PHILADELPHIA, PA. 10/20/2018 – It was the beginning of the toughest schedule segment for the Temple Owls football team. The first of three foes that are undefeated in the American. Coming in both Temple and the Cincinnati Bearcats were among that group. The 20th ranked Bearcats were unbeaten for the season.
Temple takes their place in the league upper echelon staying unbeaten in the America stunning Cincinnati with a 24 – 17 win at the Linc. The Owls went toe-to-toe with the opponent, and showed they deserve to play on this stage.
“We’re where we need to be,” said running back Jager Gardner. “We’re showing the world and the conference that we’re here to play.”
The Owls found a way. Trailing late in the fourth quarter the Cherry and White put together a 7-play, 75-yard drive in 1:51 tying the game on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Russo to wide receiver Branden Mack with just 49 seconds on the clock.
The Owls had the ball first in the overtime and went ahead by 7 when Russo found the versatile Isaiah Wright for a 25-yard touchdown and the lead.
Time for the defense to take over. A penalty set Cincinnati back to the 40-yard line on third down. Quarterback Desmond Ridder lofted a desperation pass that was picked off by defensive back Shaun Bradley to end the game in favor of the Cherry and White.
“What an unbelievable game against a great football team,” said Temple Coach Geoff Collins. “The dark side (Temple defense) did a great job stopping a high powered offense. We did a nice job of defending what they were throwing at us. Our guys handled it. The offense when it counted came up huge. When it mattered most, the guys on this team stepped up and made plays.”
It was a valiant effort by the Temple defense who held the high-scoring Cincinnati to their lowest point total of the season. The Cherry and White defense bent at times, yet twice broke which resulted in the Cincinnati getting the lead. Two Bearcats touchdowns were scored by Michael Warren on a 24-yard scamper, and Charles McClelland who broke loose for a 42-yard score. Otherwise Cincinnati was held in check converting only 7 of 19 third downs and did not convert a fourth down try. Temple sacked Ridder three times and forced the same amount of turnovers.
“We don’t look at the score,” Dogbe said. “We play four quarters and if we have to go to five quarters. We knew that if we kept playing, the opportunities would come.”
The Owls defense was responsible for the first points of the game. Deep in Bearcats territory defensive tackle Michael Dogbe forced a fumble recovered by defensive end Jimmy Hogan that resulted in a 28-yard field goal by Will Mobley and a 3 – 0 lead less than five minutes into the game. Special teams set up a touchdown by when Rob Ritrovato stripped the ball loose on the ensuing kickoff that linebacker Sam Franklin pounced on 16 yards away from the goal line. Wide Receiver Randle Jones hauled in a scoring toss from Russo giving his team a 10 – 0 lead.
The Temple offense had trouble moving the ball until the end. For the game Russo was 20 of 41 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was also intercepted 3 times. Garnder playing in place of the injured Ryquell Armstead ran for 62 yards. Wide Receiver Ventell Bryant extended his streak of games in which he caught at least one pass to 43 games.
“We just didn’t quit and that’s a big step for our team to be able to go out there, play all the way into overtime and come out with a win,” Russo said.
Ridder was 14 of 33 for 111 yards, and ran for 32 more. Warren ran for 132 yards, the team posted 244 rushing yards. Cincinnati was haunted by missing three field goal attempts.
The Owls improve to 5 – 3, but more importantly are 4 – 0 in the American, and took a big step toward Bowl Eligibility. Cincinnati drops to 6 – 1 and are 3 – 1 in conference.
Next up for Temple is a trip to Florida on November 10 where they face another nationally ranked opponent in presently #10 Central Florida. The Owls own six wins against Top 25 opponents. For now they can celebrate this win.
“We kept chipping away and did a great job when it mattered,” said Collins.
Written By: Glenn Papazian