When Temple (1-1) hosts Massachusetts (0-3) on Friday in a nonleague game at Lincoln Financial Field, it will be the first time the two have met since one of the most wild and more underrated wins in Temple football history.
On Sept. 19, 2015, Temple executed a late comeback to beat UMass, 25-23, at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, in Foxborough, Mass.
Just 10,141 attended the game, but they were treated to a dramatic finish.
Things didn’t look good when UMass took a 23-20 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1 minute, 20 seconds left to play.
If the Minutemen made the point-after attempt, Temple would need a touchdown to win.
As it turned out, Praise Martin-Oguike blocked the PAT kick, and that was when all chaos began. Stephaun Marshall retrieved the ball and as he was about to be tackled, lateraled to Will Hayes, who returned it for a defensive PAT, giving Temple two points.
Trailing by 23-22, Temple marched to the UMass 15-yard line before Austin Jones kicked the winning field goal with seven seconds left.
Why was this such a big game?
Temple had entered at 2-0, having opened with its first win over Penn State since 1941. The Owls then won at Cincinnati, the preseason pick to win the American Athletic Conference title.
Had Temple not won that UMass game, the Owls almost assuredly wouldn’t have been ranked when they faced Notre Dame on Oct. 31, Halloween night.
Temple entered the Notre Dame game 7-0 and ranked No. 21 in the country, while Notre Dame was 6-1 and ranked No. 9.
Without being unbeaten and ranked, ESPN’s College GameDay likely wouldn’t have come to Philadelphia that weekend, making the city the center of the college football universe. And the Temple-Notre Dame game, played before a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, likely would not have been ABC’s prime-time game that night.
The exposure Temple received from the Notre Dame football weekend, even though the Owls lost a close game, has been invaluable to the
football program. On the other hand, the loss to Temple was devastating for UMass.
“I remember [former Temple coach] Matt Rhule saying to me he was sorry after the game,” UMass coach Mark Whipple recalled in a phone interview this week. “He thought we played better, but Temple made the plays when it counted.”
Nobody more so than Hayes.
“I saw that Steph [Marshall] was about to be tackled and pitched it to me,” Hayes said in a phone interview. “With my speed, I wanted to make it to the end zone and get the two points.”
That was huge because Temple needed only a field goal, and Jones, who is now a senior, calmly kicked the winning 32-yarder.
“When I saw Will Hayes run it back, I kind of knew it would be up to me,” Jones said after practice this week. “Once we were driving, I knew I was definitely going to get the opportunity and knew I was going to make it.”
Whipple said he had never lost a game like that. Unlike Temple, which was coming off a high entering that game, UMass, had lost the previous week, 48-14, at Colorado.
“I was proud of the way our kids played that game against Temple,” Whipple said. “But give Temple credit, they made the plays when they had to.”
Records: UMass, 0-3; Temple, 1-1.
Friday, 7 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field.
TV: ESPNU. Radio: WPEN-AM 97.5.
Coaches: UMass, Mark Whipple (10th season, 57-57, overall, 129-90). Temple, Geoff Collins (1st season, 1-1).
History: Temple leads, 1-0.
Last meeting: Temple won, 25-23, on Sept. 19, 2015 at Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Temple has not been impressive to start the season and this is the final game before the Owls begin playing American Athletic Conference games. The Owls have two of their toughest conference games coming up, Sept. 21 at South Florida and Sept. 30 against visiting Houston. Friday is a game the Owls are supposed to win and if they struggle as they did in last week’s 16-13 win over Villanova, it won’t be a great sign heading into the difficult two-game stretch.
UMass, which has a proficient offense, didn’t show it in last week’s 17-7 loss to visiting Old Dominion. The Minutemen gained 332 yards, had 20 first downs, one more than ODU, and didn’t commit a turnover, but couldn’t come up with the clutch play. UMass was 8 of 19 on third down conversions and 1 of 3 on fourth down conversions.
This may be a game where Temple’s pass rush finally hits stride. The Owls have five sacks in the first two games but are playing against an offense that surrendered eight sacks in last week’s loss to ODU. In the three games, UMass has allowed 14 sacks.
Both quarterbacks have been efficient in terms of interceptions. Andrew Ford of UMass has completed 65 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdown passes and just one interception. Temple’s Logan Marchi has completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 519 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It will also be interesting if Marchi runs the ball more. During the week offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said Marchi was feeling much better after suffering an ankle injury during the preseason. Marchi’s mobility was limited, but Patenaude says this week he is looking more like his old self, which could help a ground game that is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.