Right there, in the dome this city's professional football fans refer to as ''The House of Pain," Houston inflicted a 65-7 hurting on the Owls, a score that will do nothing positive for Jerry Berndt's rebuilding program.
It was Temple's fifth straight defeat this season and the Owls' worst loss since they fell, 76-0, to Pittsburgh in 1977. The loss extended Berndt's losing streak to 23 straight.
For the sake of brevity, we offer you the following as a synopsis of yesterday's affair:
* Houston quarterback Andre Ware added to what has been a sensational season by completing 30 of 45 passes for 413 yards and seven touchdowns. The seven TDs broke a Southwest Conference record of six held by NFL veteran Gary Kubiak, who played for Texas A&M.
* Houston collected 613 total offensive yards, 525 through the air.
* The Cougars' 11 scoring drives averaged a grand total of 1 minute, 50 seconds. In fact, Houston had three scoring drives in the first quarter that lasted all of one minute. And yet the Cougars ran off an incredible 94 offensive plays.
* Temple's longest drive lasted only nine plays. The Owls fumbled 10 times in the afternoon, losing six. Temple punter Ed Liberati tied a dubious school record by punting 11 times during the contest.
"That was as brutal a day as probably anyone expected it to be," said a disconsolate Berndt, who had absorbed a similar loss to Houston last year at the Dome as the head coach of Rice.
"I certainly didn't expect it to be like that. Houston is a great football team, don't get me wrong. I just thought we would play a little better. Some of our guys just weren't ready to play. Why, I really don't know. We'll have to sit down with them on Monday and find out."
On the bright side, Houston failed to top the 69-0 drubbing it gave Nevada- Las Vegas in its season opener. The Cougars also fell short of 1,000 offensive yards, a figure offensive coordinator John Jenkins was throwing around in pregame interviews last week. In fact, Houston's 613 total yards fell short of the 682 average it had established in the first two games of the season.
But it easily could have been worse.
This game was over in the first quarter, when the Cougars ran out to a 27-0 lead.
Houston scored on its first possession when Roman Anderson kicked a 28-yard field goal. Then things really got ugly.
Ware got Houston into the end zone on its next possession by completing three passes, the final one a 4-yard shot to Tracy Good. The Cougars made it 17-0 in a hurry when Tray Hooper recovered a Ventres Stevenson fumble at the Temple 8, and three plays later, Ware hit Paul Smith with a 2-yard TD pass.
On his next possession, Ware hooked up with Emmanuel Hazard for the first of Hazard's three TD catches - a 79-yard post pattern that beat Pat Dudley. When Anderson knocked home a 43-yard field goal on Houston's next possession, the Cougars were up by 27-0.
By halftime, the score was 41-0 with Ware completing 20 of 32 passes for 297 yards. This against a Temple defense that had six defensive backs and two dropping linebackers. Before the game, Houston's sports information issued a chart that projects Ware, using the NCAA's standard formula, as college football's all-time most efficient quarterback. The kid also has another season.
"What's amazing is that we had about eight people back there at times and we still weren't in a position to intercept a ball," said Berndt. "He's a great football player. We had two choices: one to blitz, the other to defend. If you blitz, you run the risk of one-on-one coverage, and Ware does such a great job of finding people, we thought that would be suicide."
Houston coach Jack Pardee pulled Ware late in the third quarter. By then, the score was 55-0. Berndt took out his starter, Victor Lay, much earlier.
For almost the entire second half, sophomore Anthony Richardson quarterbacked the Owls - a preview of what the rest of the 1989 season may look like. Richardson was not sensational - completing 6 of 18 passes for 34 yards. But he was the quarterback when Temple's Efrain Cabrera broke a streak of 15 quarters without a touchdown with a 52-yard TD run in the game's final minutes.
Cabrera was the Owls' leading rusher with 10 carries for 82 yards. Lay finished 4 for 15 for 11 yards. "You know, you hear so much about Houston's offense, but it was their defense that killed us," said Berndt. "We just couldn't control the football. We couldn't keep our offense on the field. We fumbled the ball; we dropped about 10 passes. . . ."
Berndt's voice trailed off. He had come to Temple several months ago in hopes of turning around a football program. Five losses later - five brutal losses later - he must now restrain himself from turning back.
"I feel empty, like we're in a bottomless pit," he said. "But inch by inch, we have to climb out."