Taggart unhappy after USF falls hard in AAC game at Temple

QB Quinton Flowers, who tweaked a hamstring, walks off after USF (3-1 in the division) drops out of first.
QB Quinton Flowers, who tweaked a hamstring, walks off after USF (3-1 in the division) drops out of first.
Published Oct. 22, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Dictate tempo. Employ a power-based ground game. Brandish all the efficiency of a cheese steak grillsmith on third down. Break off a big run or two and block a couple of kicks.

Temple checked off all those prerequisites Friday night against USF in an effort to shorten the game.

In the process, they might have shortened the Bulls' season, by at least one contest. A championship one.

The Owls (5-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) nudged USF (6-2, 3-1) from atop the AAC's East Division — and from the consciousness of AP voters — with a 46-30 victory before an announced Lincoln Financial Field crowd of 25,950.

"We got physically dominated on both sides of the ball," coach Willie Taggart said. "We got outcoached. We didn't do anything right as a football team — offensively, defensively or special teams."

Both teams are 3-1 in league play, but Temple has the head-to-head tiebreak advantage. That advantage will only widen in the coming weeks unless the Bulls' maligned defense —- 89th nationally against the run entering the weekend — rectifies itself in short order.

Temple had 319 yards on the ground, highlighted by scoring runs of 76 and 42 yards by sophomore Ryquell Armstead (20 carries, 210 yards), who joined FSU's Dalvin Cook as backs to eclipse 200 yards on the Bulls this season.

Tackles were missed, or barely sustained. Running lanes were gaping. At least one coverage — on a touchdown pass — was botched.

"First, we've got to put guys in the position to make the plays," Taggart said. "And if the guys can't do it, then put someone else in that can do it. But some of those missed tackles today are by some of the guys that we count on the most."

Not that Raymond Woodie's unit bore the entire brunt of this defeat. USF finished with 88 penalty yards.

Temple's first two scoring drives consumed 7:50 and 8:12, respectively. When the Owls went ahead 10-7 on Phillip Walker's 1-yard pass to tight end Colin Thompson — on a woefully blown Bulls coverage — midway through the second quarter, they already had possessed the ball 20 minutes.

The Bulls' time of possession — 2:53.

USF immediately answered with Quinton Flowers' 31-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants (the ensuing PAT was blocked). Two plays later, Armstead broke free for his 76-yarder, the Owls' longest of the year.

"We've got to change our mentality around here, especially when it comes to the run," said linebacker Nigel Harris, who had seven tackles. "We've got to find some kind of motivation to stop that run, because that's what's hurting us right now."

The hosts took a 20-13 lead -- and 315-171 total yardage advantage -- into the locker room at halftime. At that point, the Owls began striking quickly instead of methodically.

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USF took a brief 23-20 lead on a 42-yard Emilio Nadelman field goal and Flowers' 3-yard scoring run (set up by his 50-yard run), before Armstead answered with his 42-yard score. That play produced arguably the most gaping running lane of the night, courtesy of a pulling guard and fullback lead block.

USF went three plays and out on its next possession before Jonathan Hernandez's punt was blocked by Owls senior Avery Ellis. That led to a 9-yard Jahad Thomas touchdown two plays later, giving Temple a 34-23 lead.

The Bulls trailed 37-23, then Marlon Mack scored from 30 yards with 8:42 remaining to cut the deficit to a possession. USF forced a midfield punt on the next Owls drive, but an ensuing penalty-botched sequence ended with Flowers hobbling off the field after being tackled on the Owls sideline, and backup Brett Kean throwing a pick from his end zone.

The next Owls play, Thomas scored from 5 yards to seal things.

Flowers (277 total yards, three touchdowns) has a tweaked hamstring, Taggart said. His defense's ailments seem a bit more severe.

"We've got to do a better job of just tackling and putting our guys in position to make the plays," he said. "Making sure we've got the right guys in there that's gonna make the play. It all goes back on me."