Even Carl Friedrich Gauss, the 16th-century mathematician considered by many the greatest ever in his field, might be crossed up by some of the numbers in AAC football this season.
Particularly when it comes to Temple.
The Owls, a team that took Navy to overtime, lost 70-13 to UCF. Navy beat UCF on Saturday, 17-14, on the road. The Owls, who had gone two weeks without punting in putting up a 45-point average, punted the first two times of the game in a 23-3 loss to Cincinnati.
They should have been the first sign it wasn’t going to be their day.
East Carolina, which visits Temple next week, beat UCF, 34-13, but lost, 42-3 on Saturday to a Houston team the Owls had beaten until 1:22 remained in the game a week ago. In hindsight, the Owls probably needed to run off a couple of more plays before E.J. Warner hit Zae Baines for the go-ahead score at Houston.
That was last’s week’s problem, though.
Gauss might have had the answer to this week’s one, though, because he was famous for citing variables to solve mathematical equations.
For Temple, what didn’t add up on Saturday was the turnover margin.
The Owls were able to avoid turnovers at Houston.
They were unable to against Cincinnati.
Temple lost two fumbles and had two interceptions.
Game, set and match.
When a team recruits as well as Cincinnati has (four-straight top AAC classes as ranked by either Scout.com or Rivals.com), the only way to beat a more talented team by the less talented one is to win the turnover battle.
When the more talented team forces turnovers–really, from Temple’s perspective they were unforced errors–the less talented team has no chance.
That pretty much sums up what happened to the Owls on Saturday. The Owls had two reviewed fumbles (initially called down) overturned, a run by Edward Saydee and a reception by Zae Baines. One of the interceptions was a perfectly threaded pass from E.J. Warner to D’Wan Mathis but the ball went off Mathis’ hands and into the Bearcats in the end zone. Mathis wouldn’t have even been in there had not Amad Anderson been suspended for a game and he was missed. The fact that it was only a one-game suspension probably means it wasn’t anything too serious.
Still, along with the turnovers, losing players like Anderson and top pass-rusher Darian Varner (injury) really hurt. Temple can’t afford to lose good players like that.
Cincinnati wasn’t able to beat any league foe by more than 10 until it arrived in Philadelphia simply because it was not able to go plus four in the turnover margin in its prior 10 games.
It was on Saturday. That was not because of their talent but because Temple couldn’t protect the rock. Tugging on Superman’s Cherry Cape didn’t help. With the loss, dating back to the 2012 debut of Matt Rhule, Temple is 2-17 wearing black uniforms against FBS opponents (wins over only Tulsa in the Geoff Collins Era and this year’s win over UMass).
The unis were the tugging on Karma. The turnovers were spitting into the wind.
Now an ECU team that has beaten up Temple the last two years knows the way to beat the Owls is to win the turnover margin.
That shouldn’t be a secret because that’s a tried and true football axiom.
On its end, Temple knows it has to protect the football like it’s the Hope Diamond in order to go into the offseason with some momentum.
The Owls should have known that before the Cincy game but this embarrassing loss illustrates that the focus this week should be on protecting the football. Even Stan Drayton pleaded with his team earlier this week to “eliminate the things that are slowing us down.”
Against Cincy, they didn’t listen.
Maybe in seven days they will.
Logically, the Owls should be able to beat a team that lost, 42-3, at home to a team the Owls lost to 43-36 a week ago. Lose the turnover battle, though, and all logic goes out the window.
Even the brightest minds in history know that.
Monday: Some Other Numbers