DEKALB, Ill. - Temple learned the hard way Saturday why Northern Illinois is the dominant offensive team in the Mid-American Conference. The Owls also learned that scoring opportunities cannot be squandered.
The Owls (4-2, 1-1 MAC) could not stop Northern Illinois' offense on the ground or in the air as the Huskies broke away in the second half to overpower Temple, 31-17, at Huskie Stadium.
"They were better than us, they were tougher," Owls coach Al Golden said. "They made plays when they had to, they played with more discipline, and they played smarter."
The game took an ominous turn for the Owls on the first series of the second half with the game tied at 17. The Owls drove to the NIU 25, but the drive stalled and kicker Brandon McManus was wide left on a 42-yard field-goal attempt.
"The momentum shifted," said quarterback Chester Stewart, who was 13 for 27 for 148 yards and a touchdown with one interception. "Once we didn't score immediately, the guys kind of panicked. We just didn't execute."
The Huskies responded with a 10-play drive that ended when quarterback Chandler Harnish found Nathan Palmer, who beat double coverage, in the end zone on a post pattern.
That play gave Northern Illinois the lead for good, though Temple had a golden opportunity to get back in the game. But some crucial mistakes crept up at the wrong time.
Defensive end Adrian Robinson blocked a punt, giving the Owls the ball at the NIU 47. After two penalties turned third and 4 into third and 14, Stewart tried to hit wide receiver Rod Streater, who had no one near him. But Stewart overthrew him by several yards.
Northern Illinois responded with an 11-play, 90-yard scoring drive as once again the Owls could not contain the Huskies' offense - particularly Harnish, the MAC offensive player of the week. Harnish constantly rolled out, and Temple had no answer.
Harnish finished 20 for 25 for 211 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the 71 yards he picked up on the ground. Overall, NIU had 420 yards and was 11 for 16 on third-down conversions.
"The reality is, we never stopped them," Golden said.
The disappointment of the game came after a roaring start for the Owls. On the first play from scrimmage, safety Jaiquawn Jarrett jarred the ball from NIU running back Chad Spann at the Huskies' 28. Senior cornerback Marquise Liverpool hauled in his first career fumble recovery, and two plays later, Matt Brown, starting in place of injured Bernard Pierce, spun around a tackle, and ran 25 yards untouched for a touchdown. Brown paced the Owls with 93 yards on 13 carries. Golden said he was "dinged up," but would not specify the injury.
The other Owls TD came in the second quarter when Stewart found tight end Evan Rodriguez with a 31-yard pass.
Notes. Pierce, who missed the Owls' game against Army because of a sprained ankle, had three carries in the first quarter for 6 yards, but did not see any action afterward. . . . Jarrett paced Temple with a career-high 13 tackles.