PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Army coach Rich Ellerson pulled no punches in assessing the Black Knights’ performance in a 42-14 drubbing by Temple on Saturday.
“We didn’t block well, we didn’t punt well, we didn’t tackle very well, it’s hard to find any positives, because I don’t think we had any,” Ellerson said. “I like the way the guys battled in the second half, but I’d like to think that we’re better than that.”
The Black Knights lost for the third-straight time and fell to 3-8 overall having lost five of their last six, while Temple kept its bowl hopes alive by winning for the second-straight time in improving to 7-4 before 25,516 at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 28-point loss was the largest defeat of the year for the Black Knights, who were staring out of a 28-0 hole by halftime.
“We knew this would be an uphill fight, and we knew physically, it would be a challenge,” Ellerson said. “I don’t feel like anyone played well. We had trouble tackling, and if we played the way we could, maybe we don’t win, but it is a battle.”
Army is 0-7 on the road this season, including a loss to Rutgers at Yankee Stadium.
Bernard Pierce led the Owls with 157 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 21 carries, including a 49-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown romp in which he broke several tackles. Matt Brown added 133 yards on just eight carries, including touchdown runs of 22 and 52 yards, averaging 16.6 yards a carry. As a team, Temple pounded Army on the ground, amassing 335 yards and five touchdowns.
Army snapped Temple’s shutout bid when Max Jenkins, Army’s third quarterback of the afternoon, scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:59 left in the third quarter. Black Knights’ freshman Larry Dixon added a score on a 15-yard run with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Temple had the game in hand by halftime, scoring on its first two possessions and four of its first five drives to take a 28-0 lead into intermission. The Owls outgained Army 269-103 in total yards for the half, averaging 8.1 yards a play.
The bulk of Temple’s offense came on the ground, where the Owls established a school record for rushing touchdowns in a season, getting their 30th on Pierce’s second touchdown with 4:30 left in the second quarter to eclipse the mark the Owls set in 2009.
Temple upped the total to 32 when Brown and Pierce added fourth-quarter scores.
Temple wasted little time in taking 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Owls took the opening kickoff 80 yards on six plays, concluding with Brown’s nifty 22-yard touchdown run.
The Owls followed with a 15-play, 88-yard drive that resulted in Pierce’s first score, an 11-yard run that he took to the outside and caught the end zone pylon. All 15 plays came on the ground, with Pierce doing the bulk of the work, carrying 10 times for 63 yards.
After one quarter, the Owls had blasted through the Army defense for 151 yards rushing, and 194 by halftime. Army’s smallish defensive front — its largest defensive lineman is 260-pound junior tackle A.J. Mackey — entered the game giving up an average of 170.8 yards rushing per game.
“We are a bit undersized up front, with small defensive ends playing tackle, so we have to zip and zag to get penetration, but we also missed a lot of tackles,” Ellerson said. “Give some credit to that Temple offensive line. They clobbered us. Tackling is one of the challenges we have as a football player and we lost that one.”
The Black Knights didn’t cross midfield until the final minute of the half. It didn’t help that Black Knights’ starting quarterback, junior Trent Steelman, left the game after Army’s second play. He was returning from a high left ankle injury after missing the previous three games, and departed with a right leg injury.
Ellerson said Steelman may be able to return in time for Army’s Dec. 10 game against Navy at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Temple, meanwhile, took advantage of two short Army punts to tack on two additional first-half scores. Working off a short field, Brown swerved his way through the Army defense for a 22-yard gain, setting up Pierce’s school-record touchdown. Owls’ quarterback Chris Coyer was 3 for 3 for 75 yards in the half, including a 36-yard scoring strike to Joe Jones that gave the Owls a 28-0 lead.
“The good news is we get to play again,” Ellerson said. “But the truth is we have to turn inside, we have to decide the soul of the football team. It’s an opportunity for us; it’s got to come from inside.”
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