Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.
Maybe Temple still would’ve lost to Connecticut Saturday even if first year coach Geoff Collins had decided to let usually reliable Aaron Boumerhi try a field goal to make it a one-point game on fourth-and-seven rather than unsuccessfully go for it with still 4:30 to go and the Owls having the momentum.
Maybe the defending American Athletic Conference champs would still be 1-3 in League play and just 3-4 overall had Collins used one of his two remaining timeouts on defense with around 2:00 left, rather than let the Huskies run off nearly a minute before finally stopping the clock. Instead, by the time the Owls finally got the ball back when UConn missed a field goal., they had only 55 seconds to drive 80 yards for the winning touchdown, and only got as close as the UConn 42 before a desperation fourth down Hail Mary failed. Of course, had they kicked that earlier field goal, they would’ve only needed to get in Boumerhi’s range to have a chance to win it.
It’s not second guessing if you anticipate things before they happen. But following a 28-24 loss that leaves Temple in seriously jeopardy of not even being bowl eligible coming off back-to-back 10 win seasons, Collins defended his moves. He was more focused on Owls’ turnovers that resulted in a pair of Connecticut scores, along with 12 penalties for 117 yards, which enabled the Huskies to build 21-7 and 28-14 leads before barely managing to hang on.
“We wanted to go ahead and get the touchdown and if we didn’t get it we had them backed up,” said Collins, whose second fourth down gamble of the half backfired when Logan Marchi failed to connect with Keith Kirkwood. “We felt we could get the points to go up—and then it didn’t happen.”
If Boumerhi wasn’t disappointed about not being given the chance to make it 28-27 with 4:31 left, conceivably setting the stage for last minute heroics, he wasn’t saying.
“I thought maybe we’d kick, but I trust whatever the coach calls,” said Bounerhi, 8-for-11 for the seasons after nailing a 21-yard field goal making it 28-24 early in the fourth after the Owls had first and goal at the 3 and couldn’t punch it in. “I understand the play call. I don’t care if I kick any field goals. I just want to win.”
While poor decision making down the stretch assured that wouldn’t happen in this one, the Owls’ never should’ve been in such dire straits in the first place. UConn was coming off a 70-31 loss at home to Memphis and had been outscored 198-115 the last four games. But Temple struggled all day against the Huskies, despite outgaining them 473-244. As a result the 3-4 Owls have put themselves in a bind. With their next two games against the service academies, 5-2 Army and 5-2 Navy–the latter a rematch of last year’s championships game–followed by Cincinnati, Central Florida and Tulsa, the Owls have little margin for error.
Still, they remain confident.
“It’s always disappointing when you have a loss, but we’re going to bounce back,” insisted Jr. running back David Hood who rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown and also caught 8 passes for 91 yards. “We’re not really thinking about being bowl eligible. We’ve just got come out with energy. Play the first quarter like it’s the fourth.”
“We’ve just got to stay positive.” added Ryquell Armstread, who ran for a team high 31 yards and a score. “At the end of the day we’re going to win six games.”
Probably not if they have to put it up 54 times, like they did Saturday.
“You won’t win throwing 54 times,” said offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, after Marchi went 32-for-54 for 356 yards but threw a costly third quarter Tyler Coyle 34-yard pick-six that boosted Connecticut’s lead to 28-14. “ We’re not wired for that. That’s not how we want to play.”
Surely, something will have to change quickly for Temple, which has left itself with little margin for error due to its inconsistency and tendency to give up the big play. Clearly these Owls aren’t at the same level as when Matt Rhule was in command, though Rhule has already discovered at 0-6 Baylor the grass might not be as green in Waco as he thought.
Maybe next time Collins will have learned to make the right tactical moves that can snatch a needed victory from the jaws of defeat. For now, though, Temple’s season is suddenly on the ropes.
And fast on the verge of slipping away.