GREENVILLE, N.C. – It wasn’t quite swagger, but more self-assuredness that was evident from the Temple players following Saturday’s 34-10 American Athletic Conference win at East Carolina.
For the first time this season, the Owls, now 3-3 and 1-2 in the AAC, won a game in convincing fashion.
While skeptics will point out with some justification that it came over a team that is 1-5 (1-2 in conference play) and defensively challenged, there were some reasons for the Owls to be impressed by their performance.
The week before, ECU trailed unbeaten and nationally ranked South Florida, 38-31 past the midway point of the third quarter before the Bulls erupted for the final 23 points of the game in a 61-31 win.
That was the same South Florida team that Temple failed to score an offensive point on in a 43-7 loss.
For all the troubles that ECU has had, the Pirates have a solid offense. Temple held them to 287 total yards.
Quarterback Thomas Sirk, who rushed for 87 yards and two scores against USF, was sacked four times and held to minus-14 yards rushing in nine attempts.
ECU was having success throwing quick passes early in the game, but Temple adjusted quickly.
“It was a matter of seeing and getting used to it because it is something we hadn’t seen before,” said safety Delvon Randall, who had a key interception and five tackles. “So we came back to the sidelines and talked to the coaches.”
The coaches and players made the appropriate adjustments and Temple began to roll.
On offense, after an early interception, Logan Marchi settled down and threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought all three phases of our team played well,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said.
The defense played against a more than respectable offense, one that entered the game averaging 24 points per game.
It’s harder to judge the offense’s performance, since ECU entered the game last among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense, allowing 614.8 yards per game.
Temple accounted for 523 total yards against ECU.
Still, Temple had been inconsistent on offense and no doubt this performance boosted their morale, regardless of the opponent.
“Just to be able to carry over that kind of offensive performance into next week’s game and the week after that is a big confidence booster,” Marchi said.
Temple will get even more chances to gain confidence and yards on Saturday when they host Connecticut, a team that lost 41-38 to ECU on Sept. 24 and surrendered 70 points in Friday’s 70-31 loss to Memphis.
The Owls were 3-3 at this point last year and turned around to win seven in a row, culminating with the AAC championship.
As stated before, this is a different situation. First off, Temple only had one AAC loss last year and already has two.
Front runners South Florida and Central Florida haven’t lost in the division and the only time either might is when they face each other.
So Temple has to have the goal of getting better each week, becoming bowl eligible (by earning at least a .500 record) and making it miserable to go up against the Owls.
Saturday was the first time that the opponent truly felt the force of the Owls.
To a man, the Temple players feel that they have grown after taking their lumps in decisive losses to Notre Dame and USF and a 20-13 defeat to Houston.
“For us to make mistakes and learn from it, that has made us stronger as a unit,” said redshirt sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell, who has become among the defensive leaders. “The more we do it, the more confidence we have and it will show on the field.”
It certainly showed at Dowdy Ficklen Stadium, and now, as the Owls begin the second half of the regular season, they are feeling much better about their prospects than before they traveled to Greenville.