The Owls were again plagued by inconsistent quarterback play, poor tackling and enough penalties to stunt multiple comeback tries during a 34-14 loss to Central Florida (5-2, 3-0 AAC) on Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando. Temple (4-3, 2-2 AAC) head coach Matt Rhule pulled the trigger on a mid-game quarterback change, inserting one-time Temple starter Connor Reilly to lead four full drives after sophomore P.J. Walker went 9-of-16 passing for 60 yards, a touchdown and an interception through little more than a half of play.
Rhule then flipped his decision later in the game, and it effectively ended any chance of a Temple comeback. Trailing UCF by 20, Rhule re-inserted Walker for a fourth-quarter, red-zone situation that went awry when Walker threw a second interception on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. With the turnover, Walker tallied his sixth interception in the last three games and his seventh total turnover during the same period. Walker led another drive inside the 10-yard line that ended with a turnover on downs in the closing minutes of the game.
UCF ran out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and opened the scoring early when J.J. Worton, owner of a famous diving catch from the two teams’ meeting last season, collected a 25-yard Josh Holman pass. A field goal was sandwiched between Worton’s score and a William Stanback 1-yard touchdown run.
After Walker found Romond Deloatch on a 3-yard touchdown pass to put Temple on the board in the second quarter, UCF responded with a touchdown of its own. Holmon took advantage of a miscommunication in the Owls’ secondary and connected with UCF receiver Breshad Perriman, who blew past Temple’s Tavon Young and into the end zone on a 54-yard touchdown reception.
Temple’s special teams unit, guilty of a turnover on a dropped punt last week against Houston, blocked punts on consecutive UCF possessions to make things interesting later in the second quarter. No points resulted from the second of those blocks, but Temple’s Samuel Benjamin did all the work on the first one and made the most of it. After the thunderous block, Benjamin scooped the wild, bouncing ball and returned it six yards to make the score 24-14. UCF added a field goal to extend its lead to 27-14 going into half, however.
After the intermission, Reilly was unable to spark any offense for Temple during his brief stint under center. He finished the night 4-of-9 passing for 25 yards and an interception. And after the Temple defense held the Knights scoreless for almost the entire third quarter, UCF kicked the door in on it’s fifth win of the season with a 2-yard run by Stanback to make the score, 34-14. Stanback finished the game with 94 yards on 12 carries to go along with his two rushing scores.
By the time the fourth quarter arrived, victory was all but secured for UCF and the most compelling aspect of the game had become Temple’s indecision at the quarterback position. UCF, now on a five-game winning streak, bled out the clock after Walker’s second drive after re-entering the game ended with an incomplete pass through the back of the end zone.
Temple’s skill players lacked production in the game — receivers combined for 150 yards while the running backs finished the night with 32 total yards.