Last year’s Temple juniors saw what it was like when heralded seniors Tyler Matakevich, Tavon Young and Matt Ioannidis had their collegiate careers end with a thud in a loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl.
History repeated itself Tuesday as those now-seniors experienced the same familiar, empty thud of an ending with a loss to Wake Forest in the Military Bowl.
Despite a furious late-game rally, No. 24 Temple could never recover from a miserable, sloppy first half in which Wake Forest spun off 31 unanswered points as the Owls fell to the Demon Deacons, 34-26, at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
On the same field where they beat Navy just over three weeks ago for the conference title, the AAC champion Owls saw their season end with a 10-4 record. They failed to become the first team in Temple history to win 11 games in a season.
Wake Forest finished up with a 7-6 record.
After 28 wins in four seasons, the college careers of perhaps the most decorated seniors in Temple history – including quarterback Phillip Walker and running back Jahad Thomas, are now over.
Temple jumped out a very early 7-0 lead when Walker threw a bomb of a 48-yard touchdown pass to Adonis Jennings on the first play of the Owls’ opening drive. And the Owls looked like they were going to get the ball right back two drives later as Wake faced a 3rd-and-9 from its own 41. But the Demon Deacons converted on a slant over the middle to wideout Tabari Hines. Wake went into no-huddle mode and John Wolford hit tight end Cam Serigne for a 41-yard TD on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.
Wake found a weakness with that quick, no-huddle attack as it threw Temple way off kilter. Wake proceeded to rip off 31 unanswered points using a quick-strike offense to make it a 31-7 game toward the end of the first half. A muffed punt by Sean Chandler and a pick from Walker in between didn’t help Temple’s cause.
As hard as Temple tried to, the 31-7 hole was just too deep for the Owls to dig out of.
From the “Ow, that sounds like it hurts and is disgusting” department, Walker dislocated a knuckle on his throwing hand in the first half and popped it back into place himself on the field, according to Temple interim head coach Ed Foley.
Walker is one tough dude.
Wake starting QB Wolford, a junior, left the game early in the second half when he absorbed a hit in the backfield. He suffered a neck strain and did not return to the game.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Kearns, who attempted 25 passes all season, took over for the Demon Deacons. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Wake didn’t score in the second half.
Big men on campus
Walker left it all out on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in his last collegiate game. Though he had a pick that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, he still went 28 for 49 for 396 yards, two TDs and a pick. And he had to throw a ton as Temple’s vaunted running attack was stopped in its tracks. Thomas and Ryquell Armstead combined for 36 total yards on the ground.
But that also meant big numbers for two Temple receivers. Adonis Jennings had seven catches for 154 yards and two scores. Ventell Bryant had 11 catches for 151 yards.
Defensive coaches call their last games
All of Temple’s defensive coaches came back to coach in Tuesday’s game vs. the Demon Deacons. That includes those following Matt Rhule to Baylor, including defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
The Owls wore their tradition white jerseys and cherry pants on Tuesday, but their white helmets had a new wrinkle to go along with the Military Bowl theme.
The helmets featured the Temple T logo with a stars and stripes pattern and a similar stars and stripes pattern going down the middle of the helmet from front to back.
Temple bowl history
The Owls are now 2-4 in bowl games over the course of the program’s history.
Tuesday also marked the first time ever the Owls have played in bowl games in consecutive seasons.
Redshirt senior defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike became the first player in Temple history to play in three bowl games. He’s now played in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl win over Wyoming, the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl loss to Toledo and Tuesday’s Military Bowl victory of Wake Forest.
Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was filled with 26,656 fans, many of whom were cherry-clad and made the two-and-a-half hour drive down from the Philadelphia area.
The reign of new head coach Geoff Collins gets rolling with spring ball and the annual Cherry and White Game in April.
Temple’s 2017 season opens on Saturday, Sept. 2 with a visit to Notre Dame.