Temple praised for second half vs. Houston, but first half deserves scrutiny

093017_geoff-collins_1200
Temple head coach Geoff Collins.

After Temple’s first two football losses of the season coach Geoff Collins still praised his team for playing hard. It seemed like hollow praise, because playing hard should be a prerequisite for any team in any sport.

The Owls were outmatched those two games, losing by a combined 92-23 at Notre Dame and at South Florida.

It appeared more of the same would occur when Temple got down 20-0 after the opening third quarter drive in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference game against visiting Houston.

Temple certainly played hard, fought back and got to 20-13 in the fourth quarter, but there would be no miracle comeback.

Houston held on for the win, dropping Temple to 2-3 and 0-2 in the AAC and wiping out any realistic chance to repeat as conference champion despite having six more AAC games left.

That is because heavily favored South Florida (5-0, 2-0) would have to lose three games and have Temple win its remaining six. And that doesn’t even take in consideration Central Florida, a team some people feel can play toe to toe with rival USF and which just beat preseason AAC West favorite Memphis, 40-13 on Saturday.

While Houston (3-1, 1-0 AAC) isn’t in the same class as Notre Dame or USF, the Cougars are a good team, having already won at Arizona and likely to contend in the AAC West.

Temple should be lauded for its second half comeback, but shouldn’t escape criticism for a first half in which the Owls rushed for -8 yards and saw quarterback Logan Marchi throw two interceptions.

Marchi continues to be the person the Owls are banking this year’s hopes on.

He has the toughness that anybody would want as a quarterback and the respect of his teammates for his work ethic, but the 6-foot, 205-pound redshirt sophomore will have to improve his accuracy.

Against Houston he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, 20 for 41 for 182 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

For the season, he has completed 52 percent of his passes for 981 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.

The entire team has gotten in a bad habit of getting behind early and Temple doesn’t have the type of talent to overcome these deficits.

The Owls have been outscored 68-43 in the first half.

So while their second-half charge was commendable, digging another first half holes was a killer.

That said, the Owls may be able to build on their effort from the second half, minus the opening Houston drive.

The Temple team of the previous two years that had a combined 20-8 record, never settled for moral victories, but as stated frequently, this team shouldn’t be compared to those squads.

It simply isn’t as talented.

Yet last year when Temple was 3-3 there were some people, including this reporter, who wondered if the Owls would become bowl eligible.

Now that doubt exists once again.

On Saturday, the Owls visit a 1-4 East Carolina team that is allowing 50.6 points per game after a 61-31 home loss to USF. If the Owls don’t earn their first road win on Saturday, then their bowl hopes would be dealt a major blow.

And even against a team that is surrendering a half a hundred points a game, playing only one half, simply won’t be good enough.