame.
Just like the unknown candy that fills your trick or treat bag, it was unclear which quarterback Temple was going to run out onto the field on Saturday. And once game day rolled around, it got even more interesting. On Saturday morning, starter Anthony Russo was downgraded to OUT thanks to a shoulder injury that kept him off the practice field this past week. This led to a return to the rotating quarterback room fans saw so much of in 2019. But this time with a twist. Redshirt sophomore Trad Beatty took the first offensive drive, but redshirt sophomore and Iowa State transfer Re-al Mitchell entered the game on the second drive. And that was the theme all afternoon, with each quarterback taking every other offensive series.
“We were going to see if somebody got hot and stick with them,” Carey said. “Nobody got hot. There were some good things in there and some really bad things in there. I’m sure once we put the film on we’ll find more good than bad and then make an assessment. But in the end, the quarterback needs to lead the team down the field and score points.”
And neither did.
“Going into the game, I knew Trad was going to get the first series,” Mitchell said. “Then I’d come in shortly after that. Then how it played throughout the game was to hop on the phone and see who was up for the next drive and go from there.”
“Ultimately it just came down to an execution thing,” Beatty said. “We were moving the ball well at the beginning of the game, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that continuously.”
The Owls found the red zone with Beatty on the first drive of the game. However, much like the case when Russo was behind center, the drive stalled and the Owls were only able to come away with a field goal. The Owls were held scoreless for the final 49:23 of the game.
“It is what it is,” Mitchell said. “Every drive we had didn’t result in the way we wanted it to, and I think that’s something individually we have to take and not make excuses for.”
The Owls were missing several players for their trip to New Orleans. Thirteen players didn’t travel thanks to Covid protocol. And there were several others, along with Russo, fighting injuries including linebackers Isaiah Graham-Mobley and Audley Isaacs. Safety Amir Tyler and cornerback Freddie Johnson both left the game with injuries as well. This led to a flood of late scores allowing Tulane to turn a 10-3 halftime lead into the 38-3 win, securing its first conference win this season in five tries.
“Effort came into it and communication,” Cornerback Cristian Braswell said. “A lot of people were walking with their heads down. When big plays happen sometimes the morale goes down. As teammates we have to learn how to keep ourselves together and even as coaches.”
Throughout most of Saturday’s loss, there seemed to be a lack of execution, creativity in play calling, and energy from the Owls. Perhaps the loss of Russo was bigger than some predicted. As of now, the graduate’s status for next week's game against SMU is uncertain.
“Can’t answer that yet,” Carey said. “It’s really a day-by-day pain threshold thing. It’s not a long-term thing. It’s a pain thing.”
The Owls will no longer be playing on Thursday night next week. The game was rescheduled for next Saturday, November 7 at 12:00 noon on ESPN+.
Inside the Nest Host
Saturday’s game at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis was anything but a clean one. A light drizzle led to several players slipping and sliding on the turf throughout the afternoon. And when the final whistle blew, it was the Owls who found themselves letting one slip away.
“The turf wasn’t ideal,” Wide Receiver Jadan Blue said after the game. “We were slipping, they were slipping, it didn’t matter what cleats you had. It’s going to be like that sometimes.”
The result was a game that had the Owls and Tigers combine for seven turnovers. Temple (1-2, 1-2) finished with four, while Memphis (3-1, 2-1) had three. The bigger difference came down to converting turnovers into points. The Tigers outscored the Owls 24-3 off turnovers in route to a 41-29 win.
“I feel like the whole time we stopped ourselves,” Blue said.
“Just too many mistakes,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “Plain and simple … You can’t win a game when you have four turnovers.”
The Owls had their opportunities to win this game, leading 15-10 at the half. But the Tigers turned it on after halftime as they have done all season, and outscored the Owls 31-14 in the second half.
“I feel like the defense didn’t play to the standard we have,” Safety Amir Tyler said.
In Tyler’s defense, Memphis was given a short field to work with on several of the Owls turnovers. Temple actually won the total yards battle, 500-489.
“It was a dog fight,” Blue said. “I feel like we could’ve capitalized even more than we did.”
The main turning point came at the start of the second half when the Owls turned the ball over twice on their first three offensive plays of the third quarter. Memphis converted both turnovers into touchdowns, taking a lead it would never give up, 27-15.
“I wish we could get (the third quarter) back,” Blue said. “It crippled us.”
As the Owls look ahead to next Saturday’s matchup against Tulane, Quarterback Anthony Russo is focused on the little things making the big difference.
“Lack of attention to detail,” Russo said. “We’re pretty ticked off that we continue to hurt ourselves.”
Next week's game is scheduled for a 12:00 noon kickoff at Tulane on ESPN+. The Owls come into New Orleans winless on the road, while Tulane is winless at home. It will be a first for whichever team comes out on top next Saturday.
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.