Saturday, September 26, 2009

Temple trounces Buffalo

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, Pa. (The Phan) - Just over a year ago in Buffalo, Bulls flanker Namman Roosevelt hauled in a 35-yard "Hail Mary" pass from quarterback Drew Willy in the final seconds to stun Temple, 30-28.

It was called "the most miraculous play in Buffalo history" by the team's media relations staff. For Temple, it was just another day at the office for a team fluent in finding ways to lose.

Things were supposed to be different this season but Al Golden's team found itself in a familiar 0-2 position when things kicked off at the Linc on Saturday afternoon. A loss to No. 4 Penn State last weekend was expected but surrendering a 10-point fourth quarter lead in the inaugural Mayor's Cup to Villanova, an FCS team, really dampened the enthusiasm for a club hoping to
reach its first bowl game in 30 years.

Winning the MAC opener against Buffalo was imperative to save the season, not an easy task considering the Owls came in with a miserable 1-12 record against the Bulls with the only win coming 39 years ago, a 21-8 win at the old Temple Stadium.

Bucking history was the theme today against a Buffalo team looking to replace two key playmakers but still expected to be near the top of the MAC and the Owls got it done, using a pair of 90-plus yard touchdowns to find the win column for the first time this season.

James Nixon's 92-yard kickoff return and Elijah Joseph's school record 95-yard interception return in the waning seconds of the first half proved to be enough to overcome a poor performance by Owls quarterback Vaughn Charlton as Temple downed Buffalo, 37-13.

"I'm disappointed in the loss, but I have to give credit to Temple, they played the better game," Buffalo coach Turner Gill said. "In offense, defense and special teams they made plays when they presented themselves and we didn't. "

This year's Bulls (1-3, 0-1 MAC) were without Willy, a four-year starter who threw for a school-record 3,304 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, and senior running back James Starks, the university's all-time leading rusher, who is out for the year after suffering a preseason shoulder injury.

Temple (1-2, 1-0) used the ground game to take an early 3-0 lead. Golden ran the ball 10 consecutive times on the Owls' first possession. Senior running back Lamar McPherson, who rushed three times in the team's first two games, got it five times on the drive before things bogged down and Temple settled for a 35-yard Brandon McManus field goal with 6:02 left in the first quarter.

Buffalo evened things with a 36-yard A.J. Principe field goal early in the second quarter and then took advantage of an awful Charlton interception to take its only lead. Charlton rolled left and attempted to throw the ball across the field but his touch just wasn't there and he couldn't loft it over linebacker Justin Winters, who picked it and returned the ball deep into Temple territory. New Bulls quarterback Zach Maynard couldn't move the ball, however, and Buffalo settled for another Principe field goal, this one a 32-yarder.

The Bulls lead was short-lived. Nixon returned the ensuing kickoff up the left sideline for a 92-yard TD and Temple had a 10-6 edge with 10:01 left until halftime.

Nixon's return swung the momentum and Buffalo went three-and-out before the Owls went back to work on the ground. This time it was freshman Bernard Pierce who was the workhorse. Golden refused to trust Charlton on a key third down play inside the five and instead ran up the middle, taking a 19-yard McManus field goal and a subsequent 13-6 advantage.

The Bulls put together an impressive drive in the waning seconds of the half and were poised to either tie the game or makes things closer but Joseph intercepted a Maynard pass at the Owls five, got to the right sideline and went the distance to extend Temple's lead to two TDs, 20-6, with just seven seconds left in the half.

Charlton finally made a play early in the third when he hooked up with Nixon on a post pattern for a 48-yard gain to the Buffalo two. For some reason Golden went back to the play that his signal caller threw an interception on in the first half and sure enough, Charlton threw the ball into double coverage and should have been picked. The Bulls failed to make the play, however, and Charlton rebounded to throw a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Evan Rodriguez on the next play and the Owls had a comfortable 27-6 cushion with 11:34 left in the third quarter.

A Morris Blueford fumble recovery led to another McManus field goal just over three minutes later and Temple was on top 30-6.

Facing a huge deficit, the Bulls abandoned the running game and let Maynard chuck away. The southpaw found a wide open Marcus Rivers in the back of the end zone for a six-yard score with 11:56 to go. but then threw his third interception, to nose tackle Andre Neblett, setting up Pierce's 18-yard TD run.

Charlton, who was a miserable 2-of-8 in the first half, finished 6-of-17 for 95 yards with a TD and interception, while Nixon had 158 all-purpose yards.

Pierce ran for 116 yards and a score on 20 carries while Joseph, Marquise Liverpool, Neblett and Dominique Harris all had interceptions.

Maynard was 26-of-41 for 281 yards with one TD and four big interceptions, including two in the red zone, and Roosevelt had nine receptions for 120 yards.


*Buffalo now leads the all-time series 12-2 and Bulls coach Turner Gill, the former Nebraska star quarterback, is 3-1 against Temple.

*Temple celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1979 team that won the Garden State Bowl. That Owls team finished 10-2, losing only to Pitt (10-9) and Penn State (22-7). Temple beat Cal, 28-17, in the bowl.

*ESPN was on hand to cover the game for ESPN Plus/GamePlan and Michael Reghi handled the play-by-play and former Minnesota Viking Doug Chapman was the color guy.

*Scouts from the St. Louis Rams, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets were on hand.

*Buffalo's Roosevelt has now caught a pass in 42 straight games, the second longest streak in the nation. Meanwhile, with his fifth catch of the game, Roosvelt moved in to 12th place in Mid-American Conference history for career catches, surpassing New Orleans Saints star Lance Moore (Toledo). Roosevelt also moved over 3,000 receiving yards for his career and trails only Drew Haddad in school history for career receiving yards.

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