Temple drops third straight, falls to 5-6

The Temple football team had a chance for a third straight week to become bowl eligible. For a third straight week, the Owls just weren’t good enough, falling to Cincinnati, 14-6, on Senior Day at Lincoln Financial Field to fall below. 500 for the first time this season. Temple (will have one final chance to gain the sixth win it needs to be selected for a bowl against Tulane.

The Temple football team had a chance for a third straight week to become bowl eligible.

For a third straight week, the Owls just weren’t good enough, falling to Cincinnati, 14-6, on Senior Day at Lincoln Financial Field to fall below. 500 for the first time this season.

Temple (5-6 overall, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) will have one final chance to gain the sixth win it needs to be selected for a bowl on Saturday night in New Orleans against Tulane.

Overall, the Owls out-gained Cincinnati (8-3, 6-1), 267-255 but couldn’t convert on some key plays in the red zone, settling for field-goal attempts and failing to score a touchdown.

“If you told me we out-gained them and lost the football game, I would have been shocked,” said Temple coach Matt Rhule. “I thought it was a tremendous effort by our defense and a lot of our kids. I told them and I mean this, I put this game squarely on me, mis-management of the clock, mis-management of timeouts down the stretch.

“We didn’t have a chance to stop the clock or keep that game going, despite the heroic effort by the guys on defense. That’s on me. We’ll pick ourselves up and try to get bowl eligible next week. We’re making progress, but it’s not yet enough and we need to get it to be enough.”

Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker missed some throws early in the game, air-mailing passes to Jalen Fitzpatrick and John Christopher that would have gone for big gains.

“The ball sailed on me, I was taking a short step and it was messing me up with my balls, driving down into the ground,” said Walker.

It was the beginning of a frustrating afternoon for Walker, who tried to throw the ball away with Temple leading, 3-0, in the second quarter but was sacked and fumbled. The Bearcats’ Levitcius Payne recovered at the Owls 3 and Gunner Kiel threw a 3-yard touchdown to MeKale McKay two plays later.

In the third quarter, Walker tripped and fell a yard short of a first down on a second-down run and just overthrew tight end Collin Thompson in the end zone on third-and-1 from the 7. Freshman kicker Austin Jones, who had earlier made two field goals, then missed from 24 yards to keep it a 14-6 game.

“I just have to be better,” said Walker.

Temple never got near the end zone again with a pass interference call against Tavon Young on a third-and-long with two minutes to play essentially allowing Cincinnati to run out the clock.

“My daughter goes to pre-school, it’s really expensive, right?” said Rhule. “I’m not going to get fined for my real opinion (on the call).”

The Owls’ defense frustrated Kiel and the Bearcats all afternoon. Cincninnati broke through just once, putting together a 63-yard drive in 1:37 that ended with Mike Boone’s 1-yard run with 23 seconds left in the half.

Cincinnati took a 14-3 lead into the break.

“Right now, I’m just disappointed, but we still have another opportunity,” said senior cornerback Anthony Robey. “The defense has been awesome, it’s developed a lot since last year and it’s good to see that.”

Walker finished the day 19-of-35 for 196 yards through the air and also ran for 33 yards and a score. Fitzpatrick had nine catches for 77 yards in his final game as an Owl at Lincoln Financial Field.

“Our focus just has to be on winning next week,” said Fitzpatrick. “We just have to finish drives. We had the matchups we wanted. We had positive plays, but just didn’t finish any drives.”

Fitzpatrick and his fellow seniors will have one more game in a Temple uniform next week against Tulane- with a chance to make it two.

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