Bandaged Bryant recalls Owls' memorable final drive in victory

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Temple’s Ventell Bryant.

Ventell Bryant looked like a boxer who had gone 12 grueling rounds, a bandage hanging down from his left cheek, a reminder of his most memorable football sequence.

A redshirt sophomore wide receiver, Bryant was a central figure Saturday in one of the greatest endings in Temple football history.

Since the improbable 26-25 comeback win over Central Florida in Orlando, Bryant has been recapping the wild, wacky final seconds of a game he'll never forget.

Trailing, 25-20, Temple took over on its own 30-yard line with no timeouts and 32 seconds left. Quarterback Phillip Walker hit Bryant on three straight passes totaling 62 yards to the UCF 8-yard line. The Owls finished with Walker's 8-yard scoring pass to Keith Kirkwood with one second left.

Bryant's best play might have been the one in which he didn't make a catch. After his third catch of the drive, totaling 26 yards to the UCF 8, Bryant somehow staggered to the line of scrimmage.

"On the last catch, I came across the middle, the guy tackled me and I landed on my face, the left side of my face," Bryant recalled Tuesday after practice. "I guess my visor cut my face and the left side of my visor was filled with blood and I thought I blacked out or something, but it was just the blood so I was stumbling over to get my composure back.

"Luckily, [receiver] Adonis Jennings said, 'Get up, get up, we need you' and I lined up and then we threw to Keith Kirkwood for the touchdown."

It's been a rough season for Bryant, who was Temple's leading returning receiver after totaling 39 receptions for 579 yards and three touchdowns in 2015.

He suffered a shoulder injury in practice leading into the second game. Bryant missed three games but is rounding into form. For the season, he has 15 receptions for 231 yards and a score.

In his last two games, he had 11 catches for 164 yards.

"It was nice to have Ventell back out there - and don't let that get lost in the sauce that Ventell was out there," coach Matt Rhule said about the final drive. "[Offensive coordinator] Glenn [Thomas] called some great plays to get single coverage to Ventell and he made the plays."

The only person happier to see Bryant back was Walker.

"I told him I was going to come to him [that final drive], I looked at him before every play," Walker said. ". . . I tried to manipulate the safety as best as I could so he couldn't get a clean shot at Ventell."

Bryant is hoping to continue the momentum when the Owls (4-3, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) host favored South Florida (6-1, 3-0) on Friday at Lincoln Financial Field.

"That was probably one of the best moments of my football career," he said. "That was a tremendous drive we put together."

Owls notes

Safety Nate L. Smith, who missed the second half Saturday with an undisclosed injury, returned to practice Tuesday but had no contact. . . . Rhule said linebacker Avery Williams hurt his ankle Saturday. Williams is known for his high tolerance of pain. "Anybody else I would say wouldn't play, but because it's Avery Williams, I will say he will play and at a high level," Rhule said. . . . Safety Sean Chandler will miss his fourth straight game with a knee injury.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

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