Bulls surrender first place in AAC East with loss at Temple

Coach Willie Taggart's Bulls surrendered first place in the East division of the AAC to Temple in a 46-30 loss Friday night in Philadelphia. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

A 14-play, 70-yard drive for Temple that took up almost eight minutes on the game’s opening drive set the tone on the way to a 46-30 USF loss to Temple on Friday night in Philadelphia.

Looking to exploit a USF defense that came into Friday night’s game giving up an average of 190 yards on the ground, Temple (5-3, 3-1) ran the ball nine times on its first position. 

This would prove to be the Owls’ theme of the night, rushing the ball 51 times for 319 yards against the Bulls.

Highlighted by a 76-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter, Temple sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead led the charge on the Bulls’ defense with a career-high 210 yards on 20 carries.

“We gotta get off the field,” USF coach Willie Taggart said at halftime.

“We gotta do a better job on first down to get them in a longer situation, and then we have to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. They’re getting first downs and holding on to the ball, we gotta do a better job defensively.”

The Bulls struggled to build momentum on the offensive side of the ball, with the Owls nearly doubling USF’s time of possession. 

Averaging 506.4 yards per game, the fifth-highest in the country, the Bulls’ offense also hit a road bump in the loss, with only 352 total yards on the night.

The Owls were able to keep USF’s offense in check by doing what the Bulls could not do to the Owls — stop the run. 

Rushing for 165 yards on 33 carries, USF snapped a streak of 12 consecutive games with at least 200 yards rushing.

Although trailing by 11 going into the fourth quarter, USF continued to stay in the game with a gritty performance by junior quarterback Quinton Flowers.

Flowers, who has the second most all-purpose yards in the AAC, led the Bulls’ in multiple offense categories once again. 

The dual-threat quarterback went 11-of-20 passing for 187 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 90 yards and a score rushing the ball against the Owls.

Flowers, however, would leave the game late in the fourth quarter after grabbing at his left hamstring diving for a first down marker.

Redshirt freshman Brett Kean replaced Flowers for the last two drives of the game, both of which were turnovers leading to late Temple scores.

Kean threw an interception on a desperation throw on his only pass attempt against the Owls and took a safety on USF’s last possession of the game.

The Bulls’ special teams also saw gaffes in coverage in the 16-point loss, allowing their first two blocks of the season.

Coming right up the middle on both plays, the Owls managed to block a PAT in the 2nd quarter and blocked a punt late in the 3rd quarter that led to a Temple touchdown 2 plays later.

USF will host No. 24 Navy on Friday as it aims to get back in the win column.