By Leo Haggerty


I know a loss is a loss is a loss.  Still, the close ones hurt more than the blowouts.

That’s just what South Florida is probably feeling after a heartbreaking 39-37 loss to Temple at Lincoln Financial Field last Saturday in Philadelphia.  The Owls evened their record at 1-1 (1-1 in the American Athletic Conference) while the Bulls dropped to 1-4 (0-3 in the AAC) on the season.

I asked Head Coach Jeff Scott if this defeat was tougher to swallow than the three previous ones.  He responded, “Yeah, they all hurt.  This one definitely hurts because I really felt like, for the first time in the last four games, that our guys came out playing to win the game.  Our guys came out with a different mindset and a different attitude.  They, literally, laid everything that they had on the line.  I don’t like the result at all but I was pleased with our guys.  There’s not many 1-3 teams that would have came out and played with the effort and intensity that our guys played with today.  Unfortunately, it just comes down to a couple of plays.  We made some critical errors in all three areas of the game and you can’t win a game when you do that.  Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction.”

Temple scored first at the 10:10 mark of the opening period.  QB Anthony Russo found Jaden Blue for a five yard strike.  This culminated an eight play drive that consumed 2:57 to go 50 yards.  K Will Mobley was good on the PAT to give the Owls a 7-0 lead.

The Cherry & White increased the margin to 10-0 at 8:26 of the first period.  Mobley connected from the 24-yard line to cap a five yard drive that took four plays and 1:10 of clock time.

USF dented the scoreboard at 4:34 of the opening stanza.  Quarterback Jordan McCloud found Randall St. Felix with a 13 yard strike that ended a 10 play drive that lasted 3:44 to cover 50 yards.  K Jared Sackett split the uprights to cut the Temple margin to 10-7.

The Bulls took their first lead of the afternoon at 9:39 of the second period.  McCloud found DeVontre Dukes with a 28 yard pass that saw the Green & Gold take 3:20 to go 95 yards in 10 plays. Sackett connected again and USF moved to a 14-10 advantage.

The Owls retook the lead on their next possession.  Again it was Russo finding Blue, this time from 13 yards out, at the 5:16 mark of the second quarter.  That ended a 11 play march that traversed 73 yards eating up 4:27 of game time.  Mobley converted the extra point and Temple led 17-14.

We stayed on the seesaw as USF scored with just 1:18 left in the first half.  This time it was Noah Johnson doing the honors with a 2 yard run.  That concluded a short four play drive that took only 59 seconds to go 35 yards.  Sackett added on the PAT to give South Florida a 21-17 lead that would stand up as both teams headed to the locker room for halftime.

Temple struck first in the second half.  Mobley hit his second field goal of the afternoon with this one coming from the 26-yard line with 8:14 left in the third quarter.  That ended a long 6:46 drive that took 16 plays to travel 66 yards and cut the USF lead to 21-20.

The Bulls answered with 5:39 left in the third period.  McCloud hit Johnny Ford with a 13 yard strike to cash in an eight play drive that took 2:24 that went 46 yards.  Sackett’s kick increased the Bulls margin to 28-20.

South Florida scored again at the 3:16 mark of the third stanza.  Sackett booted a 29 yard field goal ending a four play drive that netted a minus 2 yards in 1:10.  This gave the Green & Gold their largest lead of the tilt at 31-20.

This was a crucial part of the contest for the Bulls.  USF, after Daquan Evens intercepted a Russo pass and returned it to the Cherry & White 10 yard line, had a chance to extend their lead to 14 points but couldn’t find the end zone.  I asked Coach Scott if that was a turning point in the game.  He replied, “Yes.  We were definitely trying to score a touchdown.  Hell, where I’m at right now, I’m just happy we kicked and made the field goal.  Just being quite honest, we hadn’t kicked that many this year.  I was happy as hell that we made the field goal and went up 11.  Obviously, we were trying to score a touchdown but we knew that a field goal would make it a two possession game.  Our defense had been playing well so we took some chances there and we did it.  We went out there and we’re taking baby steps.  We made a field goal that really mattered at the time.  That was progress.”

Temple cut the margin with 1:07 left in the third quarter.  After a failed onside kick attempt by USF, the Owls marched 57 yards in seven plays taking up 2:09 that finished with Russo hitting Branden Mack from 12 yards out.  The 2-point conversion failed keeping the South Florida lead at 31-26.

Then, the Bulls self destructed with 9:52 left in the game.  RB Kelly Joiner fumbled at the USF 14 yard line and the Owls Arnold Ebiketie scooped up the pigskin and took it 11 yards to paydirt.  The 2-point attempt again failed but it gave the Cherry & White a 32-31 advantage.

Temple increased its margin with 4:28 remaining in the contest.  Russo found Randle Jones with a 13 yard catch-and-run that capped a 81 yard drive that took 12 plays and chewed up 3:47 of game time.  Mobley’s PAT made it 39-31 but the Bulls were not done.

South Florida, with 1:03 left in regulation, made it interesting.  The Bulls took the ensuing kickoff and in 3:21 methodically marched 72 yards in 12 plays.  Leonard Parker plowed one yard to get the Green & Gold within two but Johnson’s run for the tie the score was stopped short.

The Owls recovered the onside kick and, for all intents and purposes, ran out the clock.  Temple punted with just seven ticks remaining deep into USF territory.  K.J. Sails was tackled after a two yard gain and that preserved a hard-fought 39-37 home triumph.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for the Bulls with a short week situation.  Tulsa rolls into town for a Friday night encounter with USF at Raymond James Stadium.  If you can’t go to the game, meet you around the TV set to see if South Florida finally notches that elusive first AAC victory.