The Temple Owls opened a big home game with a touchdown drive, but the UCF Knights are the ones smiling at halftime with a 28-21 lead in Philadelphia.
Temple quarterback Anthony Russo tossed the first of his two first-half touchdowns to Randle Jones for a 32-yard score on the opening possession of the game, but UCF answered by scoring the next 21 points on their first four offensive series. That included a 48-yard touchdown run by Adrian Killins on the first snap of one drive and a 99-yard drive that needed just six plays to go end-to-end. UCF quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. passed for and run for a touchdown in the half.
Down 21-7, Temple did get a big offensive play to get back in the end zone when Russo found Branden Mack down the left sideline for a deep pass. After separating himself from his defender, Mack dashed down the sideline for a 75-yard strike.
Temple cut into the UCF leads a little more in the last minute of the half with a Jager Gardner extending the ball over the goal line. But UCF has the touchdown lead and will get the ball to start the second half.
What’s at stake in Philadelphia is sole possession of second place in the AAC East Division. Both teams are one game behind Cincinnati in the division. Cincinnati has already defeated the Knights and won’t face Temple until the next-to-last game of the season. Both teams have one loss in conference play and need to manage to keep pace with the Bearcats. This is especially true for UCF, who needs a little more help from Cincinnati’s opponents if they are to defend their conference championship.
How No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1, 2-1 AAC) suffered their first loss of the season was pretty remarkable to watch unfold. With a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati intercepted Temple (5-3, 4-0 AAC) twice to seemingly thwart any upset bid by the Owls, but Temple scored a touchdown in the final minute of regulation and then scored first in overtime before sealing the game with their own interception. Temple’s 24-17 win over Cincinnati helps keep the Owls in contention for a bowl berth.
After having each of the last two drives end with an interception, including one inside the red zone, Anthony Russo completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Branden Mack with 49 seconds to play.
The game-tying touchdown came after Cincinnati went three-and-out following the red zone interception. The Bearcats picked up just four yards after the interception, giving the Owls the ball back with a little more than two minutes to play. It was the fifth-straight offensive possession where Cincinnati failed to pick up a first down after taking a 17-10 lead (four punts, one turnover on downs). The offensive ineptitude for Cincinnati continued in the second half.
After Russo connected for the go-ahead touchdown to Isaiah Wright on 3rd and 10 from the 25-yard line, Cincinnati recovered a fumble for a loss of 11 yards that had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty tacked on for a 3rd and 36 situation. Desmond Ridder was picked off on the play, giving Temple the win and get the last laugh.
Temple’s chances to go to a bowl game are still alive, although the upcoming schedule is a challenge. Temple needs two more wins, which likely means Temple will have to win one of their next three games before a road trip to UConn in order for that to happen. Temple gets a week off to prepare for a road trip to UCF, which is followed by a road game at Houston and then a home game against South Florida.
That upcoming schedule for Temple also means Cincinnati should not be written off in the AAC East either. If Temple loses two games, then Cincinnati has a chance to make their own run with games against SMU, Navy, South Florida, UCF, and East Carolina all remaining. Cincinnati will play at home against South Florida on November 10 and then at UCF the following week. Going 2-0 in those games may be mandatory for Cincinnati to have a shot at the AAC championship and a possible New Years Six bowl spot that could come with it.