Temple's offense sputters in 33-7 defeat to Pittsburgh

Posted: October 28, 2001

The Temple football team could not run the ball or pass the ball yesterday. It should come as no surprise that the Owls did not win yesterday.

Facing a Pittsburgh squad that had not tasted victory since Sept. 1, Temple accomplished little offensively and wound up with a 33-7 defeat in a Big East game before 12,859 fans at chilly Veterans Stadium.

The loss left the Owls facing the cold fact that they are virtually assured of their 11th straight losing season. At the season's outset, Temple was looking to win two more games than it did last year, when the team finished 4-7 with only two seniors on the roster.

Temple, which was routed at Syracuse last week, 45-3, is 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big East, with top-ranked Miami and No. 5 Virginia Tech next on the schedule.

"I have to figure out why we're going backwards, and I think we've gone backwards from this time last year," said Temple coach Bobby Wallace, who went 2-9 in each of his first two seasons as Owls coach. "There are three things that it takes to win - good players, good coaching and intangibles - and I think we have the talent to be in the game with Pittsburgh. It goes down to coaching, and it's my job to find out what's missing."

The Owls, who saw a 41-yard field-goal attempt by teammate Cap Poklemba go wide left in the third quarter, scored their only touchdown when tailback Lester Trammer went in from 3 yards out with 3 minutes, 33 seconds left to play.

Freshman quarterback Mike McGann fell one pass attempt shy of the school record of 53 set by Henry Burris in 1994. But the freshman from St. Joseph's Prep, who was sacked nine times, often did not appear to be on the same page with his receivers and was off target much of the day.

The 6-foot-6 McGann threw 27 completions for 240 yards, and Temple was held to minus-36 net rushing yards.

"We play the same defense as Temple, and we both play it to stop the run," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "We wanted to control the run and do the best we could against the pass."

Pittsburgh (2-5, 1-3), coming off a 45-7 thrashing at Boston College, led by 14-0 after 6-4, 210-pound quarterback David Priestley hit wide receiver Antonio Bryant and fullback Lousaka Polite with first-quarter touchdown passes.

The 6-2, 195-pound Bryant, who was considered one of the top pass-catchers in the nation before an ankle injury set him back early in the season, was the Panthers' third-leading receiver entering the contest with 15 receptions.

The junior from Miami doubled his season touchdown total when Priestley found him wide open in the middle of the end zone for a 6-yard score, which culminated a seven-play, 74-yard drive and gave Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead a little more than two minutes into the game.

Temple had three fruitless possessions before Pittsburgh scored again, this time when Polite slipped out of the backfield for a TD pass from the Owls' 5-yard line with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter to complete a nine-play, 57-yard drive.

The Panthers completed their first-half scoring with a pair of field goals from placekicker Nick Lotz on their first two possessions of the second quarter, and Pittsburgh had a 20-0 lead when halftime arrived.

Temple limited the Pittsburgh offense to two Lotz field goals in the second half, as the senior tied the Panthers' single-game school record of four, set 26 years ago. Linebacker Brian Guzek completed the Panthers' scoring by returning a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown with 7:06 left in the game.

"We thought we had to come out and execute better in the second half," Owls center Donny Klein said. "But you have one person here, and one person there, make a mistake, and it brings the whole offense down. We have to grow up sooner or later."

Kevin Tatum's e-mail address is ktatum@phillynews.com.

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