The Temple football team ended the 2012 season with a 38-20 loss to Syracuse on Friday. Listen to…
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The Owls finished 4-7 overall and 2-5 in the conference, losing their last five in the league after an encouraging two wins to start Big East play. With other teams still with games to play, it appears Temple will finish fifth in the conference standings.
It certainly wasn't the bowl-eligible season many within in the program hoped for, but the Owls didn't embarrass themselves either. Friday's game was like many of their losses – closer than the score indicated.
"This a great challenge for us now to have a tremendous offseason, to make this the hardest offseason we have ever had at Temple, and to really build that toughness and character in a young football team that was shown on the field today," said coach Steve Addazio. "We were picked to finish dead last in the league and that didn't happen. It's not a one-year process, that's a little comical, but we're headed in a super phenomenal direction and we're going to build it over time.
"It's a growing experience. If we had stayed in the (Mid-American Conference), we'd probably have seven, eight, nine wins and be going to a bowl game. You have to put your pride down a little bit and see the bigger picture."
Temple held a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter after a Juice Granger touchdown run but saw the Orange score 21 unanswered points – the last when Keon Lyn returned an interception 31 yards for a score with 2:37 left in the game.
Granger, a junior, went 16-of-23 for 173 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while also rushing for 61 yards and a score. After his second start, Addazio declared the George Washington High School product the front-runner in the competition to be next year's starting quarterback in what is expected to be a fierce battle also involving Chris Coyer and Kevin Newsome.
"When it comes to spring ball, I just like guys to compete," said Addazio. "Who cares who takes the first snap? It's going to be an open competition."
Montel Harris ran for 106 yards and went over 1,000 yards in his only season as an Owl after transferring from Boston College. He broke multiple school and conference records when he rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a win at Army last week.
"This season is up there for me, one of my top two college seasons because of how the team fought each week and never gave up," said Harris. "We enjoyed football every week. We should have closed out with a win, but a lot of good things happened this season."
Temple jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter as Granger found freshman John Christopher for a 12-yard touchdown, but Syracuse scored twice in rapid fashion early in the second quarter to take the lead. They were the types of scores Addazio has lamented even as he has accentuated the positives with a young team this season.
"We got a little unglued again," said Addazio. "I think the thing that bothered me the most this year is it would come in bunches on us. The games were a lot closer than they appeared to be. It was like bam, bam, bam, a little microcosm of what happened today."
True freshman Tyler Matakevich totaled 14 tackles, including 13 solo, to lead the Owls in tackles for the ninth straight week and become the first freshman in school history to record 100 tackles.
Running back Matt Brown, who has given the Owls a 1-2 punch in the backfield first with Bernard Pierce and then with Harris the last four years, sat out his final game with a hamstring injury. Harris and Brown were among 12 seniors who saw their Temple careers come to a close on Friday.
"I knew this was my last chance to play at home, and I grew up watching the Eagles play here and had an opportunity to play my first game here," said senior kicker/punter Brandon McManus, who finished his career with a school record 338 points after kicking two field goals and two extra points Friday. "It was pretty special that this was going to be my last. It was definitely emotional running out onto the field and seeing my parents at the 50-yard-line.
"It's definitely bittersweet. I didn't want to regret my last game and I don't think I did that."
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