Mistakes, Injuries cost Temple Owls a chance at bowl eligibility.
Temple Owls wide receiver Nate Hairston (15) can’t catch pass in the end zone during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Memphis defeated Temple, 16-13. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
PHILADELPHIA, (C+P) — One more catch. One penalty. One muffed punt. One more defensive stop.
The theme for Friday’s 16-13 loss to Memphis (6-3 Overall, 4-1 American) was one. The Owls lost another close game. There were many factors that effected the outcome of the game. However, a significant turning point occurred in the second quarter.
Temple senior wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick left the game with knee and ankle injuries and never returned. On the play he was injured, a Memphis defender rolled on the lower part of his body while trying to tackle the receiver.
“He is one of our best players. Losing a guy of that caliber is going to hurt” said Temple head coach Matt Rhule after the game.
After Fitzpatrick had left the game, the burden was placed on his counterparts in the receiving corps to sustain drives and make big plays.
The problem that occurred after his departure wound up being dropped passes.
“I thought PJ did a good job putting the ball where it needed to be” Rhule remarked. “We had a chance to convert some third downs and some balls down the sideline. We just needed to come up with some of those plays, if not all of them. If we do we probably win the football game.”
Temple quarterback PJ Walker completed 43 percent of his passes on the night (16 for 37). Drops among his receivers aided the low completion percentage. Walker reflected on how the offense performed:
“The plays are there. There is nothing that the coaches are doing wrong. We just have to execute them, and we have to be smarter and focused on third down.”
Receiver John Christopher, who has replaced Khalif Herbin on punt returns, muffed a punt deep in Temple territory. The defense was able to hold the Tigers to a field goal. The uncharacteristic special teams turnover wound up being huge in the outcome of the game.
If Jalen Fitzpatrick is unable to play next Saturday against Penn State, the Owls will try to fill the void with multiple people.
“In terms of who the down-the-field threat is, I cannot say it is any one guy right now,” Rhule replied when asked who would take over for Fitzpatrick. “We need something to happen down the field a little bit more. I do not know who exactly. In the interim, it will be one of those two guys. ” The two receivers Rhule was talking about are sophomore Romond Deloatch and freshman Brodrick Yancy. “We have a bunch of kids who are going to make a lot of plays, and they’ll make them next week or the week after. “
Deloatch has had some significant playing time this year. However, Yancy is a true freshman. Also, do not be surprised to see more balls thrown to Brandon Shippen or JOhn Christopher. No matter who is lined up on the outside, Rhule is confident in his players.
There is a chance Fitzpatrick may be back for next week’s game against the Owls perennial rival Penn State. In fact, his quarterback thinks he will be ready.
“I think Jalen is going to play next week to be honest. “ Walker stated. “ It looked like he was walking around a little bit. We will let him rest and see how he responds by Thursday.”
The Owls (5-4 Overall, 3-3 American) still have Penn State, Cincinnati and Tulane on their schedule. To become bowl eligible, the Owls have to find a way to win one more game.