The Temple football team landed a few solid blows early against nationally-ranked Louisville on Saturday afternoon.
But behind red-hot sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals punched back. Hard.
Bridgewater threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns as Louisville rallied for a 45-17 victory over the Owls. The No. 12/No. 10 ranked Cardinals improved to 9-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big East, while the Owls fell to 3-5, 2-3.
Owls senior Matt Brown, who has been battling an ankle injury for much of the last month, returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a score.
“It felt good, I was waiting to take one back,” said Brown. “Now I’m focused on trying to get another one. It was exciting at the time, definitely, but it happened already and we lost. We just have to focus on getting the W.”
After Bridgewater responded with the first of his five scores on the next drive, the Owls answered late in the first quarter with a nine-play, 62-yard drive capped by Montel Harris’ five-yard scoring run.
But it took the Cardinals just two plays to answer, Bridgewater hitting Ryan Hubbell for a 72-yard score.
Owls quarterback Chris Coyer then lost a fumbled snap, and the Cardinals converted the miscue into a field goal. The Owls tied the game on Brandon McManus’ 34-yard kick.
However, Louisville struck back immediately, Jeremy Wright scoring on a three-yard run. A promising Temple drive was then snuffed out because of a high snap from true freshman center Kyle Friend, replacing injured senior Sean Boyle.
“It was a critical play by a true freshman who is going to be one of the great ones here,” said coach Steve Addazio. “The sucker goes to center this week and flips one over the head. What am I going to do? Get mad at him?”
Like last week against Pittsburgh, the Owls gave up a touchdown drive right before the half. Bridgewater hit Andrell Smith for a 14-yard score and 31-17 lead with 1:02 left in the second quarter.
Coyer fumbled after a short run at the Cardinals’ 37 on the Owls’ first drive of the second half. Louisville converted the turnover into a touchdown after a long drive and the game was over for all intents and purposes.
“I wasn’t holding the ball tight enough, and it got poked out,” said Coyer. “It wasn’t a big hit.”
Coyer ran for 56 yards, but was just 2-of-8 for 20 yards passing. Addazio played both Clinton Granger and Kevin Newsome (52 rushing yards) at quarterback at the end of the game.
Addazio indicated he was sticking with Coyer as his starter.
“You have to carry the ball high and tight, it’s going to be a first down on the plus side,” said Addazio of Coyer’s second-half fumble. “That’s just points right there. That’s momentum going right there.
“Chris, he played pretty well, but he put the ball on the ground. Nobody hurts more than him, he’s crushed. ... He still gives us our best opportunity.”
Harris ran for 115 yards, while freshman linebackers Tyler Matakevich and Nate Smith combined for 19 tackles.
The loss was the third straight for the Owls, who have given up at least 35 points in each of them — including over 40 the last two. But Addazio remained upbeat.
“I thought we came out with great energy and had a real strong desire to play great and embrace this game,” said Addazio. “I liked our team. I didn’t like the final score, but I liked our team.”